No, your eyes are functioning just fine. And yes, you read that right.
I once made 10 cents an hour at a full-time corporate job.
And the worst part about it was that I never even agreed to work for such a low pay.
It did, however, teach me many things about myself. I learnt that it’s still possible to save money even with a low income. I discovered that I hated the idea of a corporate job and working for someone else. I guess, after all, it was kind of a blessing in disguise.
It was My First Job out of College.
When I was in college, I was going through an extremely rough patch. I was constantly at heads with my parents over my sexuality, and the emotional turmoil was great. I eventually suffered from depression, anxiety and insomnia.
When all was said and done, I graduated with a pretty crappy Grade Point Average. And that made my job search extremely hard.
Unlike all my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed peers who wanted to work in only the best investment banks and law firms, I was pretty desperate for any job I could get.
After hundreds of rejections, I eventually found a small company who was willing to hire me. They didn’t pay much, but it was enough for me to cover all my living expenses and even save a little. I took the job, and thought that I would be in good hands.
I thought wrong.
My Pay Checks Never Came.
My first month into the job felt like a breeze. Despite not being interested in the industry, I stayed strong. I was doing pretty well, I learnt as fast as I could, and my supervisor seemed to really like me.
At the end of my first month, I hadn’t received my pay check. I talked to my supervisor about it, and told him that I needed to pay my bills.
“Our cash flow is a little tight right now. Next month, you’ll get it.”
So, one more month I waited.
I did my thing diligently every single day. I came into work on time, and spent a good 8 hours of my life each day, doing everything I was supposed to do. I didn’t screw up anything.
The end of the second month soon arrived, and I didn’t receive anything. Again, I heard the same reply. “Next month. You’ll receive your pay then.”
One more month. I waited a little more impatiently this time. The end of the third month rolled around. And I received nothing, except the same excuses.
The fourth month came and went, and I was still penniless.
At the end of my fifth month, my supervisor handed me a little envelope, and thanked me for my patience. I was ecstatic. My first five months’ pay cumulatively was only about 7-8 grand, but it felt like a fortune to little broke me. I savoured the moment as I opened the envelope gently, and slowly. The anticipation made my heart thump against my chest.
When I pulled out the check, my heart sank with a loud thud.
$120? For five whole months of work?
You’ve got to be kidding me.
I was enraged, and demanded an explanation. I was, surprisingly, met with hostility. My supervisor yelled at me, and told me to look for another job if I really wanted to get paid.
What a living nightmare.
The next day, I informed my supervisor I was no longer going to stay. He quickly changed his tune, and convinced me that he would get more funds the next month to pay me. He told me that he really needed my help. I felt sorry for him, so I stayed on.
Yeah, I actually stayed.
I had been searching for another job frantically for a while now, but hadn’t heard back from any company at the time. But my mind was made up – the moment I found another job, I would leave and never look back.
At the end of my sixth month, I had found another job.
Before I told my supervisor I was leaving, I asked him about my six months of pay yet again.
I mean, how could he expect to pay me $120 for six months of work, and still sleep like a baby? That’s $20 a month. Assuming 20 working days in a month, that’s $1 per day. With 8 working hours in a day, that’s 12.5 cents an hour!
In response to my question, my supervisor yelled at me again, simply because I had asked him for what I had worked so hard for.
I managed to hold my tongue, and told him firmly that I was leaving.
Immediately, he softened and tried to convince me to stay. He told me that I was doing really good work. That I would eventually get paid.
I just smiled (or perhaps it was more of a grimace), packed up my stuff, and went on my way.
My supervisor contacted me a few times after, trying to get me to come back. I saw his calls and messages, but didn’t bother returning any of them.
I didn’t want to make any fuss. I didn’t bother slapping him with a law suit. I just wanted to put this chapter of my life behind me.
The chapter where I once made about 10 cents an hour at a corporate job for six whole months.
Ecstatic that terrible chapter is now over,
Hi Liz, Thanks again for sharing your powerful story. It’s not easy to talk about anxiety, depression, and desperation and be vulnerable in front of your readers. I can’t believe how manipulative and terrible your supervisor was! I’m glad you were able to leave that job.
Hey Dragon Gal, I’m glad you enjoyed the story! 🙂 I don’t think this story really does justice to how I felt back then and how terrible my supervisor was, so I’m really happy I left that job too!
This is the worst thing I’ve ever heard… how are you getting yelled at for not getting paid… and that you stayed…wow… sometimes i think we just move with the momentum… it’s so outrageous when it’s happening…you can get stuck in disbelief!
(added you to my single girl money bloggers list…let me know if this was a misstep)
My supervisor was really unethical. Oh well. Yeah! Looking back, I shouldn’t have stayed either. I stayed because I thought I would eventually get the money I was owed. I couldn’t look past the sunk costs I had incurred. It was quite terrible. Now I know better 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, MERJ!
Wow, you have a lot more patience than I would. On the other hand, it sounds like your options were relatively limited, so maybe staying and hoping for the best (while furiously applying for jobs) was the best course.
I’m glad you got out of there, but I’m petty and probably would’ve sued.
Thanks, Abigail! I think I was mainly just naive and out of options. Even with the benefit of hindsight, I still don’t know what I should have done in that predicament!
My friends have also encouraged me to consider taking up a law suit. Perhaps I eventually would in the future. I’ll definitely keep you updated if I do!
Wow Liz, just Wow! I cannot believe a company, no matter how small, thinks it’s ok to just not pay someone because “cashflow is a little tight”! I bet your supervisor was getting paid every month.
Given it was your first job out of college I can understand why you stayed, you wouldn’t know that some people really are that crappy and manipulative. Lesson learnt and you’re frugal muscles are the stronger for it. But a law suit does sound like a good idea!
Hi Tuppenny, thanks for dropping by! And yup, I believe he was getting paid about 8 grand a month. Towards the end of my employment there, I caught a glimpse of one of his pay checks. I was infuriated at how my supervisor could get paid 8 grand a month, while they couldn’t afford to pay me a measly 2 grand. And I was doing all of my supervisor’s work while he took 3-hour lunch breaks and did absolutely nothing. I guess we live and learn!
I didn’t enjoy the experience, but this was certainly an important lesson for me! At least now I know not to be naive and think that people will always do as they promise. And it definitely spurred me towards financial freedom 🙂
I think I may eventually pursue a law suit. I’ll definitely keep you updated if I do!