Underpaid Jobs That Make Us Happy

I had only a few jobs in my life that brought me, at least for a brief period of time, a simple feeling of liberating happiness. I felt like people depended on me. In true honesty, they were also glad I did not cost them too much, but does this really matter? In most other jobs I had, I made good money, but I never experienced the same feelings again. Which is sad…

When My Wife Was Happy…

Years ago, my wife spent a long time in a company from Montreal, for a small salary by any standards, but she was simply happy. Not so much hard work or responsibilities, and she was surrounded by some friends – including her boss – with which she was frequently going out at lunch, having fun.

Years later, fresh after her College degree, she started working with a new title for a small company in Vancouver. Where she was also happy, because she felt like people depended on her. She was clearly underpaid, and sometimes coming home at 11pm. But she stayed there for a long time mostly because those people made her feel she’s valuable to them.

Nobody is irreplaceable“, we say. But people may feel different, at least for the moment, when they work in an environment that values them. Where at least they are told and made feel they are important.

Of course, when she found something better, with a much better pay, way more appropriate for her skills and qualifications on the market, those people got upset. And some forgot how well they treated her before. It took years until she heard a word of regret. And something similar happened to me as well…

When I Was Happy…

Happiness at work is a relative and overloaded term, but I had my moments… First job in Canada was also from a small company within the Montreal area. They did not pay me much, but they were clearly depending on my skills, and I was appreciated for the results. Most of them were French-speaking Quebecers, people who are open and enjoy life.

I would have stayed longer there, as it was close from home. I was making enough money and I felt appreciated. Unfortunately, they ran out of money and went bankrupt. And also unfortunately, that’s when I had to see their true colors. Just like my wife in her second job described before.

I had to play a hard card to continue to provide services for some of them, for a while. Otherwise, they split up into two different groups, and I was like someone from the past. The magic disappeared.

When You Try to Repeat, But Fail

Two decades later, disappointed after a string of high paying jobs with no much personal rewards at the emotional level, I tried to go back and apply for a different job, to a smaller company, like the one I told you about, from Montreal. Their software department was very small, with just a few people. So I imagined they could value better what I do.

I’ve been offered a position there one year before. But their CTO at that time was sad he could not offer me the salary I was looking for, as he didn’t have such a budget. The new CTO was a very skilled guy I already heard about, with huge technical experience. And I was very glad when I’ve been offered a position, also with the high salary I was looking for.

Unfortunately, the job proved to be a disaster. The new guy lost his dev team just a few weeks before I started. In a few month, they also lost the Database Admin, a good guy. We’ve been left with just three guys: me, my CTO and a Manager. Who was sometimes falling asleep in meetings, or missing them. And whose idea about Agile was the devs should somehow guess what he had in mind as requirements.

Long story short, the two other guys were simply covering each other’s backs, and I felt more marginalized than in the large anonymous teams I used to work, in large companies.

Could it be I wasn’t really underpaid this time? Taking a serious salary cut would make people make you feel better indeed? Who knows…