I'm a developer with 15 years experience, but recently had to take a job doing office administrative work for a medium sized company because I couldn't find development work.

I got an opportunity to jump in and help the company with some database problems they had to prevent them from losing one of their clients, and since then they've been giving me other software/db development tasks to work on in addition to my regular duties.

Its been two months since then, and I've been doing some serious development work for about 75% of my time, and the regular administrative tasks that I was originally hired to do in the rest of the time.

I feel like I am very underpaid for the development work I am doing for them, however when I mentioned this to the company, they said when I was hired I signed on to doing any computer/office type admin work I was capable of in and beyond the job description, and they consider this development work to be computer/office type admin work. I checked, and it actually is in their signup paperwork.

They said I will get a review in a year, and there is no assurance my title or position could change! I looked up similar jobs, and they pay an average of 3 times as much as what I'm making now for similar development work that I am doing for them.

I was desperate when I took this job, and have no luck finding other work because of some bad work history, and I feel like I am stuck here.

Is there anything I can do in this sort of situation to convince them to either pay me more, or drop the extra duties? I really need this job, and so far have had no luck finding other work.

I live in NY

P.S. There is one positive thing - I do have a quiet office with windows and an expensive laptop with 2 30" monitors. Most of the dev jobs I had were noisy, distraction prone cube farms.

  • 7
    Developers with 15+ years experience and experience in newer technologies do not struggle to find work unless there is something wrong. Either something wrong with you, what you are doing and how you present yourself, or something wrong with the job market in your area. Perhaps it is time for a fresh start in a new town? Jun 19, 2012 at 20:14
  • 1
    I was out of work 4 years, and I can't really prove the latest and greatest skills to employers.
    – user1470
    Jun 19, 2012 at 20:20
  • 2
    Do you really want to continue to work for an organization that is taking advantage of you? I have made a living out of proving I can do the latest and greatest stuff, especially things I have never done, that is why it is the latest and greatest, no one is an expert with 15 years in something that is only 12 months old? You need to focus more on marketing and sales of yourself than trying to force your current situation to do something they aren't going to do. Ultimatums will just force them to let you go.
    – user718
    Jun 22, 2012 at 4:16

6 Answers 6


I know that you want the money now. But you have been given a golden opportunity. Many people find out that they will be losing their job with just hours, days or weeks notice. They need a job now.

You have been told that you will be gone in a year. You have several options:

  • Rant and Rave and have them fire you sooner. plus they will not be a good reference.
  • Work hard and demonstrate that you can do the job. You must work on getting another manager to see your worth. Your management chain sees you has a cash cow. They can bill you at a much higher rate compared to what they pay you. Though their plan will not work forever, eventually customers notice.
  • Work hard and use them as a great reference.

Start looking now for an outside job. If they pay isn't right, or the job description isn't perfect, then keep looking. Get less picky as the year goes on.

At the end of the year you will be in one of these situations:

  • Same Company higher pay
  • Different Company higher pay
  • Unemployed because you got mad or were fired.

I have good news for you. You live in the USA. That means that you can go find another job that will pay you more. That is not true in all countries.

There is no law that will force an employer to pay you any wage above minimum wage. Prevailing wages are used to calculate wages for laborers in contracts. However unless you are working on a government contract it is unlikely this would apply to you. In addition this generally applies to your primary job function. In this case it would be as a computer admin, so the rate would not be for the developer rates you allude to above.

Your real problem is your work history. I have 25 years of experience and am not looking for a management position. I enjoy programming not management. But I am good at what I do and I have great references. I did that by doing a great job for the employers that treated me like crap as well as the ones that were great to work with. I honored my commitments, and made sure that my employers got more than they paid for. You said yourself:

I'm having no luck finding anything else because of my lousy work history and I'm stuck here

You need to rehabilitate your image. I suggest making do with the money you are making now and get a great reference out of your current employer. You have a job that will give you great skills. Use them they way they are using you. Develop a great reference and doors will open.

  • 3
    That means that you can go find another job that will pay you more. That is not true in all countries. USA is a BIG country and while this is true, sometimes we are faced with uprooting ourselves from our homes and families to seek work in a state that is so different that it might as well be another country altogether. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet, especially if you have already been blacklisted by the major employers in a small job market and this can be extraordinarily difficult. Jun 19, 2012 at 20:18
  • My work history is a problem, the market has TONS of applicants. Also, if I tell an employer I'm making 33K here they will think I was doing office work and not dev.
    – user1470
    Jun 19, 2012 at 20:26
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    @User1547 - That is why you need a great reference first. Second your wage is confidential. You do not have to share what you are making to get a new job. You tell them how much you expect to be compensated should you choose to accept employment with them. Jun 19, 2012 at 20:29
  • I don't think software dev is a viable career if you get older. There is age discrimination, but that is another story. A place like NY may have tons of jobs but the competition is fierce. It is like making top position in google search for common term.
    – user1470
    Jun 19, 2012 at 20:30
  • 7
    @user1470 - If you are determined to make excuses and justification of how you are wronged then you are correct things will not get better. On the other hand you could choose to take action to better yourself. Jun 19, 2012 at 20:33

You are incredibly lucky!

Without the benefit of a computer science degree (and possibly hundreds of thousands in debt!), you have been given an opportunity that few get. You've been given the chance to learn the computer skills that can earn you big bucks, with actual work experience in those tools. There are many current graduates who envy you in that.

On your own, you've been motivated enough to learn a lot of good stuff and that shows initiative and a good attitude. That's invaluable.

Basically, from what you've described, you're all set to go get a great job.

The hindrances you perceive are really only in your mind. You can overcome them by treating them as assets (often just by presenting them differently). and by being very upfront about them.
For example:

  • "I have little formal technical experience" vs. "I am self-taught"

  • "I've never used x" vs. "I haven't used x before but I've recently picked up a,b,c and new tools aren't a problem as I love learning. Hey do you guys use tool Y ?" (includes a pivot!).

  • "I don't have the experience that others do" vs. "I'm pretty green but I'm really excited and keen and eager to learn more"

  • "I don't have the years of experience that others do" vs. "I'm still learning and I don't have fixed views on how things should be done, I'm flexible and open to change".

In each case your inexperience can actually be asset.

Also you can be a lot cheaper than experienced folks and that can be attractive. In NY if you say your minimum is $70k, you are cheaper than the $100k+ some folks are getting and some organizations are not willing to pay.

The main things I would advise someone with your experience and lack of a traditional resume are

  • Go to local user groups (see meetup.com - there are just tons in NY) and make personal connections there.

  • Don't use recruiters, monster.com and other electronic measures. They are useful but not a good use of your time right now as they have a more fixed set of skills and less open to non-traditional folks as they have to 'sell' you. Go to user groups and connect with individuals personally online.

  • Meditate. Or something to help with impatience. As a graduate in the 1980's it took me 2 years of 'regular' office work before I got into IT. I was paid about $30k (probably about $45k today) and over the next 15 years my pay rose to $95. So it'll happen if you are dedicated and persistent.

  • Honesty, honesty, honesty. Most folks can sniff out untruths from your body language. So be honest and you'll be better off. Believe it or not some employers will consider that your most important trait, and they'll train you up.

I know the process is tough but the longer you stick at it, the better your chances of success. If you have the knowledge you list you'll be a great asset to another organization. If your workplace is as you describe it you'll look back in a couple of years and wonder why you ever put up with it as long as you did (oh right, rent, 'n food 'n all that stuff). Just be prepared for several more years of climbing the ladder in getting trained. You'll also look back in 10 years and smile about how much you really didn't know now.

  • I don't think the OP said whether or not they have a CS degree. Jun 19, 2012 at 21:28
  • Thanks for the advice, I don't have a CS degree per say, but had dev experience in the past. The meetup sounds like a good idea.
    – user1470
    Jun 19, 2012 at 21:36

No one can force you to do anything, but they sure can make you feel like you don't have a choice. Don't listen to them. You can make the situation work for you - it sounds like the work you are doing will look great on a resume. Update it and stick it out there.

People I've known in similar situations got out of it by applying for a developer position within their company when it became available. It may seem like they wouldn't give up the good deal that they have now but it's not always true, esp. if it's a different manager doing the hiring. It also acts as a reminder that you have a resume and job skills and might leave if they don't pay you what you are worth.


Having had a similar experience I thought I'd add to this.

I started working for the company I'm at now as an estimator. It's a manufacturing company, but having gone to school for software and not having luck finding a job in the field I decided to give it a shot. Not the job of my dreams and at a hourly rate much less than I was expecting (given coming out of school for software position) but it was a job nonetheless.

In the first 6 months I learned the business and took on several other roles including software development. My manager soon began to see the ROI on my "side" work and started asking for specific projects; and I was happy to do it (after all I am a software guy and the things I were doing were what I wanted to do). About two years in to it I took on development full-time.

Since then, I've worked my up to close proximity of where I should be given the title (salary wise). I also (humbly) believe because I did the "grunt work" and learned the company work-flow and tasks I can perform the job better than most people [corporate] could bring in and catch up to speed. Maybe I'm lucky for having a company that recognized my skill and appreciates me (personally, monetarily and otherwise) but I don't regret joining the company and sticking it out. I've also been receiving generous raises since my start which shows me that as I grow and improve the company recognizes and appreciates it.

My personal recommendations:

  1. Put your best foot forward as long as they're not over-demanding. If you're only working typical salary weeks (or do get compensated for OT and you don't mind putting the time in) keep going and someone along the way will recognize it. (But don't make it a point to show off--esp. in front of your boss or whomever reviews you.)
  2. If your manager is great at stealing the thunder and leaving you in the uncompensated shadows, there are better ways to get noticed than throwing your boss under the bus with a "look what I did". I find casual conversations with co-workers or other management about various job tasks and (if possible) working on a couple of the small tasks under the radar to be great tools for visibility (maybe even incorporating it in to your current project so "Joe" sees you acknowledged their input). Nothing huge though, otherwise your boss will be irritated you aren't working on their project.
  3. Learn as much as you can; The more you know about the company and how to improve it, the more of an asset you are (which is helpful at review time).
  4. Keep a running list of projects you've completed and a rough estimate (get your boss to do it if you can) of how much time/money each project saves the company quarterly/yearly.
    (Nothing says "I deserve more money" than "I'm only asking for X% of what I've saved the company".)
  5. Along side #4, if you can some how tie in what you've done with sales history, that also makes the deal a little easier to rationalize.
    ("Since I've started and with my improvements we've increased sales X%")

Moral of the story? Unless you have an offer letter from another company in your hand for a better job, stick it out and see what you can learn. And who knows, maybe you'll have a happy ending such as myself.



  • You are doing the right thing expanding your role into doing something you want.

  • People won't pay you until they have to.

  • The need the company is most aware of is an admin, what you were hired to do.

My view is you should ask for a raise, highlighting the bottom line value of what you're doing. Don't say, "Wrote these databases, and a database programmer is worth X." Say, "Improved the efficiency of process Z with a database, saving the company Y."

You still may be stuck, especially until the market improves. If so, you'll need to leave to get better paid.

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