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Stepping Stones to Success: Overcoming Career Obstacles (Plus 7 Ways Employers Can Help)

Date: September 30, 2023
Est. Reading: 6 minutes

Do you feel stuck at your low-income job? Are you struggling financially and worried about the effect on your children? 

The barriers to a quality job that pays the bills often seem insurmountable. 

But don’t give up! 

There is hope! In this blog, our team at RaiseUp Families discusses common obstacles to transitioning from low-income employment and offers strategies to surmount them.

If you’re ready to move on to a sustainable future, keep reading!

Naming the Barriers

Therapists have a saying that the first step to change is awareness. The same is true for financial or job change. 

You can know you're struggling but will feel powerless to do anything about it without an awareness of the hang-ups. So, let’s start by naming some of the common barriers you’re likely to encounter when trying to move out of a low-income job or situation. 


Many people lack the education or credentials needed to hold a decently paying job that would support their family. This takes shape in at least two ways.

  1. A general lack of education (e.g., a college degree)
  2. A lack of skills training

Youth from low-income communities are especially at risk for low educational attainment, even at grade and high school levels. College is out of the question for many. Lack of funding, stress, housing insecurity, and other systemic and personal challenges affect this outcome. 

Poor education affects basic skills needed for career success, including a good vocabulary, math skills, and reading comprehension. The lack of hard skills training opportunities also means individuals often need more skills to obtain a well-paying practical job such as an electrician.

On the other hand, middle-class and wealthy families tend to have significantly greater access to quality education and skill training. 


There are many unspoken rules for getting into college, securing internships, getting a good job, and navigating the educational and career worlds. This is also true of developing new skill sets.

If you come from a family of welders, for example, but have aspirations to be an investment banker, your family will likely not have the knowledge to be able to coach you on how to go about achieving that goal.

Stepping Stones to Success: Overcoming Career Obstacles (Plus 7 Ways Employers Can Help)


Many people from under-resourced communities  don’t have connections to people in positions of influence (e.g., business owners) that could help them get a job or the training they need. This can create significant barriers to entry for anyone seeking to move out of a low-income job or enter a good college or a technical school.  


People may not have access to transportation. This can be due to a lack of access to public transportation, not having a driver's license, or the inability to afford a car. Sometimes, a family may own one vehicle that needs to be shared among two or more people or cannot afford repairs, gas, or car insurance. 

Family Concerns

This issue is twofold. First, disadvantaged families face greater instability and lack resources. The disruption of moving often or needing to work long hours often keeps parents from spending time with their children. This can hinder quality parenting and leave parents feeling guilty and children at greater risk of continuing the poverty cycle. 

Second, many parents can’t have jobs because they lack access to affordable, quality childcare. This is especially problematic in single-parent families where lack of childcare means no income. Finding and affording childcare is difficult, even for middle-class families, and often completely out of reach for low-income or disadvantaged families. Just take a look at these stats

  • Full-time childcare costs an average of 25% of a family’s household income. The U.S. Department of Health considers anything over 7% unaffordable. 
  • It is “normal” for child-care centers to have 6 –12 month wait lists. 
  • Close to 50% of families searching for childcare report that it is more difficult to find care now than before the pandemic. 

Criminal Record

Persons with a criminal record will likely struggle to find work at a living wage. Many job applications ask applicants to identify if they have a record, and few provide an opportunity for the applicant to provide context or a story of change. Because of this, the national nonprofit United Way advocates for the expungement of records for nonviolent offenders.  

This is a daunting list.

Stepping Stones to Success: Overcoming Career Obstacles (Plus 7 Ways Employers Can Help)

But take a deep breath. There are ways to overcome these obstacles, which we’ll discuss next. 

Overcoming the Obstacles

Naming the obstacles can feel overwhelming. But there is hope and resources available for overcoming them! 

 Let's look at a few. 

RaiseUp Families

If you’re from the Houston area, RaiseUp Families is here for you. We care deeply about helping families overcome the obstacles keeping them from financial stability and sustainability. Here’s how we do it. 

We offer two programs to help families move toward financial stability. 

  • HandUp Program: This nine-month promotes self-sufficiency and prepares you to face financial challenges independently. We offer compassionate training to help you provide for your family, allowing your children to enjoy their childhood. This program aids in finding/retaining employment, covers living expenses, provides rental assistance, and offers counseling and support groups.
  • AfterCare Program: Upon graduating from our HandUp Program, you qualify for two years of support through AfterCare. This offers ongoing access to guidance, mentorship, financial education, and support to enhance your self-sufficiency and income.  

Two aspects that set these programs apart are our book club and the one-to-one mentoring. 

  • Book Club: In our five-week book club, we work through the influential book The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right by Gorick Ng. You’ll learn about unspoken rules around college, finding a good job, and getting promotions. Pairs of volunteers lead the book club, and the book is provided! 
  • 1:1 coaching meetings with Case Manager – Every situation and person is a bit different. That's why we offer personalized support through 1:1 coaching. In these meetings, our coaches teach you vital tips for success, including how to self-advocate.

Does it all really make a difference? 

Yes! Just take a look at our latest impact report. 

Stepping Stones to Success: Overcoming Career Obstacles (Plus 7 Ways Employers Can Help)

Finding Resources 

Finding resources can feel overwhelming, but it's possible! Here are a few ways to locate resources. 

  • Use Google/Google Maps
  • Findhelp.org
  • Call United Way 211
  • Contact Baker Ripley
  • Harris County Social Services (or your local social services department)
  • Ministerios de Asistencia de West Houston
  • Ministerios de Asistencia Conmemorativa

For more detailed information on these resources, see our blog, 7 Contributing Factors to Financial Insecurity in Families (Plus 8 Ways to Find Resources).

Other resources include: 

  • The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right by Gorick Ng
  • TedTalks. Go to Ted.com and search for any topic you’re interested in. Here are three great speakers to get you started: Dorie Clark, James Clear, and Gorick Ng.
  • Follow RaiseUp Families on social media platforms. We often provide quick tips and links to new blog content.
  • Connect with a mentor at your work.
  • Your local library. Libraries have many free resources! Check for a city library if your neighborhood doesn’t have a library. 
  • Online resources. There is information online if you know where to look. Here are two:

7 Ways Employers Can Help 

If you’re an employer, you can help support families from disadvantaged communities and situations in many ways. The key is to be creative! 

  1. Offer Childcare Aid: This can be done by helping employees find affordable childcare, offering childcare benefits, investing in dependent care FSA, and more. Consider providing on-site childcare!
  2. Offer training and professional development: You can do this through your company or by hiring outside resources. Consider offering a stipend for further education courses.
  3. Be willing to hire based on transferable skills: Consider doing skills assessments rather than simply looking at experience.  
  4. Be willing to hire persons with nonviolent criminal records.
  5. Offer Benefits: For example, offer decent health insurance, vacation days, and education/professional development opportunities.  
  6. Connect employees to resources like RaiseUp Families, MAM, and SERJobs.  
  7. Partner with nonprofits to get the workforce you need.
Stepping Stones to Success: Overcoming Career Obstacles (Plus 7 Ways Employers Can Help)


Identifying and overcoming obstacles to career growth and financial stability can seem daunting. But it’s possible, and resources are available to help you reach your goals! 

We hope you found this blog helpful! If you did, you might also enjoy the posts linked below: 

At RaiseUp Families, we support families with school-aged children struggling financially. If you’re from the Huston area and you or someone you love is in this situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to help! 

 Here’s to hope and a brighter future! 

Ayudar a padres a lograr la autosuficiencia para que puedan guiar a sus hijos hacia un futuro mejor.
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