Reading Time: 3 minutes 12 seconds
The world of work has changed beyond all recognition in the 21st Century – learn how to survive and thrive in the new world of work – click here to subscribe and get every instalment delivered to your inbox.
I have a friend, let’s call him Stan. Stan had been at the same employer for 12 years, in the marketing team. Whenever I met Stan, this is what I’d hear:
“Those b@st@rds don’t appreciate me, they work me so hard and I sweat blood for them. Every year, they give me a terrible performance review, no bonus and a rubbish payrise. They pass me over for promotion. It makes me sick, I just don’t care any more.”
Stan was notorious in his office for his legendary procrastination skills. He spent all day complaining to anyone who didn’t manage to avoid him.
His nickname was Levi, because he was always out the door at 5.01.
Stan had told me many times that he didn’t care and wasn’t prepared to work his fingers to the bone for no gratitude in return. He had given up.
When the financial crisis of 2008 hit, Stan’s employer let him go.
Stan was mystified, angry, indignant and talked about suing. Of course he didn’t.
No-one else at his office was surprised. They saw it coming a mile off.
Stan walked straight into Secret Number 1 – you get out of work what you put in to work.
He was barely in the office and when he was he did nothing productive. He distracted other team members with his negative attitude. In return, Stan got poor performance reviews. In fact he’d been on three performance plans over his career.
He was passed over for promotion because he gave out the signals that he couldn’t care less.
However you make a living, your career will have ups and downs. There will be times when you are flat out and giving everything and calmer fallow periods. Learning to make this choice consciously and being aware that you will get back what you put is key to managing this flow.
Please, don’t be a Stan.
2. You have to take ownership of your career
Picture me as a tender 21 year-old dressed in my three-piece pinstripe suit with natty pink shirt back in the mid-1990s.
I’m striding into my shiny corporate office for the first day of world domination.
I’d arrived – from now on my benevolent employers would shower me with money, support, training and appreciation.
All I had to do was show up and collect the daily kudos.
I deluded myself that it was in my firm’s interest to take care of me, promote me and sky-rocket my career for me. I barely put in any effort for the first year.
When it came to review time, I showed up expecting a pat on the head, a bone for being a good boy and a dazzling review.
My bubble popped. It seemed that I was somewhere below half-way down my peer group and my managers were questioning my attitude.
It slowly dawned on me that I and only I really cared at all about what happened in my career. It was my responsibility to set the direction, ask for the good projects, demand the training I needed, find the right mentor, look for ways to use my strengths and skills.
If I didn’t do it, these things simply wouldn’t happen.
You have to take ownership of your career – no-one is going to hand success and career satisfaction to you on a plate.
3. Everyone should learn how to make money independently
This lesson hit home to me the day I got my first cheque from a client after starting Less Ordinary Living.
Ten years of sucking at the corporate teat had brainwashed me into believing that the only way I could possibly make money was through steady employment.
Without a job I felt as vulnerable as a baby seal wandering through an Eskimo village. When I quit my job, I really did see myself “living in a van by the river” as Pam Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation eloquently puts it.
It took a week or two to start finding clients and in that period, I was close to running back to the corporate edifice and begging forgiveness. The prodigal son, on a rapid return visit.
Yet when the work started to come and I took that first cheque to the bank, something amazing happened. I felt liberated.
I actually managed to make some cash, under my own steam, without anyone else’s benevolence.
This feeling is not to be underestimated. It symbolises that you have the ability to fend for yourself. I almost felt primal – like a prehistoric man bringing back the first woolly mammoth to the cave.
I’d recommend that everyone tries making some money independently. Figure out something you are good and passionate about and find a way to make a little bit of money from it.
Sell a service (doing someone’s garden, being a handy man, helping someone write their CV, wallpapering, painting, anything really) or something you’ve made (at a local fair, on ebay, through a website you made).
Once you’ve done this, you’ll realise that having a job is not the only way – even if you never choose to freelance or be an entrepreneur, you’ll know more about how to make ends meet in the worse case scenario.
You’ll take away some of the doomsday fear of redundancy and see that you have more choices than you might appreciate for making a living in the 21st Century.
Please leave a comment and share your thoughts on these secrets and what you’ve learned about the 21st Century workplace.
Photo credit: jhderojas , Laverrue