I left school at 17 to work full time and study part-time. Since then I have been self-employed or contracting or studying, but have never been on a wage. It’s now 20 years later and here are a few things I have noticed along the way – in particular about employed people.
1. Job security isn’t a thing.
I have noticed that those most afraid, arguably least secure, are those who have been employed for years and have no idea what they would do if they were to lose their job. There is a resilience and capability that is built when you have to generate your own work and make your own opportunities. Not only that, but you are right to be afraid if you can’t make your own opportunities because businesses change, and even though you are awesome at what you do, you still might end up outside of employment if there is a restructure, buy out, or the market turns
2. People will use you, but it’s not their fault.
I started at 17yrs old at $12.5/hr and two years later I was on $22/hr. I wasn’t actually much better two years later, but I changed contracts twice and each time had substantial pay increases. Companies will often pay you as little as they think they can get away with. Not because they are dicks, but because it’s a low-risk way to employ somebody – for them anyway. Meanwhile, you are still worth your salt, but you are being paid pennies instead of dollars. Until you are losing opportunities because you are asking for too much, then you might be asking for too little. The ball is in your court about what you want to charge, how much overtime you want to put in, and what hours you want to work
3. You are more powerful than you think.
Employers need employees. I said NEED and I mean it. Whatever you are good at, someone somewhere needs YOU. Unless you haven’t honed your character and you are a munter to work with of course. So, assuming you work hard, and are willing to learn and admit your mistakes, then you are in a powerful position. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING that is asked of you, work millions of hours of overtime, and generally lose yourself to your work. Any relationship should be give and take which means that SOMETIMES you will bend over backwards to deliver for your employer, but sometimes they will compromise to make work work for you.
4. Networking is king.
If you are afraid of losing your job, then take your awesome self out to coffee with some other awesome people you have met along the way, and see what comes of that conversation. After literally decades of getting jobs for my mates, mate, and myself I have realised that I am accidentally an amazing networker. I see connections between talent and opportunity where others don’t, BUT you can learn to do that too. Usually, it just means realising that YOU are the talent, and your friend from footy is the opportunity. So go have coffee, realise you have options, then stop worrying about job security
5. Sick days and holiday pay would be nice.
I have never had the pleasure of staying home from work sick knowing that ‘the company’ is picking up the tab on my rent this week. Or, going on Christmas holiday for a week or two knowing that I’ll get home to a bank account that’s been magically topped up. Please be immensely grateful that you have these luxuries at your fingertips and when you see the crazy prices that contractors get paid, realise that they are covering all their own holiday pay! Your relationship with your employer is a partnership. It should be a good deal for all parties involved. Work for each other and enjoy your job!