Sunday, December 23, 2012

Work Like You're Retired

Harvey MacKay of Swim With Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive (book) fame is well known for saying, "Find something you love to do and you'll never have to work a day in your life”.  While I find this advice a bit simplistic and glib, the fact remains that probably most of us will be working longer than the previous generation.  (Indeed, it seems that some of the most popular solutions to "save Medicare" run along the lines of pushing back eligibility to make sure that enough people die before they can collect, but I digress.)  The reality is that most of us don't "love" our jobs; rather, the great majority tolerate our jobs because we need an income.  This post is a reflection of strategies I have employed to tolerate my "day job."

1.  Carefully evaluate job opportunities (including promotions).  In my prior post, "The Jobs I didn't get (Fortunately), I express the importance of the job seeker interviewing the employer.  Yes, the job interview is a two way street - they are trying to decide if they want to hire you AND you should be trying to decide if you want to work for them.  I understand the economy and other circumstances may force you to be more flexible in your willingness to work for an employer, but I stress the importance of empowering yourself in your choice of jobs.  Most jobs will not be your last job; if your situation is such that you have to work for an employer that you'd prefer not to work for, take the job if you're offered it AND keep going with your job search.  There have been many jobs where I have gone into the job and had internally told myself "this is a 2 year job" or "this is a 4 year job".  Never get complacent with a job and always look for a better job.  When I say "better" job, I don't necessarily mean better paying job; I mean a better job, valuing what is important for you.  For example, I often apply a Dollars per Headache ($/H) ratio - there is just so much stress I want in my life.  A job with a lot less headache (and maybe even some "fun" - higher $/H ratio) might be a better job even if it pays less.

2.   Dress for success happiness.  One day I walked up to the door at my employer and was spotted by a co-worker who related, "G, You look like you just walked off a cruise ship."  Yes, I like to generously wear bright clothes, including ample Hawaiian and leisure wear.  Most "dress casual" includes shirts with collars... so what's stopping you?  And while you're at it, wear sensible shoes... you'll need them for # 3.

3.  You get a lunch; take it!  I continue to be amazed at how many people spend their lunch huddled over their desk.  Get out and walk (cause you're wearing comfy shoes).  Better yet get out and walk to lunch with co-workers.  In my opinion, employers should encourage this.  It is amazing how much cooperation and dare I say desirable "team behavior" is nurtured by doing lunch.  Sadly, I see way too many soon to be retirees who have spent 10-20 years on a job and the only time they have "done lunch" is for their retirement farewell.

4.  Volunteer  I recently finished reading Dave's Way by Wendy's founder, Dave Thomas.  Dave related how he "volunteered" during his time in the Army.  I don't recall volunteering ever being a good thing when I was in the Army; more often than not, it went something like the Sarge yelling, "I need 2 volunteers... (2 seconds elapse)... you and you (pointing), you just volunteered, get on this deuce and half...(and off the hapless "volunteers" would go).  I digress; the underlying point here is to volunteer for things that you enjoy (or have some potential for reward).  For example, I have recently offered to provide a training on Microsoft SharePoint.  No, providing training is not "my job".  BUT, there are multiple "rewards" should my employer take me up on my offer.  For starters, it would help to reinforce my image as having technical expertise.  Secondly, things have a way of "becoming" your job - I would much rather have teaching SharePoint (something I enjoy) become my job than say "processing paper".  Thirdly, if the training that I proposed is accepted, it is very possible that I will score some travel (and yes, I like to travel) paid for by my employer.

5.  Use time off   My goal this new year is to try not to work a full week in 2013 (or at least not work too many full weeks).  Sound crazy?  Maybe not!  My employer offers and I participate in what is called a compressed work week.  Essentially, your 80 hour (2 week pay period) is "compressed" over 9 days.  Thus, I have a compressed day off every other week which already gets me half there (26 out of 52 weeks).  Next, I look at the weeks where I am not working a full week due to a holiday.  My guess is that this leaves about 20 weeks where I may need to take one day of leave each of those weeks so that I don't work a full week.  I suspect some pointy head manager types are thinking that this is somehow wrong and that they definitely wouldn't let their employee "get away with this."  Well I beg to differ; this is actually a win-win for employer and employee.  When I am out for a single day, 99% of the time if something comes up where my employer needs my expertise, that "something" can be pushed off for a day.  Thus, there is not a need to "cover" for me as I essentially will take care of it in a timely and acceptable manner.  This is not so when an employee takes off for 2 or so weeks at a time.  Regardless of whether this particular strategy is for you or you opt for the traditional week or two vacation, I cannot stress enough - take your leave, you've earned it!

6.  Nurture your hobbies   Most of us need money to pay bills and we think this needs to happen by a traditional job, but what if...  What if you enjoy going to lawn sales and find that you are able to buy bargains and resell them at a profit?  Can you turn dog walking into a business (maybe, maybe not)?   And what about running your mouth (or writing)?  Who knows, maybe you can start a blog and in a couple of years it will be hot, hot, hot... (well I can always dream).

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