This post is about my personal transition from career purgatory to loving my job.
I have a Masters and was making 100k plus easy before I moved to Poland to live another life. Yet since my return to the USA, I really never got my career going again. I was waffling. Some of it was the US economy had stalled and the location I live (on an island in North East Florida). Yet that was nor reason, it was not for lack of opportunity (I was even talking to my old company, but they relocated to Minnesota, burr) but rather, life events and life choice.
I have been somewhat disconnected from this website for a while. I was not feeling well as some drunk guy in the park hit me in the head and I had a serious concussion a few years ago, and some other things, I moved across the Atlantic Ocean to the USA, I have been slaving away in corporate jobs with commutes that were in a word ‘ridiculous’.
It was slowing dawning on me, and then I realized in an epiphany, that I had not made much forward progress in my life despite a good income. My nice income just provides enough for basic life. The more I made, we spent more to compensate for the stressful work life. We were rocking the malls and using credit cards to enjoy life when I was not in the pressure cooker of work.
I did some soul-searching and quit my job. If you add up deprecation on your car (it really wears down and you have to be able to buy a new one), fuel, the opportunity cost of the commute (I talked to a guy last night who is in his car 4 hours a day). You will pay with your health and time if you are not getting rich. You are really not doing much more than paying for your lifestyle.
My wife and daughter who are from another country were sitting at home all day waiting for me, without the support of my wife’s family. The apartment I live in was a little smokey from some trashy neighbors who moved in our condo complex and in a word, working was not doing anything but making everyone tired.
I have always said if you do not like your job, leave it. Just walk out. Like Darryl in the TV show The Office (he called it pulling an Irish exit), you just sneak out with no long good-byes or drama about whys, if you are not happy or it is causing you to stress just leave. It is that simple. This is from a guy who missed work for sickness one day in my life, and some years did not take vacations. I am a workaholic but at my ventures.
So I walk, the walk, and really do what I believe. I left my job without a job.
How I spend my time without a job
I started to get consulting and other job offers that paid even more. But I am not about money. The money will not buy love, or happiness or more time with my family and rarely does much for health as much as low stress and exercise.
I am refocusing on my language software and websites that were neglected and were becoming obsolete. It will take a year or more to dig out of all the piled up work I am behind. I hope to release one or two programs in software this year, something that has been on the table for about eight years.
I happily toil from morning until night, yet not on a career path but as an entrepreneur.
In a week I was studying for my RE exam, taped up with duck tape the ventilation to stop the smoke, started exercising, analysis my stock positions again as well as my websites. I did more in a few weeks than many years when I was working the grid.
For a hard-working responsible productive person, a job is one of the worst things you can have.
My real estate career
I was a stockbroker and in the investment world for years. I decided that since I live in Florida I would get my real estate license. The North East Metropolis is about paper assets, being a Floridian is about real assets. So when in Rome. I did this in about a few weeks. I am a realtor. This never would have happened if I had a job. I started a little website LaFloridaHomes.com (under construction just holding pages). So if anyone has an interest in Florida real estate let me know.
I interviewed a lot of companies. You know the big names and they were all fine, but have been around the block to drink the Kool-aid of working for a big-name firm. I am with a small start-up on the Island where I live.
The company I work for now is Endless Summer Reality, it is perhaps the first company where I really believe they put ethics first and foremost. I have never worked for a company like this. Some companies talk about teamwork but these guys freely share theirs secretes with each other.
The new economy has allowed me to help me live the dream
If it was not for the new economy, with remote virtual offices I would never have been able to live the dream. I am not in super economic shape now as I reposition myself, from careering and high paid consultant back to entrepreneur again but I do not care. It was a bit of a waste of time and money to be distracted in my life and focus on other people’s vision of my life. It is the advancement of technology that has allowed me to be so full of myself about my work life. I mean my dad had to go to work. He could not be networking with guys in India doing business in the virtual world. So the new economy has pros and cons, but for me, if I can make money it will be mostly pro.
Now I love my work plain and simple.
I work from home, I am an IT consultant for my own programs and websites, I will start to invest in the stock market again and trade more actively. I will also ramp up my real estate side because I work with such a wonderful company. Most of all I have a family that supports me with unconditional love.
Yes, it is true my job sucks – What about yours? There is a difference between toil (having a job) and work. Toil is what you do to pay the bills. Work is when your vocation and avocation are aligned. The issue is most of us, but not all, are still stuck in phase I that is toiling away at a J.O.B, or just over broke. Yes, it is the economy. Unless you are living on St. Thomas More’s ‘New Island Utopia’, where sloven and scarcity are mitigated by a six-hour workday and no commute, mind you, drudgery for a meager living is not the way to go.
In the end, all jobs and human effort are noble. It is the way we serve each other. It is almost a virtue to do some boring labor as society needs someone to do this. The point of this post is simply saying start thinking about being an entrepreneur.
You have two options:
Flounder around going from sucky job to sucky job
Take action and start working on your own idea to sell to others
Your author is still doing both. Update, I left my job. It was too stressful and not worth it.
Yes like everyone I need to pay the bills while working on my own venture. Yet if your day job is affecting your life adversely hold you back, take a risk and leave.
Below are some reasons I recommend to start thinking of your own entrepreneurial ventures. The main reason is, in the new economy there is more chance of you giving yourself a raise then anything spectacular bonus from industrious servitude to your overseer.
Working is fun but jobs today seems to be either
Chaotic jobs – The last guy left your current position for a reason. If he felt slighted (usually the case) human nature kicks in, and he did not go out of his way to set it up for you. Your predecessor gets a slightly twisted pleasure to hear about your struggle through the grapevine of co-workers. This will validate their worth. Even in my current job the last person who had the job before me gave me no training but just jumped ship. When I got there it was pure chaos. Of course, my boss did not tell me this during the interview.
Crafty Puppet masters at work – It is now part of corporate culture in America to have puppet masters who stir the pot and play the game of corporate politics at a new level. Take a look at the guy in the cube to the right of you and the left of you. One of those ‘team players’ is really just a player. The best corporate puppet masters are those who act innocent, but plant the seeds and step back and what it all unfold from a distance. Machiavelli takes notes.
Co-workers are petty – Since companies do not pay well, the human brain will crave stimulation that is lacking outside their work life. This is because lack of R&R and money to spend on real fun. It is the new economy. For example, people take their kids to corn mazes in the county instead of a month at the beach or second summer home to regenerate. Therefore, to compensate they thrive on the drama at work and gossip too.
Ridiculously underpaid for the cost of living – What is my evidence? The housing market, the amount of disposable income and savings people have. Sure I know companies do not have money, but they actually do. See it is just the variable cost of labor is an easy place to squeeze more productivity per dollar so those management’s bonus kick in. I have been on both sides of the fence and this is how it works.
Education does not matter – Yep forget the 100k you or your folks invested in your graduate education. It seems for stability all you need is a six-month certification from an online or local school. Sure there are still a lot of professional jobs out there, I am a professional, it is more about very specific skills for a concrete duration, rather than a career and a gold watch anymore. Get an education for your own humanistic enrichment, not for your career. I mean come on an average CPA makes like 60k a year. Why not just get a certification in IT security and make double that. I could work at the outlet mall as a manager and make 60k. What is the point in getting an education? Personal enlightenment.
Boomtowns require relocation – Oklahoma and North Dakota are booming for example. But for me a preppy New England-er to move to the Midwest and watch the corn grow, I think I would rather move back to Europe. I looked at my old company that is relocating to Minnesota. Yep, F-ing Minnesota. Yeah right, I can see talking my wife into moving there from the semi-tropical island where we live on now, to be glued to weather.com in MI, anticipating the next Canadian arctic air mass. Therefore I am stuck in the local economy which sucks.
The economy should come back soon. Why? Why should it? Markets are not in equilibrium and we have more debt than ever. Prices were not allowed to deflate and people do not have money. Just because we have had a prolonged recession or slow growth does not mean anything. Look at Japan, they never came back. Their middle class works too much and live in small quarters and eat a lot of rice. Do you want that? Time is not a factor in economic recoveries if markets are in disequilibrium.
Hot jobs I do not recommend
Military – In my area, it is the Military or DOD connected or with defense. Not my cup of tea. People get sucked into this career and after they are out, they drift. I was talking to one ex-Marine Colonel who out in the real world is an assistant manager a KFC. Then he quit and went to work for a security firm in Afghanistan. Once they have you, they own you in many ways. A see a lot of tattooed Vets who can not compete with a wunderkind in IT, for a job. Sure Vets get 10% discounts on everything in the USA but they have trouble integrating back in the workforce. Many are on partial disability and have TBI. Do not join the army, yes it is a quick fix to your personal economic hardship and an ego inflator, but the army, really. Better is to hitchhike around Europe and chase girls and find yourself, reading books on philosophy and learn graphic design. When you get your feet back on the ground, your brain will be expansive and you will be an entrepreneur or employable. In the military, too much programming and you will have a hard time competing when you are out. Also, I know US history too well.
Government jobs – Met a guy last week that his first job out of school was for the government and worked 30 years of ‘public service’ and that was his life. He had zero personality. Yes, you too can have a boring, mind-numbing hopeless, white-bread life living in a D.R. Horton home (actually these home are not that bad) if you work for the State or Federal government.
Retail – Sure that is my dream, be a retail slave. Folding clothes made in China for low wages not enough to really have a life in the USA.
Cell phone companies and sales etc – These are hard jobs, commission-based. It does not matter what you sell, your boss will pump you up in the interview telling you top producers make over 100k. Troll Craiglist and ask yourself why there are so many sales jobs out there.
Careerism – Marketing, banking, insurance – not bad nor good. If you are starry eyed 20 something saying ‘I love my job”. Or like girls often say, ‘you have to love your job’. This is OK. Good for you. I love my family and I love God. Work is noble but a corporate career is not to be equated with virtue or goodness. Watch your back. It is just a paycheck. Do not forget the work/life balance.
Management – After working in management most of my life, I would rather be a senior analyst making 80k a year with low stress than make 100 +k and have everyone dump on you. The only real jobs are when they give you equity ownership in your efforts.
What jobs are good
Hospital or medical – Taking care of the sick is a calling and noble. It pays also. Not a bad profession.
Consider alternative careers where people are happy – I would say yoga teacher (only 200 hours for certification), massage therapist, writers, tour guide. Things that are really fun to do. Not for the money, so when the economy does bounce back you will be happy anyway. Find something that is fun for you. You will never get these years back, so you might as well do something fun.
Your own company – The only way to make money in a capitalistic economy is to be a capitalist. Own the process. My friends, make a cookie, another make popcorn, has a tour agency, sells hotdogs, makes sandwiches, another a yoga studio, and another daycare. They all do fine.
Anything – This post might seem a bit jaded because I have been working in corporate America, but there are many paths to a happy employment life.
What to do?
Pray – Do not give up. You can not give up. Ask God to help you in your life and work and your financial situation.
Read books – Read investing books and ideas to make money outside the traditional workplace. Books take time to write and a lot of thought has gone into most. I think you can read your way out of most problems in life as they are distilled wisdom and experience. Look everything can not come from China and Americans do not want it too. Use your imagination. Even I have entrepreneurial ventures in the fire.
Wait until the answer reveals itself to you. – Be patient. Do not factor in playing scratch lotto as part of your financial plan. Just know there is an answer to every problem. Money issues in rich America are not on par with financial problems living in the third world for example. Count your blessings.
I am not talking about quitting your side job, but your day job, leave it if you do not like it. What is stopping you? In my book, there are only jobs or following your dream. I guess jobs are good for temporary income to get you out of debt, but you better commit yourself to your dream path or you will wake up one day years later unhappy, really unhappy and resigned. So resign from your job before you resign from your life. Just escape. You do not even have to give notice. Do not resign your life, leave your job.
Ask yourself what would you do if God gave you a superpower to do anything. For example, you could be a rock star or astronaut. Then examine skillsets similar in the market place. For example, if you answered rock star maybe you should be in public speaking or music or a rock star.
A lot of people complain about work, the economy and life. They live quiet lives of desperation and feel like their life is out of a chapter in The Grapes of Wrath. Their boss sucks as does their work environment. I tell them to quit. If you do not like your life, ask yourself, what are you going to do about it?
Quit your day job nothing will happen. I remember when I was out of work early in my twenties, I was thinking nothing good will come from that, I am broke. Actually, during that time, I got ideas that I am still acting on today. People stress out over their jobs way too much. You will notice how many people are ‘out of the workforce’ when you go shopping in the middle of the day and the grocery store is full.
Think fun paycheck not a career – Stop thinking about your forever career and defining yourself by your career, think of every job like a paycheck nothing more. But find a paycheck generating gig you like spending eight hours a day at. There are not careers only jobs.
Think fun not money. – Consider alternative jobs, for example, I would not mind being a DJ. A lot of my friends moved to Europe and are Djs in foreign countries. I am an accountant and write software, yet I love music. It is just one alternative life. I moved to Europe for almost a decade and did various things. So can you. I moved my family back to the USA to Florida because I like the weather. Think fun, not money.
Will, it hurt your career to take a break? – It took me about a week to find a corporate job once I started looking, after goofing off in Europe for about ten years, and I live in a depressed area. If you have confidence and courage in life and have to spend it living an authenticate life developing your spirit and mind, I believe there will always be a job for you.
Do you feel too old – I just hired a 65-year-old lady in my office and she will do better than the younger whippersnappers there. She is great and doing the job for fun, as the other 68-year-old lady in my office. I could not find such talent in a younger person as these girls have experience and great with the clients, a lot better than me. How old was Ronald Reagan when we life of
People are afraid of their bosses. Why? Do you feel guilty to tell your boss you quit or need an excuse to quit? Or do you get stressed out, when your boss is around? I often have my resume on my desk (top). As long as I am doing my job and exceeding expectations, what I do with my life is up to me. How ridiculous is that you are afraid of your boss.
Tell your boss off. I read in What they do not teach you at the Harvard business school, to avoid Showdowns. This is true. But if something sucks tell them. I have always had heated arguments with my bosses over the way things are done. I am not hired to be a yes man, but to be painfully honest so the process is improved. Do not have showdowns but call things the way you see it. Challenge your boss, but always let them save face in the end, as it is not about ego but shaking things up a bit.
Some jobs are good and some are bad, but what do I care about the next guy. Stop comparing yourself to the next guy. Everyone has different life circumstances they are born into. What do I care about some laborer getting paid 8 bucks an hour working hard, while another self-impressed bloke in wingtips shoes is getting paid seven figures a year pushing paper for some Wall Street firm? Any power people have in this life given to them from above. Each of us is here for different reasons. Stop looking at the next guy. Focus on you.
The bottom line is if you do not like your job, leave it. Leave it today. Find something that you feel is interesting to you. Money is not the ultimate motivator in life. If you do not like your job you are not doing your employer justice anyway.
What about the bills?
First, look at your expenses. When we first moved back to the USA after living in Eastern Europe we had household expenses of about $1200 a month for a family and felt we were living quite well. Of course now a year later I have doubled that with opulent living. But I live on a semi-tropical Island in historic St. Augustine on the beach. I think our family expense could be about $900 in another part of the country if went to austerity measures.
The bottom line does not let your ridiculous lifestyle imprison you in a job. Cut expenses. More is less.
Your priory is your kids and needs money for them? Prove it. Teach them chess. Chess not with a computer but with pieces and a book, it will develop their cognitive diligence. You want to enrich your children, go to the Library and spend time with them more than sending them to some expense daycare. Do not buy food in packages, just potatoes and apples and greens, and meat or go fishing. They will be healthier than processed food you are buying.
Cars, do you really need them, it is debatable. When we got a car, we started shopping all the time. When we did not have one we bought what we needed.
You can survive, on less. Focus on doing what you love not to be a slave to your expenditures.
You do not have a good idea of what to do?
Then go back to what you loved when you were younger. I loved history and languages and write language software. Find some interaction with what you liked. If you liked history, work for the park service, that is a great job, or write books. If you need a job coach, go to elance.com and hire some experienced professional for job coaching. There are a lot of talented experienced people who can guide you to find your next step in life even if you do not see it.
I mean there are a lot of jobs you are not even considering. I am doing property management right now to pay the bills. It is kind of a fun job, I run a resort hotel on a few famous golf courses. I like to golf, I like hotels, so I am the director of a resort. I could go back into accounting and eventually will finish my software but for now, this is a fun job. Think along the same lines. Do something fun.
In conclusion, I can not take responsibility for your life, but I can for mine. I choose not to take counsel of my fears but rather live with confidence and courage in the job market because in the end, it is just a job.
I like to work, but I do not like to work and not get paid. When I was making over one hundred thousand dollars a year plus a nice bonus, I worked all the time and had a lot of stress and responsibility placed on my back. I was signing all types of documents I was potentially liable for. I had to make choices about people’s lives with regards to hiring and firing. I was owned by the company.
Does 60k mean living the dream? I see many jobs which are offering 60k a year in a major city like Boston. Can work for 60k a year really do it for you? A job stands for ‘Just Over Broke’. You could be a controller for double that if that is what you really want to do.
The opportunity cost of life – If you are not going to start your own business, there is an alternative to being a corporate rat in a maze. In contrast, consultants get paid more, with all the overtime you can eat. My consulting friends that have been in the game for a while making 200k + a year and less stress flying beneath the radar. Some even engage in overtime competitions who can clock the most billable hours. One guy I know billed 100 hours a week for three weeks, all real work mind you, but he made about 30k that month with dinner provided by the client.
As a consultant, I site in a cube and people are nice and walk by me without asking me a question every ten minutes. I am out of the crossfire. I work mind you, and with diligence, however, consultants tend to not be in the crossfire of the politics, and fire drills of corporate America as much. They know their jobs will have a start and endpoint based on a task done and work efficiently.
A consultant is:
More flexible – With time and location.
Fairer pay – Get paid what your worth and have no illusions if you do not produce you are out.
Less stress – See the below elaboration.
Does not get routine as you see more varied situations – A big part of work in the USA is routine and boring tasks.
Corporate accounting planning and budget determine your raises – more than your performance in your ‘permanent high paid position’
In contrast, in a job with a salary, the bag of salt they pay you at the end of the moth in wages is not worth your marginal product contributed to the company. No one will ever compensate you for what you are really worth in a full-time salary job unless you are in top management or work for the government.
You will get your increase based on corporate accounting planned budget more than your contribution. Trust me corporate accounting has a budget and that is what your pay is about, you are just working to keep your job, rather than really make progress in your career in many cases. It is all about the budget. If they need to they will fire you to make the budge fit. It is all about the budget, not you personally.
Further, as a company yes man you have to be ready at all times to chase paper and produce paper. In the company a ‘VIP’ – VP call fire drill day and night which people get immune to. It is like if the Police always drove around town with their sirens on.
Not all jobs are like this. If you have a government job it is pretty easy. Guys I know in government are asleep at the wheel and still collect. The government employees I know are milk toast and could never work in the real world. But I think you have to basically sell your ideals if you work for the government. I think my testosterone would go way down if I had some government position.
However, a salaried job in the private sector, a real job if you will you have to work your butt off. Your only downtime when you kiss your wife good-bye for the day is when you are in your care on your commute and you are listening to National Public Radio. The rest of the day you will be stressed out. If you have a job where this is not so, write to me.
That is why I prefer to be a consultant or contract job. Maybe that will change someday.
For now, I enjoy living an anonymous life doing SQL queries and Excel pivot tables under fluorescent lights in a cube. A ghost cube, with a name plate of some former employee that no one can remember after a series of cut backs. Doing consulting you have to work hard and smart. You can not waste time or you are out. However, they paid you for your time and the stress is less.
Usually, companies cut too deep to show value-added by some steering committee that is making the big top-level decisions for the company and then they bring in a swarm of consultants to help. It is perfectly logical. So there are many opportunities to get these positions if you have skills.
My approach to consulting and what to expect in Accounting and IT consulting
In Accounting consulting 50 bucks an hour might be a normal rate – When I get in the first few days I try to get an understanding of General Ledger and start from the highest level P&L and work backward. These things are always frustrating at the start because you want to hit the ground running but there is always ramp up. But eventually things make sense and you feel good.
My guess is at most clients they know it’s a mess. That’s why you’re there. You make the most of it and think of it as an opportunity to shine. The pay rate does often not match a salaried job in some cases, but if you make a contribution that the client values, you can try to hit up your employer for a raise. Once you have this first assignment under your belt, you will be an ‘expert’.
If it is a public company, at the end of the clean up the get an accounting firm like PWC to bless it.
IT consultants get paid more like 75 to 100 bucks an hour in their pocket as a freelancer, although if you work for a consulting firm they will bill out over 100 easy, plus travel expenses.
Technology jobs get paid more than accounting jobs and it is more about implementing some system. You know, PeopleSoft – SAP, etc. Some recruiter will find you if you have those keywords on your resume.
The reason IT gets paid more is fear. The corporate guys are afraid they will not be able to turn on their systems and access data or it will be a mess. In contrast accounting consulting jobs are more pivot tables and analysis which is more tangible and understandable to the Accountants that run companies. But SQL and deep programming are like wizardry and they paid consultants for a level of security. If an Excel workbook is bad, that is one thing, but if the database is wrong the accounting team is at risk. That is why IT gets paid more, it is not that they are smarter.
Usually, in the contract, you can not talk to your client about your pay or get hired until a certain time is up.
The calculator of wages and salary and benefits
I like working per hour. Then it is clear. When I worked salary I had to work 24/7. 100,000 dollars a year = 50 dollars an hour on a 40 hour week. But they pay you 100,000 you must work like 60 – 70 hours which brings your rate to 25 – 30 dollars an hour. When you are a consultant you have less stress and ownership. You just sit in a cube off the radar and do some project. When you are a salary employee you work all the time. 50 dollars an hour is like a 100,000 dollar a year job with no overtime or weekend. 100 dollars an hour as a consult is like 200,000 dollars a year.
Most of my consultant friends are rich.
Most of my employee friend do OK.
My friends that are owners of a process or company are monied – this is why ultimately you want to be an entrepreneur.
I like a nice ‘safe’ (yeah right) salaried jobs but have no illusions
In contrast, I think salaried employment in many companies is a scam on par with a sales job that makes promises that not one really sees.
Do not get me wrong. Most of my life I worked with a salary. Nothing wrong with that, it pays the bills and more. It will help you pay the mortgage with the stability of cashflow.
My point here is considered there is another way because in a steady job companies will not pay you for what you are worth. At best your marginal cost will equal your marginal product, but I rarely see this. Being a consultant is getting paid for work done rather than and an endless stream of work being piled on you.
I like working per hour. Then it is clear. I work and I get paid, I do not work I do not.
When I worked salary I had to work 24/7. 100,000 dollars a year = 50 dollars an hour on a 40 hour week. But they pay you 100,000 you must work like 60 – 70 hours which brings your rate to 25 – 30 dollars an hour. When you are a consultant you have less stress and ownership. You just sit in a cube off the radar and do some project. When you are a salaried employee you work all the time including nights and weekends. If you do this as a consult you bill them and you make a lot.
Ah, but salaried jobs give you medical benefits, right?
The hook is that in a salary job you get medical benefits.
Well, I most company plans are now basically the same price as if you went to Blue Cross. Blue Cross is 100 dollars a month on the cheap side for a family of 3 and 350 a month for the expensive side depending of course what you want etc.
Check your pay stub, I bet you pay at least 100 dollars for medical coverage? Maybe I am wrong. But unless you are older and sick I can not imagine more than 350 dollars in medical bills a month. So I just prefer the least expensive plan, which is often even 80 dollars a month. Just in case type plans and pay at the walk-in clinic if I have to go. I also believe nothing beats being slim, even skinny and fit and taking vitamins. This helps but of course is not the answer for more serious problems.
Also, there are many other options, all doctors discount for cash or lower-income and even in my town of St. Augustine, there are free doctors and free clinics.
I paid 35 dollars to get ten staples out of my head at the walk in the clinic by a real ER doctor. He was just working at the walk-in clinic that day.
But let us say you get a 300 dollar a month plan, from Blue cross that is a good plan and not bad. In a company, you have to pay a part of your own insurance anyway. And is the marginal cost worth the stress. Marginal cost being the difference between a company plan and a private. 300 dollars is usually less than one day of consulting and in some cases one hour.
Further, for good or bad it looks like we may have some form of Obamacare in a year or so.
In conclusion, do not quit your day job but if you are stressed, being a consultant is an option
A salaried position Vs. being a Consultant your choice, just be open to the idea there might be more to life than your boss and his budget. Bing a consultant is another option at least they will pay you for those hours and they let you work from home often or at the office. you can run a salary calculator or compassion all day long but being a freelancer gives you economic freedom.
If you do not have the skill set for the market, go to the Internet and learn what you need to do and know. Practice at home and learn. Most skills are not that hard to pick up. No one is a genius, rather I see people succeed because they do not give up or berate themselves.
What do I do for work since I moved back to the USA? I work on my own company and ideas at home. I believe entrepreneurship is the best way. But I still from time to time take a consulting job. You can see my LinkedIn profile by searching ‘Mark Biernat LinkedIn’.
If you ever thought you are not getting paid enough, you are right. I have been in positions controlling salaries and costs for many years. It was one of the worst parts of my job because I always could see how low most pay scales were compared to how people worked. People would sacrifice their lives for average wages, including myself. On the other hand, some people, people right out of school had unrealistic expectations regarding pay. However, most people with experience and a work ethic were not getting paid enough. Take a second and ask yourself “Am I underpaid?”.
Salaries and wages compared
The guy who fixes my heating walks out after a half-hour of work and says, it is not much just 80 bucks. Meanwhile, the someone helps me with some programming C# charges a fraction of that. Have you ever calculated your salary as if it was an hourly wage? If you have not, I recommend you do. Why? By getting a better idea of what you are really getting paid per hour you make a more realistic assessment of what they are paying you.
Wages are hourly or weekly earnings, while salaries more often calculated on a monthly basis. You earn a salary of 160 hours of work a month. In contrast, wages earners are compensated on every hour. The difference between a consultant and wage earners simply is consultants or freelancers are a white-collar worker paid by the hour, but with less steady work, but the idea is the same.
Everyone knows salaries are better, right? You make more money. My reply is not always. Why? Because companies have a tendency to bleed you white, to get make sure their marginal product exceeds their marginal cost of employing you. I will give you a hint. It always does.
If you earn a salary you make less than you think?
The reason is with wages you earn overtime. With salaried positions, in my experience, if you work nights and weekends, the company buys you dinner or from time to time gives you a compensation day. But your company will not pay you are worth. At the end of the year, you get a 2.5% increase in salary.
The bar has been raised – and you have to jump over it or you are out. Why do you work so many hours? The reason you work more hours is the bar in corporate America has been raised. It is a game of musical chair, use any analogy you want, but the US workplace is much more competitive than anywhere I have been or lived. People in America work like crazy. If you do not work above and beyond the call of duty then you will eventually lose your job.
Some people say that a salary is the biggest scam there is. I would not go that far, but a company will always pay you less than you are really worth. It is simple economics, a firm pays you until your marginal cost is equal to your marginal benefit. However, most people do not know what they are really worth, usually from a lack of confidence.
Therefore, start with what you get paid. To determine if your salaried position is better than a wage or consulting position does a calculation.
Calculate your hourly rate
If you make 50,000 dollars a year. And you are working 55 hours a week. That means you earn $962 gross salary a week or about $17.5 an hour. In my book that is not that bad. I am a big believer in paying the bills.
Further, with a job you get stability. But the wage rate of $17.5 dollars an hour for a professional with a college degree is only fair in my opinion. Think about how hard you work, and the level of intelligence you apply to your job. Think how seriously you take your job and want to do well. Think about the time spent commuting. Also consider the deductions that you need to take out from taxes to medical coverage, to retirement. Your net wage in hand wage might be only $9 dollars after 401k, medical and taxes. I always allocated 19.5% for my 401k. Maybe more for most people. Maybe $15 dollars an hour is what most salaried professionals make on a net basis. It is not good or bad, it is just reality.
Strip away notions of titles and impressions and see how much they pay you per hour.
Your pay comes down to what is your time worth to you. I even have an idea of opportunity cost in this equation. My free time is valuable too.
Therefore, when comparing wage earners to a salary position, do a realistic calculation of your time and earnings. Things like prestige or title should not matter. Salaries count most if the company has you working normal hours, try to get a sense of this before going in. I think this exercise of calculating your hourly wage is useful when answering the question if you are underpaid.
The job market in America is strange. On one hand, there are scores of low paying 10 dollar an hour jobs in the private sector. In fact, many educated talented people are now searching for Walmart jobs, even just out of curiosity. There is no dishonor in this anymore. However, who can live off of this?
While on the other hand, the juicy private sector jobs are for employees who are highly skilled and who make big sacrifices in life. You have to be really sharp and somewhat ruthless. I think of myself as pretty sharp, but it drains me to be this for someone else’s dream or vision and I do not want to give up my life for my bosses bonus anymore. This is one of the main reasons why corporate America sucks.
Options for high paid employment in the US
There are IT and high paying financial jobs, but those are not for everyone, as all of us cannot be IT directors. I think many people have the talent to be but the way you get there is a lot of luck, take it from someone who was there.
The other major choice is health care again, not for everyone. This market is dominated by middle-aged women who have set their sights on a modest income. You will not starve but not hit 6 figures in these jobs. The same goes for teaching.
You can try sales, but many of this pond is overcrowded with fishermen. I was out there swinging hard, but too many players. However, if you are desperate or unemployed I would recommend you give it a try.
This is the job market today. A real dichotomy between a large number of low paying jobs and a few jobs at the top where people get well compensated. It seems unfair ad the middle jobs, the old middle-class jobs are gone. It is unfair. I have a solution if you want to find a high paying job.
Let’s look at what happened and how we got here first.
It is shameful that in America, the greatest country economically, the economy is such that two parents must work to maintain a household. The children are the ones that suffer. But what can people do, I really feel bad for many American families. If they were to live on one income, they can not pay the bills. How did we fall from greatness?
My father’s generation job market to today
A job for life – I remember when my father and all the neighborhood dads would come home when the sun was still shining and a job was pretty much guaranteed for life. My father said the only people who lost their jobs were people who were drinking, and often not even then.
Their career path was clear. You would work your way up the career ladder and promotions were based on seniority as much as talent. The retire down in Florida.
A job for now – The job, for now, is why we have the dichotomy in the job market. In the US job market, companies downsize and delayer. This means they have a flat structure with the management of fat cats being replaced by stern taskmasters overseeing cube slaves. Workers only have their job as long as they add more value than they are paid. Companies are looking for specialists. If you are bright specialists you are all set. The keyword here is bright. You cannot just be someone who knows the job, but someone who innovates. The bar has been raised. The market is now, low paid jobs at the bottom and high paid jobs at the top. A lot of the middle layers have been reengineered or outsourced.
Doing the Freelance thing – You really get paid what you’re worth here. But the funny thing is most people struggle or never get rich freelancing. The reason your search factor in looking for these jobs is pretty expensive. Further, the market is overcrowded with ex-corporate people trying to sell their services. You also have to pay your own medical and you have no job security.
The job market generally – What happens is when you are in your 20s companies will scoop you up because you are cheap labor. But if you have not broken through to a good niche or management in your mid-30s, you will have a hard life. This again is the job dichotomy. What is the solution if you did not make it to the top of the food chain?
The solution in the musical chairs of the US job market
Differentiation -Find something that will give you differentiation other than just jobs skills. Conventional solutions will not work in today’s job market. Jobs experience is equally ineffective as having an education. Experience and education just gets you on the same playing field as everyone else who is hungry out there. The real secret is you need to get something like military clearance, for example. You need to find something that is really a niche but not that is over crowded. MBAs are a dime a dozen. But someone with a little but of computer skills and military clearance is a very good niche for example. It is having a piece of paper that is different from a degree or a resume full of experience. Something really nichey like military clearance and some computer skills. There are of course many other niches. Once you find this you can have the job stability of our fathers.
My personal philosophy about work – Focusing on making money, not getting a job
Remember most people ‘think about getting a job’. I tell people to “think about making money”. Two different ideas. In fact, having a job often gets in your way of making real money. This is because it consumes your time. Time is the stuff that life is made of. Next, most people ask ‘how do I make money’? I tell people to do not. I tell people ‘think about creating something of value’ with hard work. People ask me ‘how do I come up with an idea’? I tell them to do not. ‘Stop looking outside’ and start asking yourself what are you really interested in. This comes under the category of living your dream.
So I only will get a job if I have to. I have not really worked in 7 years. My friend Erik is 34 and he never had a job in his life. He said instinctively, when someone mentioned the word ‘job’, his tail curled between his legs like a dog’s when he did something wrong.
I am a firm believer that all work is noble and you have to pay the bills. But the best way to do that (besides living your dream as mentioned above) is to try to find a niche that has a requirement to qualify like military clearance. This type of usual ‘green stamp’ will give you the job stability only our forefathers had. Find that green stamp.
How would feel about working for another man’s wife and children while your family is struggling to survive? Would that be fair? Well, this is exactly how I feel every time I hear about a new stimulus package or Federal Reserve Board of Governors pumping (printing) money to override market adjustments. The purpose of this post is to tell you about the origin of that phrase ‘working for other men’s wives’.
In fact, if you know it or not, because of these bailouts, debt, and taxes you are now at this very moment slaving away for other men’s wives. Have no illusion, you are working so your neighbor’s wife can remodel her bathroom. I wonder what color she will choose for her new bathroom with your money?
Does this very idea get you a little unnerved? Well, it’s true, you are working so your neighbor’s wife can put in a new kitchen floor. I just keep asking myself will it be hardwood or linoleum? It is true.
Let me explain why I keep using this metaphor and referring to your neighbor’s wife.
I use the expression ‘working for another man’s wife’ a lot. It is not a sexist statement or something I just pulled out of the air, it comes from the origins of our nation. I am a Bostonian so I think I can write a bit about the history of New England.
Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes. Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it. – George Santayana
Lets read some primary source documents and let the facts speak for themselves.
Economic lesson from American history
First let’s do some time traveling and go back to 1621 Plymouth, Massachusetts. The new Americans had set up a ‘commonwealth’. That is the wealth produced was to be shared by the community. You work and toil and a large percentage of produce would go back into the common pool of assets. If one enterprise was failing, assets from another productive enterprise would go to bail out that unproductive economic activity. This is basically what happened in modern speak. Taking away properties and bringing it in the community for the commonwealth to share the responsibility of these assets.
The result, you guessed it, was even more crisis and hardship. Those who were productive or clever were punished. Those who were slothful or took the foolish risk were rewarded. The new American settlement was on the brink of economic collapse. People did not like working for their neighbor.
By the year 1623 William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth colony saw that this economic plan was making the economic crisis worse. The colony was on the brink of starvation. Maybe the idea would be OK for some communal hippies from the 1960s, but for Americans trying to survive, it made things worst.
William Bradford realized that by taxing the productive and rewarding the slothful, all suffered. To save the new colony he immediately did away with these ‘bailouts’ and told people they were on their own. To fight and struggle for their own families and make something with their own wits and hard work. They no longer needed to work for another man’s wife and children. Free markets would reward and punish economic activity.
Did it work? What do you think? Lets read the original documents. Here is the original document that states the facts about what happened.
Bradford’s History of ‘Plimoth Plantation’ by William Bradford
…taking away of propertie, and bringing in com̅unitie into a comone wealth, would make them happy and florishing; as if they were wiser then God. For this comunitie (so farr as it was) was found to breed much confusion & discontent, and retard much imploymēt that would have been to their benefite and comforte. For ye yong-men that were most able and fitte for labour & service did repine that they should spend their time & streingth to worke for other mens wives and children, with out any recompence. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in devission of victails & cloaths, then he that was weake and not able to doe a quarter ye other could; this was thought injuestice.
English in the 17th century had no standardized spelling, but even so, you can clearly read extract the meaning of this. It is not some abstract economic-political theory. It was real. People were suffering because of some idealistic notion of how the economy should be managed.
Here also is the statement ‘to work for other men’s wives’ It’s meaning is clear and people like the President, might want to read a little about American history before they get some idea to create a better society in their head.
Now extrapolate this to the current economic solution put for by government today you might think is a bit of a stretch. But it is not. It is the same idea. We do it today with the tax system, monetary stimulus, and deficit spending. Net, net it is the same. This way we redistribute wealth.
My personal observation of economic redistribution – more lessons from history
I live as an American in post-communist Poland. When I read about how back home the solution is to nationalize and tax and expand government. I can only think about Eastern Europe’s experience with this idea. I just have to open my eyes and see how Poland is still trying to rebuild from democratic socialism. It did not work. It did not work with the Plymouth colony in 1621, it did not work with the New Deal in the 1930s, it did not work with socialism and communism in Eastern Europe and it is not working with the New Deal II. If I have to work for my neighbor’s wife, I prefer to use my time in another way, a less productive way.
Some people are confused. Free economic activity does not try to make everyone equal, it simply allows people to be the best they can be. Is there anything wrong with that?
Without the market, there would be no reward for problem-solving, for working hard if the best of your efforts were given to someone else, some stranger. Where are the challenge and struggle?
What are work and laziness today
Remember you can also be mentally lazy. Thinking is the hardest work there is, that is why so few people do it. You need to be striving to improve your situation. If you are just working at your job, and not trying to improve yourself and prepare for the next step, in my mind you are lazy.
Lack of ascetic practices making you poor?
If you can not find a job, keep looking. Adjust your spending habits to a minimum. I live in Poland where people support a family on a few hundred dollars a month, so you would have a hard time convincing me you can not be more frugal.
Do not tell me: ‘it’s the economy’ (I think that was the Clinton and Obama campaign mantra). You need always to be working to improve your skills and situation. You need to find a solution yourself. Do I sound arrogant, I am not. I will trade life hardship stories (I am not talking about people suffering from real medical problems of course) with anyone out there. However, I commit myself to find solutions to no-win situations. Economically I do not believe in the no-win scenario.
Look, I do well economically by working hard and I have done very well with investing. To some extent, my investing has saved me but that is another story. But I am not the richest guy in the world. I do not have a car (OK I live in a European city), but I was paying taxes so other people could buy a new car in the cash for clunkers program. I do not own a house (I am waiting until I can pay cash for a house, I am a bit of an economic oddball), but my tax money is going to support artificially high housing prices because some guy’s wife wanted to spend more than they could afford. Too much house if you will. This is very unfair. Margret Thatcher said bailouts work well ‘until you run out of other people’s money’.
Why I think government intervention in the free market is unfair
I spend time a lot of time trying to improve my life. I read all the time about how to improve my life economically and I also reflect on this. I think awareness of your situation and the striving to change it is a very noble thing. I read and study about how to invest more wisely, to create and bring my own ideas to market. I spend a lot of my free time learning. It takes courage because people criticize me for leaving my traditional 9 to 5 job or not being a banker or Wall Street investment guy to impress people with a title and wearing fancy wingtip shoes.
I am up at the crack of dawn working and often working after dark. It all comes down to this. If the fruit of my labor will be taken from me and given to some other guy, what is the point? Why try to improve my economic life?
I have many problems in my life, but I know that only I can solve these problems. I do not put my hope in some bureaucrat or politician. Do you? Only I can solve my problems and find a solution to economic hardship I might face. It is all up to me. This is why I do not like these stimulus plans, bailouts, Ben Bernanke Federal Reserve Bank action or taxes. It to me is another way of saying ‘working for another man’s wife’.
Have you ever thought of working for yourself but do not have the courage? You will always make more money working for yourself than a company. The purpose of this post is twofold; one, to appeal to your emotions on why you need to start your own company and the second, is a logical argument with help from Adam Smith.
My plea to you to abandon being a careerist and work for yourself
I have years of experience working for the ‘best companies in the world’ in Europe and America. Sarcasm intended, as every company you work to tell you they are the best and the greatest by the way. Further, every corporate warrior will tell you they have a great resume and tell you about their accomplishments. Yawn. Working for a company is no honor, no expression of creativity, but it is what most people do. Just consider, for a moment being an entrepreneur.
I now work for myself. Take my word for it self employment is eons better. A company is mostly a waste of time, except for some skills you can acquire and apply for your own business. This is even if you are high up the corporate ladder.
I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion. –Henry David Thoreau
My key advice to you is to plan your escape from working now and plan to work for yourself. Read my lips, to this now start today. Be an entrepreneur. This is where real innovation comes from and economic contribution comes from. I believe like the Economist Schumpeter, that the entrepreneur is the hero.
I have even known some people to use company time to start planning their escape. I do not like this approach unless it is warranted like you know the ax will fall on you, so what is the point. Use your own ethics to guide you, based on your situation.
However, consider this your company is taking the best years of your life from you. Think about your family, you are responsible for taking care of them, no one else. This is why I recommend you consider alternative career options than just working for some company. Consider or even meditate on the following image. Print it out and carry it with you for a few days in your front pocket. While you are in a team meeting, take it out and look at it. Reflect on it, until you realize the matrix is no place for you.
The problem with not working for yourself
It would be great to show up at work at 9 am in the morning and at 5 pm go home. It is the dream. A low-stress job that is rewarding and people really appreciate you and pay you for it. Self-actualization in corporate America. You do this until you are ready to retire and you have a wonderful easy life and fulling life.
Reality check on working for a company – It might have been possible in the 1950s when the world was recovering from WWII and the other half had communism, but not in a global market place today with free movement of labor and capital. If you are a corporate warrior you will sacrifice your life or marriage. In a work when you try company route – game over man.
Being in management for many years I know how the worker gets screwed. After working nights and weekends you will get a review and your 3% raise. I was in charge of the budget and that is what I could give people. When it came time to downsize people of all ages lost their job. If any of those guys working for me had their own firms or worked for themselves, they would be rich right now. I could not do it anymore for personal and ethical reasons mostly. It was all fake, people who made money where not the people who were the producers.
Go ahead work long hours in corporate America. You can do it but what a price you will pay. No one in today’s economy can work 9 am to 5 pm and get provide for your family in every sense of the word. If you can, let me know. In fact, I would rather not work than sacrifice my family life.
Adam Smith and the logic of self-employment
Do not take my word for it, let us look at what Adam Smith says about working for yourself vs. working for a company. Adam Smith on working for a company:
As soon as land becomes private property, the landlord demands a share of almost all the produce which the labourer can either raise or collect from it.
The owner of the company will take most of your productive effort and creativity. Is this fair? Yes, if you do not have the courage to try something on your own, resign yourself to working for a master (company).
Why people do not choose self-employment
Here is an Adam Smith quote to put it in perspective and why people work for a company rather than being an entrepreneur.
It seldom happens that the person who tills the ground has wherewithal to maintain himself till he reaps the harvest. His maintenance is generally advanced to him from the stock of a master, the farmer who employs him, and who would have no interest to employ him, unless he was to share in the produce of his labour, or unless his stock was to be replaced to him with a profit. This profit makes a second deduction from the produce of the labour which is employed upon land.
What does this mean to you? Basically, people need to live and therefore, can not afford to live on anything until their productive efforts start to pay. Furthermore simply, the company will take away your productive work, but allow you something to live on. It means you get paid less than are worth, basically.
Work for yourself
Adam Smith continues to write:
It sometimes happens, indeed, that a single independent workman has stock sufficient both to purchase the materials of his work, and to maintain himself till it be completed. He is both master and workman, and enjoys the whole produce of his own labour, or the whole value which it adds to the materials upon which it is bestowed.
This is the guy you want to be. The person who works for yourself or owns a process. This way you can enjoy all the fruits of your work.
My main idea is you are worth a lot more than you are getting paid now if you are working for a company long-term. What is my proof? There is no way I can quantify this for you if you have not tried. If you want more ideas on how to make money or going in business for yourself, consider what I write in this article on why the rich have money by working for themselves.
The solution is to work on your own:
While you have your day job, start using it to think about other ways to make money. Here is a resource you might consider for self-employment, it has a good FAQ section.
If you are bored and have nothing to do at work, print things out about working for yourself and read them in your cube. Cover it with other work, so if your boss walks buy it looks like you are working. Does this sound bad? It is up to you.
I had a rule, I would never surf the Internet or talk on the phone or do anything but work, while I was at work. In the end, it did not matter, work is a lot about corporate politics. It is up to you, but you have to look out for yourself and your family before you work for your bosses bonus in my opinion.
Start to think of ways to work for yourself today and in a year or two you might have a plan and start putting it in place.
Work to live not live to work. Do not work for a title or more material possession or you will be unhappy. I make a pittance but I am happy. I live in the US and go to school in Europe for a Ph.D. I teach at a college. I also tinker in entreprenural ventures.
There is a difference between work and toil. Toil is when you are not living your dream. Work is when your vocation and advocation are the same. So really this is to tell you do not get trapped in toil or a hustle job.
Imagine how in Europe centuries ago people use to work in another person’s field as a serf. And the feudal lord or master would keep most of their produce. While they were allowed a humble home and pittance or allotment for themselves. Hmm, sounds like the world of corporate feudalism today? Does it not?
No one will ever pay you what you are worth.
Remember that. In a capitalist economy, you will never get rich by working in another person’s field. The only way to be a freeman, that is to be a capitalist. Therefore, I do not want to waste my time, the stuff that life is made of, working in another man’s field for another man’s wife’s benefit (your boss’).
If I am as smart as I think, I am I would rather spend my free time applying my God-given talents to my own field. After all, my talents are only on loan to me from God. One day my real Master will return and I will stand before my Master and he will ask ‘Mark, what did you do with your life and the talents I loaned you, did you bury them?’
I want to say ‘I tried and failed’ or ‘I created something meaningful with the talents you lent me in this life’. Ad Majorem de Glorium.
Rather, than say ‘I was a corporate feudal serf applying my talents for someone else’s glory or for the benefit of someone else’s wife.’
My work instead of corporate America
I write language software and programs and teach economics.
You may say, ah Mark I am not you, I do not know C#, PHP, CMS, etc and I am not a master of Slavic languages like you. I learned it at 45, by myself.
God gives everyone a talent.
And your talent is usually connected to what you like when you were a kid, before you grew up, rather than what you have been socialized to like. What did you like when you were a kid? I liked Polish history and language. Therefore, I made this my work. Ask yourself what you liked when you were a kid when you still believed. This will set you free and maybe you will get some of your belief back.
Working as a corporate serf or working for a higher purpose
The focus of our endeavors should not be displayed with the vanity of our individual pursuits. But to create a lasting legacy which identifies each living individual’s purpose. Feudal systems was a management system of rules to limit the individual sole purpose for serving others. And a place where God’s power is hardly visible and where God’s name is truly used in vain. The gradualism of corporate America has incorporated itself with an open invitation for everyone to take part in a system that slowly reduces our God-given purpose in serving a few with their hedonistic needs. Enlightened people throughout history have always spoken up and resisted these values purely for its denial of human dignity.
One thing I’d like to make very clear is that life is continuous and for me, this means that opportunity and chances are consistently on the horizons of our choosing. Without seeking alternate paths we will till the same soil and never know of greener pastures denying us of enlightenment.
If you are working 12 hour days, quit your job. Why? The only way you will ever do anything more than tread water in a capitalist economy, is by being capitalist yourself. Not working for another man, not working for another man’s bonus and in essence for another man’s wife.
Many people take pride in working long hours. I did. Saying “I work 16 hour days” or “I work nights and weekends” is like a “red badge of courage”. It is a sign that you are a corporate warrior and willing to make sacrifices for the company in corporate America. While the truth is corporate America sucks. People do not care or remember you, except usually in a bad way. Your job can potentially make you a bad person.
Working 16 hours or 12 hours a day and night and weekends will destroy you
First and foremost you hurt your family. Your children need you. They do not need money for college, they need you. IQ is determined from 0 to 8 and emotional stability from 8 to 18. After that, to teach an old dog new tricks is an uphill battle. So forget about sending your kid to an Ivy league school, spend time when they are young.
What about your wife or husband. You promised this person to spend your life with them. Spending your life with them does not mean nights and weekend.
What about your health. You will be in for a short one if you work too much. And remember:
Life is short and your dead a long time.
Who am I to preach about corporate America and work
I stay at home with my family and work from home. I found a way. I used to work for the best companies in America, and of course earning more than $100,000 a year.
What more important job can there be in the world than having a happy family. I am not rich. I am poor. I make a few thousand dollars a year, under 10k. But have the courage of your convictions. With time, I hope, I will make more than I ever did working for a living. I will do it honestly and by working smart, with my family by my side. But even if I do not, so what. No corporate stock option could reward me as I am being rewarded now.
What are the options to working long hours
Well, the first thing people say is ‘sell something’ or ‘start your own business’. How does it make you feel? Fired up, but that advice also leaves you empty. And forget typing in ‘make money online’ etc. Learn a lesson from Adam Smith. Modern advise experts often can not compare to classical books.
Adam Smith’s lesson on how not to work 12 hour days
Adam Smith was not Ann Rand. Ann Rand touted the virtue of being selfish. Adam Smith said you work to serve others. Smith believed in value and virtue. Start with thinking, how can I help other people, by creating something of value. Start with thinking about what you loved when you were a child before corporate America forced you to work long hours. Then say to yourself, how can I develop the skills and make the connections that will lead me to use my God-given intellectual capital for the best service to others. If you think about value and service to others, rather than profit, you might have a rich life. If you work for corporate America, please do not work long hours