When I worked for an employer, one thing that sometimes frustrated me was having a boss. Although we had a good relationship, there were often times where I was instructed or guided toward doing something that either seemed to be way outside of my typical job (and thus way outside of my expertise) or didn’t seem to be an efficient use of my time.
Naturally, I did these things. I might not have felt it was my job to do these things, but I usually felt that my employment was on the line.
A few times, it was made known to me how replaceable I was, just to drive home the point.
Part of the problem was that in some ways, I felt trapped in that job, regardless of whether I liked it or not (and I largely did like it). I was in a financial situation where I felt I needed that job.
Whenever you’re in a situation where you feel you need something, the more power you cede to the people around you that provide it. In this case, it was my boss.
Even though I was largely happy at my previous job, this lack of control or power over a large part of my financial destiny made me uncomfortable, and it was part of the reason why I spent an awful lot of my free time over the past decade trying to build an independent career path for myself.
Simply put, the worse your financial situation is, particularly in a poor economy, the more power you hand over to your boss. That person is often aware how much you financially need your job and they’re also aware of how difficult you might find it to find a new job.
So, what can you do about it? What can you do to reduce the relative power of your boss and you in the workplace? Here are some tactics.
Improve your finances This is the first step, and it’s a big one. Think about your financial state if you lost your current employment tomorrow. What would happen if you went without a job for a year? Would you lose your house? Would you have to declare bankruptcy?
Those things become a weight over your head, one that your boss holds the leverage on. The simplest way to take away that leverage – and improve your own situation and reduce your stress about your money – is to take control of things.
Start by building an emergency fund that consists of at least a month’s worth of living expenses. After that, get rid of all of your debt. All of it. If you accomplish these things, you’ll have already accomplished another big skill you’ll need, which is spending less than you earn. Keep building your emergency fund.
Build your skill set, especially skills that transfer Few things assure your independence from your employer like a strong skill set, particularly a skill set that other employers will find desirable.
Of course, this means you have to work on your skill set. What kinds of skills would make you a very hot commodity in your field? What kinds of skills do the top people have in your field. What kinds of experiences do they have?
Often, this includes both technical skills for your field as well as transferable skills like the ability to speak effectively in public. If you can build a resume of success that shows off accomplishments using a lot of these skills, you’ve suddenly got a lot of maneuverability in your field – and perhaps even outside of it.
Build a strong network of contacts The more people you know in your profession, the easier it will be to rebound from an unexpected job loss or move to another position if you need to due to other reasons.
The easiest way to do this is to attend conferences with the primary purpose of meeting people and building relationships. If you can do this through your job, great. However, you may need to do this on your own without the help of your job. If that’s the case, it’s well worth it.
Once you build some contacts, put in the effort to keep in touch with them. Send them regular emails asking how they’re doing. Send them a holiday season greeting card. Send them opportunities when you can and help them when you can. This will build a great relationship with them, which can come in handy later on.
Build your own side business This is another option for decreasing the power your boss holds over you. If you have a side business, a forced career change simply means that you now have the easy option to build your side business into something bigger.
The best side business is one that taps into something you’re passionate about, but doesn’t necessarily mean turning a hobby into a job. For example, I’m passionate about writing, but my hobby is gaming. I would not want to turn gaming into a job, but I really enjoy writing for a living.
Think about the things you’ve done as work in the past that you’ve really enjoyed and you’re probably going to find yourself somewhere near where your small business should be.
In the end, though, the key is financial independence, of which professional independence is a big component. The more free you are, the more opportunities life will hold for you.