Some Thoughts on Careers and Cyber Monday

A few days ago, I was chatting with someone who was telling me how he only shopped for Black Friday sales online. He didn’t like to go out to the stores, and I completely agreed with him.

After that, the conversation switched to Cyber Monday, and he told me of the long checklist of websites that he checks on that day. He talked about how the guys in his office spent a lot of the day emailing those deals to each other.

When I heard about that, I grew quiet. It seemed to me that a lot of people were burning their day hunting down a deal or two. The people he had described were in an office, meaning they were at work, and they were emailing lots of deals to each other, meaning they were spending a lot of time online finding those deals and emailing them to each other.

I’m the last person to say that it’s bad and horrible to spend some of your time doing that. If you work in an office environment with an uneven work flow, you’re going to find yourself with pockets of time without anything immediate to do, and it’s up to you to decide how to use that time. A lot of people end up web surfing during that time.

Here’s the thing, though: people who figure out how to use that time more effectively at work are going to build up their career.

Think about it this way. Alan spends Cyber Monday at work surfing the web looking for deals. He finds a $20 bargain on something he was going to buy for his kids for Christmas and a couple $5 or $10 bargains for things for himself. A few work tasks back up, but nothing big. His office is a bit messy and some paperwork needs filed, but it can wait.

Bill spends Cyber Monday at work getting his filing done and handling emails from the long weekend. He gets the things in his inbox done. At the end of the day, he does have a few extra minutes to look for bargains, but he mostly just looks through the emails for the bargains coworkers have sent out. He does some Cyber Monday searching in the evening at home, too.

On Tuesday, a huge project comes down the pipe, one that, if done correctly and with quality, will catch the eye of the boss. Who’s going to be more prepared to just knock that project out of the park, Alan or Bill?

If you want to have job stability and earn raises and promotions, look at your actions from the perspective of your employer. Is the thing you’re doing right now creating a positive value for your employer? If it’s not, why should they continue to employ you?

Here’s the key thing to always remember: employers are always going to want to hang on to people who provide a positive value for their business. Most of the people who are “downsized” are either filling a position that isn’t providing that positive value or aren’t producing enough work in that position to be a positive value for the company.

If you want job stability and raises and promotions, you need to focus on making sure that the company is getting more value out of you than they’re paying you. If you’re not doing that, you might as well start spending your time building a side business or looking for a different job.

If you’re reading this late on Cyber Monday at work, as many of you will be, you have a fundamental choice to make.

You can spend the rest of the day surfing the web, hunting down deals on things you don’t really need, and providing little or no value at work.

On the other hand, you can spend the rest of the day taking care of some unfinished things, providing some real value to your employer.

One route might be more enjoyable, but the other one helps you build a more valuable and more secure long-term future.

Trent Hamm

Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.