Own Your Worth

It’s time for a much-needed perspective shift when it comes to how we view the typical employer-employee relationship. A rude awakening about work dynamics is due. We’ve all been conditioned to see large companies as these indispensable engines of the economy that provide jobs as some kind of favor or maybe that we should feel lucky to have gotten to work for them. But let’s wake up – it’s the employees that bring an immense value through the unique skills, insights and labor they contribute daily. Without that human capital, these companies wouldn’t survive long if they didn’t have the people who push the daily grind. 

I don’t want to sound ungrateful or rude about that, however at some point in the past the narrative switched from the employees being revered, respected, and highly sought after for their skills being diluted into finding a warm body that is smart enough to push the computer buttons, operate the machines – but just dumb enough to not realize how badly they are catching the short end of the stick. The average person relinquishes too much precious time appeasing executives taking them for granted. Why?

Probably because you’ve been duped to equate a steady corporate paycheck with security. Sure it feels safe clinging to established norms and a constant dangling carrot of promotions or bigger bonuses. But scratch below the surface – you’re actually clinging to quicksand!

There are still companies who work the “old” way, and if you are lucky to find one of those, it may be your passion to work there and enjoy that lifestyle. I believe those are very limited in nature in 2024. With business evolving into this model of “Let’s find the cheapest resource we can find to fill this role, and make sure they feel lucky to have that opportunity”, I would encourage you to develop several sources of competition to ensure you are getting the best deal possible. 

By that, I mean you need to help them understand that YOU are the value. This way the competition for your company to retain you comes from multiple sources – other employers as well as from a business you create on your own. 

Yet the average person toils away exchanging too many hours for a modest paycheck signed by someone who takes them for granted. They cling to stable corporate jobs because it feels safe and secure compared to venturing out independently. I get it – a steady gig provides some comfort when other options seem risky or unrealistic at first glance. But don’t resign yourself to settling out of fear. Starting something for yourself – even part time at first, is a step in the right direction. 

See, when you only have one income stream tied to a single organization, you have shockingly little leverage or control in that relationship dynamic. Sure, you can try negotiating a raise every year in exchange for gradually expanding your responsibilities. But frequent restructuring, hiring freezes, budget cuts, and frugal decisions regarding promotions even in good times reveal where you really stand in their priority hierarchy. Decades of dedication mean nothing when your salary doesn’t meet the threshold on someone’s profit spreadsheet.

Here’s the brutal truth: to most executives, especially in this post-Covid era of uncertainty, you are an expense on a spreadsheet first and a human being second. The moment your role doesn’t align with this quarter’s profit targets, you become disposable. Decades of blood, sweat and sacrifices for “company loyalty” can evaporate unceremoniously because at the end of the day, business needs and profit margins tend to be valued much higher than personal considerations.

But here’s the truth not enough people realize: Wake up to reality – YOU own the real leverage as a skilled expert, creative thinker and self-motivated performer. You should view YOUR talents and ideas as the real leverage, not any single employer. Believe in your worth enough to know there are always alternative pathways waiting to be forged primarily by you. With vision and grit, build your own personal brands and audiences outside of traditional offices.

For starters, get clarity on what unique value you generate in your current role from both hard and soft skills developed. Reflect also on the relationships, credibility and visibility you’ve accumulated at that company. Catalog everything about your experience, expertise and passions. Then brainstorm how to package those assets into services, products or communities that people will enthusiastically pay for from an independent version of you.

Maybe launch a passion business venture first just as a creative outlet without fully quitting your job upfront. But start putting some feelers out and actively diversify your income streams. Earn extra doing freelance gigs nights/weekends to start utilizing your specialized skillset. Build an audience around a monetized blog sharing that insider knowledge or reviewing related tools/products.

Let me share a personal story of this exact mantra. A few years back when I worked at a large financial firm, I befriended a rising executive who eventually confided his dream was to leave finance by 40 and own a seaside bed & breakfast in Greece instead. We often strategized on his vision until I posed a question – why not lay the foundation for that dream lifestyle now?

I suggested combining his business savvy and overseas connections to launch a B&B referral service, thereby enabling key relationships and travel insights before physically relocating. This complementary income stream would prime the pump for his eventual full transition too. 

He took that entrepreneurial spark to heart, launching the side venture immediately while still progressing his finance career. Last I heard, his passion project was already thriving abroad and perfectly prepping the landscape for his upcoming leap. 

The takeaway here is not resigning yourself to one linear career path just because it pays the bills. Get creative in brainstorming complementary or entirely fresh pursuits fueled by your unique interests and strengths. Don’t view your 9 to 5 and personal ventures as mutually exclusive either. Find intersections that set you up for future freedom.

The goal is leveraging transferrable skill sets while unlocking work that resonates on a deeper level. Excel at your day job as needed of course. But use off-hours to judiciously test drive boats against the current of conformity too. Pursue financial resilience and spiritual alignment in parallel. Have one foot steadily planted while taking empowered moonshots with the other.

The goal here is living proof that YOU are the scarce resource – not any one organization that’s currently signing your paychecks. So proactively ensure any employer feels the heat of that competition for your talent moving forward. If they don’t sufficiently demonstrate valuing your contributions already, they’ll certainly confront consequences when you demonstrate readily available alternatives. But either way, prioritizing your own ventures hedges against reliance on any one organization rewarding you fairly long-term.

In essence, the only way to thrive in an era of unprecedented corporate consolidation is creating leverage and options. Never stay captive to a job that grossly underpays the value you provide. Have the courage instead to put your own interests first. Pipeline multiple income streams whether as supplementary fuel or full-time if you build sufficient traction. 

Start by getting crystal clear on your specialized talents and passions. Identify products people gladly pay for that ignite your drive. Maintain the security of traditional work temporarily while boldly putting yourself out there independently too. 

Maybe begin doing niche freelance gigs nights and weekends. Or monetize a blog leveraging insider industry perspectives. Experiment! But pipeline multiple income streams to shield against being the person who is left without a chair when the music stops.