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10 Things Employment Has Taught Me

Updated on June 16, 2022
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Robin Olsen has lived for half a century. No experience is a bad experience unless we learn nothing from it.

Working my way through life has been a bit of a ride, with my attitudes in a constant state of flux.

At the start of my working life I was very confused on how to act and what jobs were good, bad, indifferent or whatever. Over the years I learned things that were not taught in schools. I have tried to compress these things into ten rules of employment that I feel are generic enough to apply to any job yet specific enough to be relevant to the anyone trying to earn a living.

1. Your skillset is not as important as your profitability

Regardless of how skilled you are or how much your employer heaps praise on you for a ‘job well done’ or some other unique initiative you may have come up with you will be gone as soon as it is no longer profitable to keep you in your position. Profit drives business not ability.

Your skill set is not unique to you
Your skill set is not unique to you

2. Doing a great job will not get you promoted.

If you think all you need to do is perform well at your job and show dedication then you will most definitely get promoted then you are probably wrong. In a union environment promotion is based on time in regardless on if you know what you are doing. In non-union environments promotion is extremely political and if you don’t network yourself properly you will not get any promotions. Hard work rarely leads to promotion. It is just as easy for an employer to burn you out and replace you as it is to promote you.

Be careful how your employer rewards 'hard work'
Be careful how your employer rewards 'hard work'

3. Be aware of the informal political hierarchy that exists in every workplace.

Every corporation has it’s ‘official’ chain of command but, unlike the army, the official chain can be over ridden by political considerations. Be aware that there are a host of reasons why a specific co-worker may have the boss’s ear when you don’t. Not properly recognizing the informal political hierarchy may just get you fired.

4. Be aware of petty jealousies.

Sometimes doing your job well gets others angry. Perhaps you were given a job that someone else was hoping they would get, or that they were hoping would go to one of their relatives. Petty jealousies can erupt by simply showing up with a new car. Such small minded people can cause huge problems for you if you are not on your guard for them. Never engage is the rule here. Jealous people have no scruples.

5. Never dip your pen in the company ink.

This was an old saying a boss I had used to use. It is a discrete reference to avoid having sex with co-workers. Another favorite of mine is ‘Don’t fish off the corporate pier’. Having sexual relationships with co-workers can be disastrous for the work environment as a whole and your future at the company in question as well. Never mind the personal problems this can cause people. Your workplace is not a singles club.

What is preferable to you?

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6. Don’t be afraid to retrain and retool.

The world is in constant flux nowadays. In the old days you could rely on the fact that if you were hired and did a good job you would have a job for the rest of your life at that same location. Not anymore. We should be teaching our children to expect to change employers regularly and that it is highly unrealistic to think that you will only ever need one job in your life. No one in this world is assured a job forever anymore.

7. Take everything with a grain of salt.

Employers lie constantly, they will lie about impending layoffs, lie about expected pay raises, lie when those pay raises don’t come true, lie about projects. They do this to protect info from being released early or to preserve over all moral within a company. It is not something you need to fear or rant against, but it is something you need to be aware of so that your own expectations can be kept in order.

8. Do you job.

Seems pretty straight forward but a lot of workplace frustration comes about because of that one guy in the organization that feels he/she should be able to walk around the place and be critical of everyone else’s job performance. You are only responsible for your own job. Managers exist to govern the performance of others. Focus on your own duties.

perhaps we shouldn't speak like this in interviews either...
perhaps we shouldn't speak like this in interviews either...

9. You are not going to be everyone’s friend.

So don’t bother trying. Do your job (rule 8), socialize when you feel it appropriate but remember that you don’t ‘live to work’, rather ‘you work to live’. We like to make friends but remember in the end, how popular someone was never prevented a single layoff or dismissal for cause.

Are you happy in what you do?

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10. Never stay in a job you are not happy in.

Unhappy or negative attitudes will affect all aspects of your life. It will affect how you interact with your family even when you are not at work. It will affect your general mood and, eventually, your physical health. You have to look after yourself or you are of no use to the ones you love. If you are not happy with your current employment then rather than worry about that car payment when you leave the job worry instead about the impact of your negative attitudes on your spouse or partner, children and close friends should you choose to stay unhappy.

this contract is really no different than most other contracts...
this contract is really no different than most other contracts...

In the end you, as a worker, are no different than the bosses you work for. An employment contract is just that, a contract. It has a start date and an end date and you should only be signing into the contracts that are a benefit to you and you should not fear taking on a new contract if it is in your benefit. Would a profitable company sign a bad contract? In the end the employer does not care about you all that much beyond what you can provide for the organization, you should treat employers as they treat you. Only do the jobs that add value to your life, make sure you get good pay and look after your own health

© 2015 Robin Olsen


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