Earning your way

The economy hasn’t recovered, but there is currently no 2008 feeling about it right now, that feeling of imminent doom. I think it’s a mistake to see “this is the worst it will get” in this lull, though. Now is the time to be preparing yourself for the next downturn.

There are good books out there telling you how to protect your existing assets: Charles Goyette’s Dollar Meltdown, Peter Schiff’s books, etc. There are neo-survivalist books telling you how to survive. If you want it raw (warning: occasional profanity), this book by an Argentine who lived through his country’s currency crisis is insightful.

Few books, however, talk about the importance of growing your ability to earn income. In a world with fewer “good” jobs (thanks to the government’s ongoing spending and resulting destruction of capital), you may have to outwork others to get those jobs. Or keep your job.

I started a new job a few months ago. Let me give you a few examples that I’ve stumbled into re: protecting my ability to earn income.

First, I work extra hours but I don’t charge for them. There’s nothing wrong with working more than 40 hours a week, even if you’re only paid 40. Obviously one has to balance family and life, but I’m finding that those additional hours learning software, learning ways to streamline your job, etc., make a difference.

Second, I no longer waste any of my work day surfing the web or reading email. I spend my work day working. I’m a lot more productive at work because of it. I don’t have to hurriedly close a web page because someone busted me reading Drudge Report instead of working (I think we all know that feeling).

Third, I invested a little money. I was fretting a little because I couldn’t find a certain technical manual at the library, and I didn’t want to pay for it. Finally, I just broke down and bought the thing. I should have done it two months before I did. I’m not talking about motivational books; I find them a gimmicky waste of money. I mean professional or training materials.

Fourth, better than books are simply spending time hacking around in a piece of software, or talking to someone who is an expert at a professional discipline. I find many people like this at my workplace. Three months into my job, I’ve learned enough that people have started asking me questions.

Fifth, I’ve had a few opportunities of late to apply for other jobs. I’ve decided not to because I’m learning a lot at this job. If I’m growing in a role, then that’s a big factor in whether I stay in it. Similarly, I don’t discount a positive or even “half-decent” work environment any longer. I had a job a few years ago where I hated the work environment and the company culture. It was a miserable time.

To be valuable, you have to put in the time. You have to work. You have to learn. It’s your sacrifice to learn and grow that blesses others.

Who knows, it may be that thing that keeps you employed down the road.

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