9 Tips for getting the most from work

Do you feel valued by your employer? Companies are very good at trotting out platitudes like, “Our employees are our most important asset. We value our employees.” However you have to ask yourself how many really mean it? The answer is next to none in my experience.

To be fair many employers probably think they mean it at the time. Staff in the HR department may be very genuine when they issue such statements. However the reality is almost always quite different, however right on and trendy your employer tries to be.

Rarely are employees truly valued by their employers. Most companies regard people as a commodity to be used when they are useful and then discarded when they are perceived to be no longer of use.

So what does this all mean? Well for a start it means that you have to look after your own interests. If you don’t no one else will.

Here are my 9 tips for getting the most from work.

1. Take a pragmatic view

Now, reading this,  you might think that I have a jaundiced view of companies and corporate life. Actually I don’t; this is simply a realistic and pragmatic view based on many years of experience.

Work is just doing stuff for other people in return for money. If a company has stuff that needs doing then they are willing to pay good money to get it done. However once that work has been done, or is no longer required, then employers see no reason to retain people. Why would they?

So be realistic and take a pragmatic view. That way you won’t be disappointed.

2. Recognise the psychological contract

Let’s be fair, the company’s approach is no different than the one we’d take as individuals. If we need our house painting, we hire a painter and decorator. Our house gets painted and when the job’s been done we pay the painter for the work completed.

We don’t start worrying about the painter’s job satisfaction or career development. The psychological contract between us and the painter ends when the bill has been settled for the work completed. That’s the way it is. Simple.

So why should we expect our employers to be any different?

Companies are not charities or job creation schemes. Commercial companies have to make a profit, if they are to survive, and costs have an impact on profit, obviously.

The psychological contract we have with our employer is one where we do stuff for them and then we’re paid for our efforts at the end of each month. We are the hired help and once we’ve been paid that is where the psychological contract ends as far as our employer is concerned.

Your employer will not spend his or her time worrying about your aspirations or your dreams. It would be naïve to think otherwise.

3. Accept commercial reality

Commercial reality whether we like it not is that all companies exist to make money for their owners. It’s that simple. Why would anyone start a company for any other reason?

So if you think that your loyalty will be appreciated by the average employer then you’re either mistaken or deluded.

Employers will take everything you give and a bit more besides, but once you are no longer required they will be as ruthless as they have to be. If they weren’t able to be ruthless when necessary then that could put the whole company and the jobs of everyone involved at risk. So there’s a good business reason for the way they tend to operate.

Furthermore we don’t spend our money unnecessarily, so why should we expect a company to be any different?

From time to time you will meet leaders of real stature and class who will treat you very well. However they are the exception rather than the rule.

Most senior executives are driven only by self-interest. Once you’re no longer of use, they will be as ruthless as they have to be. That’s the way the world works, so don’t expect it to be any different for you.

4. Don’t expect loyalty to be reciprocated

The point I’m making is that you must be ruthless too. You must look after your own interests, constantly. It’s perfectly reasonable to be working with your own agenda in mind. Deliver the results for which you’re being paid of course but always with one eye on your own interests.

In any job you should make sure that you know what you’re meant to be doing and what you’re meant to be delivering. What you’re delivering must add value. You should know what that value is and you should be confident that it’s not something that can be done by a machine. If it is, then the chances are that one day it will be and you will be out of a job.

Never do anything out of some misplaced sense of loyalty because that loyalty is unlikely to be reciprocated. At work you have to be very business-like in everything you do.

The name of the game is to earn a living. If it’s not obvious to you what your contribution is meant to be then you should start to worry. If you cannot explain what you’re meant to be doing in a couple of lines then it’s time to move on.

If you don’t know what you’re meant to be doing then the chances are that your boss is wondering too. And once your boss starts to question your role then there is a risk that it won’t be too long before your job is eliminated in a cost-saving exercise.

5. Look after your own interests

Remember this: No one owes you anything.

Life is what you make it. You’re the captain of your own ship. You should be steering that ship in a direction that suits you and your ambitions. Steer the good ship ‘Me’ in the direction you wish to go and not in the direction someone else wants you to go.

You should be working to your own agenda and within the framework of your own plans.

If you think your employer has plans for you then you are fooling yourself. You will only figure in your employers plans for as long as it makes good business-sense for them to include you in those plans. If they can’t see how you will add value to their plans then a parting of the ways might not be far away.

6. Take every opportunity to develop your experience

You may make mistakes occasionally and you may do things for employers which for whatever reason come back to bite you. If you do, don’t worry. Just learn any lessons from the experience and move on.

Lessons learned are far more valuable to you than anything someone else can tell you. That commodity based on life’s lessons is known as experience and it is a very valuable commodity indeed.

Take every opportunity to broaden your experience and grow. Work harder on yourself than you do on your job. The more you have to offer the more employable you’ll be and the greater will be your financial rewards.

7. Have realistic expectations

Never expect loyalty from your employer and you won’t be disappointed.

You’re not indispensable and neither is anyone else. If you weren’t around then someone else would be hired quickly and the business would move on. And in all probability you’ll soon be forgotten.

The chances are that someone else will take the credit for any significant contribution you’ve made but you’ll probably take the blame for everything that is wrong, including things in which you had no involvement at all.

That’s life, unfortunately.

8. Work to you own agenda

If you look after your own interests then your achievements will be all yours and you’ll be on the road to success.

You have to carve out the success you want; no one else will do it for you.

Add real value to your employer for as long as you can or for as long as it makes sense within your own plans for you to do so and then it’s time to move on to the next opportunity.

Don’t get overly sentimental; you’ve got to be as ruthless with your employer as they would be with you. It’s perfectly reasonable to work to your own agenda, and that’s exactly what successful people do.

9. Keep reading; keep learning

Never underestimate the value of reading and continual learning. The more you read the more you learn. Read one good book related to your work or personal development each week and over a year that’s the equivalent of a PhD’s worth of knowledge gained.

Increase your knowledge by that amount every year and you’ll be light years ahead of your colleagues.

If you’re looking for a good book on the nature of work then one I can recommend is The Rules of Work by Richard Templar.

This is an easy read that is packed with common sense advice, thought-provoking ideas, practical strategies and down-to earth wisdom, together with plenty of humour and honesty. A book you could easily read on your morning commute.

So what are your views?

If you’d like to add your own views about the world of work then please feel free to add your comments below. I’d be interested to hear what you think and about your own experiences.

© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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