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You can use your job to get what you want. Get used to me repeating it non-stop! It’s why you’re there and how you care.
You can use your job to get what you want.
I’ve always loved writing. As soon as I could do it okay enough (I guess third grade or so) I would spend hours making long entries into my journal.
As kids, my twin sister and I would plan books to write. We’d each tackle a chapter of the story, and when our sections were done – with pictures drawn – we’d stick them together and celebrate.
At one point, we felt so sure that we were close to publishing a masterpiece, we took our book to the grocery store and spent all our savings mass-producing it in the copy machine next to Customer Service. We ended up with a giant stack of paper, and our mom had to help us pack it all up and lug it to the car.
I can’t remember what happened to our book after that. Maybe once it took our money it lost its appeal. Maybe we got distracted by the next big story. Maybe we learned how books are really made, and filled up the recycle bin.
But I never stopped loving to write. I always told myself that one day I’d write a book.
Years (and years, and years) later, when I’d gone through a bunch of jobs, and was just starting to have a beginning of the idea that I could use whatever job I had to help me get what I wanted, I went to my boss and offered to write up some policies and procedures. By that time, I’d also gotten really interested in business, and I figured I could use this to learn things I’d need for starting my own (of some sort) someday. Plus, I’d get to write, which would be really fun.
It was fun. Way more fun than I even thought it would be. There was plenty about my job description that I was not into, but when I was able to carve out time to do this, it was bliss. I was completely absorbed.
I started studying more on my off-time, and I’d bring my ideas to my boss. He was into some, and not into others, but it didn’t matter. It was just so fun. He started including me more in his ideas and plans, and he let me help him brainstorm. He helped me make more time for doing this type of work. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with all of it, but I knew it was pushing me toward something for me; something I would love.
At the same time, I had a license in a completely different field (massage therapy), and I was working part-time in it. It was work I really liked. There was no stress to it, I was helping people, and I loved the company I worked for. I only thought about that job when I was driving to it, which was great. But it had seemingly nothing to do with my new interests.
Fast-forward a few more years. I had a couple kids, I had a little less time, and now I was only working twelve hours a week as a massage therapist. It didn’t require any writing, there were no opportunities to help with the planning and development side of things, and twelve hours wasn’t really bringing in piles of extra money.
But everything was different now. At this point, I knew exactly what I wanted, and what I wanted to do. And I knew how I could use my current job.
I knew what my focus would be in my business. I wanted to learn as much about it as I could. I was still studying on my own time, but now I could use my time at work to observe and learn even more. During company meetings; during company trainings; during interactions with my clients, my managers, my employer, my coworkers – I soaked it all in and let it teach me.
I started using my time at work to practice what I was learning. Some were skills, and others were more related to my personality.
I’ve always been a little shy, naturally. I’d already done a lot over the years to help myself push through it, but now I had a big group of coworkers who I really liked and wanted to be friends with, and I could be even more purposeful while I practiced being outgoing.
I got so many ideas for my business at work. The work I did was quiet, and while I tailored it to the needs of each client, there was still a routine about it that allowed me lots of time to think my own thoughts. At the end of my shift, or during any break, I’d open the notes section of my phone and quickly jot down all the things I’d come up with.
This wasn’t really a company where someone at my level could give input and expect it to make changes. There were just too many people – even for my boss – to go through. But who cares? I sent him some of my ideas anyway. I didn’t do it to get points, or to see anything happen, or to hear anything back about it at all. But it built up my courage. I knew I was going to open the floodgates of criticism soon enough, and I wanted to force myself to jump in.
Twelve hours a week allowed me time to work on my thing at home. And I plugged away, with every second I could spare. Some days, when things were crazy with the kids, all I had was twenty minutes before it was time to leave for work. But I used it.
Since I didn’t work a lot of hours, my job wasn’t showering me with cash. But it was helping my family. At first that’s all it could do, because of some financial difficulty we’d gotten into after a (temporary) move to another state. Then time went on and we didn’t need all my income – as desperately at least - to help support us, so I was able to use some of it for things I’d need in my business. I had to do it a little at a time, but it was so exciting.
I was sure at least one person I worked with had something I needed – a skill, a contact, an idea, something. And I was right. One person offered to put me in contact with a few people he knew who had accomplished the same thing I was trying to do. Two others offered to connect me with people they knew who provided services I needed. Others gave me great ideas for content.
I have business goals, and personal goals. There’s a lifestyle I want. There’s things I want to be able to do for my family.
Once I made up my mind to use the jobs I had to get those things, everything started to change. I started making much faster progress toward that stuff, and the more I went on, and the more purposeful I was about it, the clearer I got about exactly what I wanted, and the direction I needed to go. And little by little, I’m reaching goals.
This is going to sound like a stretch, I know. But we spend so much of our lives at work; why not use our jobs to do more than pay the bills? There’s things you want. For you. Your job has so much to offer that will help you get closer to having them.
There’s tons of relevant things to learn, tons of ways to develop. There’s connections to make, and opportunities to find out about. You’ll have to give it a lot of effort. But most things worth having require at least some.
You might not be planning to stick around in this one. That’s fine! Start the process now, and continue it in the next place.
You can take, and take, and take from your job, and you don’t have to feel even a pinch of guilt. This whole thing is a win-win. Because as it happens, the better you do there, the more you can take.
You can use this job to get what you want. I feel like I can’t say it enough.