I am 42 years old, and when I look back at the start of my career in my 20s, there is one piece of advice I would give myself. We are going to talk about it in this video.
There is one thing I did in my 20s, that I look back on and say, “Why did I do that?” That mistake was working for free.
I was young. I was ambitious. I was desperate to make a good impression on my boss. So, when I got my first job, I did a lot of work for free. I was working 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. That is an 84 hour work week, when I could have just worked a 40 hour work week. I was getting paid a salary that was 30k a year. I did not get any over time, so I was giving all these extra hours to my boss for free.
I am not telling you not to work hard. I am telling you not to give away your time for free. There is a difference. You should work hard for the time you agreed, typically eight hours, five days a week. But if your boss starts telling you to come in on the weekends without getting paid, you should say no, and tell your boss to stop taking advantage of you. As you get older, you realize that time is your most valuable resource. The time investment you give to your boss is not going to benefit you twenty years down the road. You are only going to make your boss richer. You would be making a better investment in yourself by doing almost anything else with your time.
In my situation, my employer was taking advantage of me. I thought at the time, that if I worked hard, my boss was going to shower me with raises and promotions. I did not receive a single one. And now that I have more experience, I realize, that is not how promotions work. When a manager is deciding promotions, they do not line up their workforce and compare how hard people are working. There are a lot of other factors that go into the decision, including office politics. In fact, if you are a hard worker, and working a lot of hours for free, it actually works against your chance for promotions. If you are doing the work of three people, your boss does not want to lose you, because then they will have to hire three more people to replace you.
I am making this video because I see this happen so often in business. Employers will take advantage of their staff. And employees do not realize how much power they have. You can just say “No, I will not let you take advantage of me.”
My recommendation, if you are ambitious, is to work 8 hours a day for your boss, and then 4 hours a day for yourself on starting a business. You are still working hard, but instead of giving your time to your boss, you are investing in yourself and your future. Starting your own business is not your only option. You could spend that 4 hours a day going to the gym, reading business books, or spending time with your kids. You will be better off in twenty years doing any of those things, then you would if you worked for your boss for free.
You should realize, it is not just the lost wages you are losing out on. There are also social and financial costs when you are distracted from your other aspects of life and opportunity costs where you could be doing something else with your time.
There are some exceptions to this advice. Of course, if you are in company leadership and you are making $200,000 per year, of course you should be working 7 days a week for your employer. But you are being compensated for that. This is my point. There is a difference between someone who makes 200k a year and someone making $30k a year. The difference is that you should not work on the weekend for free. The $30k per year person is being taken advantage of. And you do not move up the corporate ladder from the 30k position to the 200k position because you worked the weekend. That is not how promotions work.
A lot of this has to do with confidence. If you talk with someone older, who has great work experience, and you ask them, “Can you spend the weekend working for me for free?” they will laugh at you and tell you no. You need to have confidence that your time is valuable.
Let us do a reality check. If you are watching my YouTube channel, you are probably in the top 10% of workers in the job market. People do not normally spend their time watching business educational content. So, if that is you, you should realize that you are amazing, and any employer would be lucky to have you working for them. You are probably going to take on a job and perform in the top 10% of anyone they have ever had. So be confident in your deal. You agreed to take a job. They are paying you a certain amount of money, and in return you are providing 40 hours of great work. You should be focusing on delivering on that agreement. If they want to pay you time and a half to work the weekend, by all means, take the increase in pay. But if they are not paying you more money, it is not worth your time.
I know how it feels. You probably worked hard to get hired. Maybe the job is in an industry that is tough to get your foot in the door. But if you are going to work for free, you might as well just start a company, and work for free for your own business. Just start doing free work in the industry you want to get into. If it is for your own company, then you will get all the future benefit of your time investment. Do free work for yourself, not your boss.
Now to be fair, if you follow this advice, and stand up for yourself, you might get fired. If that happens, you probably were not working for a good boss anyway. Believe it or not, there are good employers out there who do not take advantage of their employees. My estimation is that about 50% of US companies are actively trying to take advantage of their employees. I think it is horrible. But your goal as a worker, is to try and find a job at the 50% of companies that are good.
In my experience, companies asking employees to work for free happens a lot. Companies try to increase their profits, not by making better products, but by taking advantage of employees. But my hope is that you realize that you do not have to let this happen to you. You do have a choice. You do not have to let them make you work for free. Just say no. If they fire you, just find a job where they pay you for your work. Again, it comes back to confidence. I fell into the same trap. I was not confident in my value. I did a lot of free work and I look back on it as a lot of wasted time. And here is my advice to all the companies out there: Treat your employees better.
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Neither Zach De Gregorio or Wolves and Finance shall be liable for any damages related to information in this video. It is recommended you contact a CPA in your area for business advice.
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