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Make more money at the day job – Part 1: Flexibility

Today I am introducing a Make More Money at the Day Job Series. Prompted by several exchanges on Twitter, and a review of my blog posts, I have concluded I need to write more about making more money. After all, I’m on a journey to financial independence, and this needs two key approaches – growing your income and spending less.

A quick review of my posts indicates I tend to skew towards the spending less type of post – like this one on my savings rate. I’m not a big fan of side hustling, I have had much more success growing my income at my regular job. Hence I will concentrate on how to make more money at your day job. Now, in this first part of my excelling at your day job series, I want to look at a key skill – Flexibility.

My #1 top tip to earn more at your day job – flexibility.

In my experience, the main key to raise your income is to be flexible. In this article, I am going to look at what being flexible at your day job means. And how over my 16 years working I have found flexibility has helped me grow my career and income simultaneously.

What is flexibility in this context?

Ms ZiYou Flexibility

One simple word, but what do I mean by flexibility? Especially this word which has many nuanced interpretations, what are we talking about here? And how does flexibility apply to work and the day job?

Simply I am using the word flexibility here to imply a varied approach. Not a one size fits all approach, but being able to adapt, more than the normal person. Being flexible means you have a growth mindset and are seriously willing to change anything.

Ways you can be flexible in your current role

I will begin fleshing out this concept of flexibility, with some examples of flexibility in action from my experience.

Flexible with the work you do

If your boss asks you to do something quick, even if the task is beneath you, do it. I have lost count of the number of people, and new graduates are the worst here, that think printing is beneath them. We don’t have assistants in the modern world, even the MD does his own printing. It takes minutes, is a key life skill and you need to suck it up. When you get to the C-suite, maybe someone will do your printing. Ditto for chasing people, booking meetings, rooms etc. It’s quicker to do it rather than complain. [Note: if you are female and your male peers are never asked to do these tasks but you are, this is different. You are right to flag this, and ensure the drudgery is shared across the gender lines].

Moving on from the low-level tasks, are more complex items that are outwith your field of expertise or job description. There is a lot of grumbling in the corporate world by people who are asked to do something slightly different to their usual role. Nobody expects you to be perfect at these, and you are encouraged to ask lots of questions to learn the ropes. If you are able to pick up these tasks and do so without complaining, you are setting yourself apart from everyone else. You can exhibit flexibility by taking these on, and look at them as an opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people, and a way to grow.

Take sideways options

Something that has benefited me enormously, is making sideways moves. By that, I mean taking jobs at the same grade and salary level but have a slightly different focus and skillset requirement. Sideways moves are often overlooked by those determined to get to the top, who feel that every move should be upwards.

I’m a firm advocate of widening your skill base and getting a new perspective. Being flexible and taking a sideways move can be an amazing career boost, expand your network and bolster your CV for the next upwards move. Ultimately, do you want someone running the department that only knows how one team works? Or would you promote someone who has worked in many roles across all the four teams in the department?

Ms ZiYou current role flexibility

One of my key strengths nowadays is flexibility. I’m a gun for hire, and I’m happy to do pretty much anything. From my key skills writing code, documenting processes, stakeholder management, project planning, designing solutions to putting together status reports and packs or even dispute resolution and the photocopying, I’m happy to oblige. Any task given to me I will happily complete, sometimes even with a smile.

I’d love to claim credit for this mantra, but it actually comes from one of my role models, who was contracting and working for me years ago. I asked her what tasks she’d like to do, and got the response “As long as they pay me, I’ll do anything, literally“. That was some wise wisdom, that I’m glad I now use regularly and display myself nowadays.

Did you notice the nowadays above?

Ms ZiYou Flexibility

This state of nirvana I have reached was not always the case. Yes, I’ve not always been flexible, and truth be told I used to be one of the inflexible ones. I may have regularly moaned to my colleagues about how I hated the drudgery of office life, and how I spent more time chasing people than actually doing work. I ranted and raged about how I had to do lots of tasks that were not in my job description? Sound familiar?

I have to admit, it took me time to get past this stage. Truth be told, it took me longer than it should, mainly because I am stubborn. But boy, once I realised and the truth dawned on me, I felt free. I started concentrating on what I could control, not what I had no influence over. A hefty dose of stoicism helped me a lot, and I began to enjoy work and accept the drudgery and mindless tasks that are necessary when you work. I began to embrace flexibility and to enjoy getting to experience lots of new tasks, rather than seeing them as a burden.

Bigger Picture flexibility

As well as being personally flexible, it’s key to understand how your work fits into society, the bigger picture.

What is your industries long-term future

You only need to hear the term rust belt to understand that some industries die. If your career is completely in one industry, and your value is expert level knowledge in that industry you may be at risk. Changing consumer habits are a big threat to jobs in the capitalist society we live in. Companies need to be leaner and quick to respond in order to survive. Remember Nokia? So can you work across industries? Are you making sure you are not tied to an industry that may die? Tied into the long-term future of an industry, is the cyclical nature of some sectors.

If you work in these sectors, do you have a backup plan? Can you be flexible in your role to pivot to another industry? Ultimately we all need to look out for ourselves – your career’s biggest advocate is you. What steps are you taking to protect yourself? Are you working on your flexibility muscles so you can adapt to a new industry?

What is your job roles long-term future

Over the last hundred years, we’ve seen many roles being replaced and the need for human labour radically redefined. Some jobs that used to be critical now seem ridiculous – such as towns employing people to light the street lights, or night-soil men to remove human waste. Yet who 50 years ago could have predicted the need for cybersecurity or SEO experts?

To succeed in the modern world, you need to be flexible with your job role. This can mean evolving as your role evolves, such as a computer programmer learning a new programming language, or a machinist learning how to work a new machine.  Small changes to some roles will equip you for the future – after all, are social media managers not just evolutions of public relations and customer service managers?

On the other hand, some roles will be lost to automation. If your role is one that is potentially going to change, what are you doing to be at the forefront of the changes? If you may be replaced by a computer, do you want the opportunity to be the one who tells them how to program the computer? And completes the testing and feedback? Or do you want to pivot out, and take your transferable skills to another role?

Ms ZiYou Big Picture

I work contracts in the IT world, and I am actually quite concerned at the future. Truth be told, the work I do should not exist, but it does due to companies IT shortcomings and their desire to patch over the issues. Long term, I see my role and the technologies I code in becoming obsolete. However, there are reams of production code embedded and used for key tasks, hence my short-term future is secure.

If I was going to work for another decade, now is the time to learn new technologies and position myself for a transition. But, as I plan to FIRE in three years, I am taking a different approach. I know the industry is dying, but I’m confident there will be work for the next three years – after all, big business does not move fast.

Finally

Ms ZiYou FlexibilityFinancial independence is achieved by a combination of earning more and spending less. In effect, growing the gap between your income and expenditure. And flexibility is a key skill to help you grow your career hence your income.

In summary, flexibility is becoming more and more essential in the working world. As well as increasing your income, flexibility allows you to have more options, build your brand as an awesome employee and someone worthy of sponsoring and promoting.

If you want to learn more, here are some more articles on flexibility:

Next week in our next instalment of the Make More Money at the Day Job series, we’ll look at my #2 skill – Mastery.

Over to you

  • What has been your experience?
  • Do you believe flexibility is a key career skill?
  • How flexible would you rate yourself?
  • Has your flexibility changed as your career has developed?

 


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10 comments on “Make more money at the day job – Part 1: Flexibility

  1. I’d score myself maybe a 6 for flexibility overall. I think I did every job possible at one grade in my dept so that’s flexible. But that was because I was avoiding the obvious need to go to the next level, not so flexible.

    Aiming for FIRE made me more flexible as I started to chase the money resulting in changing government department after 30 years.

    Interested to hear your no.2 skill next week.

    1. Hi Tuppenny – I’d say that’s ace and very flexible that you did all the roles at that level, you must hence have the best understanding of how everything works.

      Yeah, I agree FIRE and chasing money does make you more flexible, it certainly worked for me.

  2. I love this quote, “As long as they pay me, I’ll do anything, literally“. That is me in a nutshell. If my manager asks me to attend a meeting in their place, I’m happy to do it. In my case at least, I get much more benefit working extra hours at my day job than I would at a side hustle. I get extra vacation pay, extra retirement pay and extra bonus pay for every extra hour I put in at work. BTW, I’m so jealous you will FIRE in 3 years. Nice work.

    1. Hi The Smart FI, I love your approach – there are many benefits to doing more at the day job, so cool you get overtime and loads of other extras!

      Similarly, I make more at the day job than I could at a side hustle – I’m optimised for earning potential that way, and haven’t yet found a comparable side hustle.

  3. Hi Miss ZiYou,

    You make some good points here, although I would say that you need to be careful not to be so obliging that you end up as the person everyone in the office comes to when they have a problem that needs fixing or a task too boring for them to do themselves. There’s a fine line between being flexible and learning new skills and becoming the office dogsbody. As long as people are aware of that and know where to draw the line and say no, being flexible is ok.

    I think it’s good that you advise people to consider the future of their role and their industry. Before I FIREd I was a translator and one day I was asked to proofread a translation done by a machine. It was scarily good. Not perfect but no worse than many a text I’d proofread by a new graduate. And that was at least 5 years ago. Think of how much machine translation technology must have come since then. Fortunately I didn’t have to worry about the role of translator becoming obsolete since I FIREd in 2015, but it’s definitely something everyone should be aware of.

    You’ve done a great job with the blog, especially considering how new it is – it looks great and I’m looking forward to hearing more from you in the future. I’ve posted this article to FIREhub.eu and I’ll e-mail you separately with more information about the project.

    Happy Friday!
    Mrs W

    1. Hi Mrs W, lovely to see you here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, that machine translation story was interesting – I’ve noticed google translate is getting better and better.

      Yeah, I can see that depending on your roles and your seniority, being seen as a dogsbody may be of concern. Personally, I think that is a dated notion when we had workplaces that were strictly hierarchical with assistants and secretaries available to all professionals. Especially in a project lead role, being seen to get things done is critical, and seeing things as beneath you is dangerous – but I appreciate others don’t feel this way and only want to do the sexier exciting tasks. When it’s time to decide who is essential to retain, being flexible really moves you up the league table.

  4. Hi Ms ZiYou

    As you’ve pointed out, in an age where jobs are not so secure, making yourself the person who gets things done or is indispensible makes it a harder argument for the company to get rid of you when they are cutting numbers, although it’s of course no guarantee.

    I’d say that over the course of my career I’ve been somewhat flexible. Despite it never being a plan of mine, I ended up moving from the finance department, indirectly into the legal department, purely by saying ‘Yes, I can do that!’. I was fortunate that the company I worked for gave me the opportunity (and had the faith in me) to show that I could retrain and adapt.

    In every job, there will be mundane and boring tasks which need to be done – sometimes, I’m grateful for these kinds of tasks so I can switch my brain off for a while from all the ‘exciting’ stuff!

What do you think?