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Life Of A Mercenary Employee: Change Your Mindset

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Forge Your Wealth is meant for education and entertainment and should not be considered financial advice.

Many companies are avoiding hiring American employees like they are avoiding the Coronavirus. There are many reasons for this, but one that especially touched me is the fact that many companies look at American employees and believe they are just looking for the next/best paycheck. In other words, a mercenary. If you are a fellow American and have taken offense to such a statement, you are not alone. However, one of the most popular pieces of financial advice given by financial advisors is to move frequently to companies with larger paychecks after getting experience. I do not know what they call that, but that sounds like the life of a mercenary to me. So how can anyone be surprised that people believe Americans have a mercenary mindset? In this post I will explain why you should work more like a missionary instead of working like a mercenary.

Professional Firms Hate High Turn Over Rates

Before you take the advice from random people on YouTube about moving jobs frequently, you should note the mindset and lives of these people. They could be gig workers and/or self-employed, they probably do not have to worry too much about being hired. Furthermore, their lives could be fake and they are people who cannot even hold a job for more than a month. It is the internet, that is possible. Either way, I do not think these “financial advisors” have lived the life of a mercenary that they recommend.

Now let me tell you what my father and advisor told me. Both of them are highly respected people in their fields. They have been in their fields longer than I have been alive. When I first started applying for jobs many of my options were postdoctoral positions. A postdoctoral position is much like a temporary position. Usually the contract lasts for a year, but there are some that last longer. For instance, I interviewed for one that was 5 years long.

Both my advisor and father asked me how long I intended to stay at any of these positions. I said as long as they allow me/when the contract expired. Both told me that if a contract extension was offered and I was working with them for less than 2 years I should strongly consider working with them longer. They both mentioned that in the business world, especially in the science community, employers want steady workers.

If you just jump contracts very quickly your former employers may note that and you may end up with a less than stellar reference. Potential new employers in the science community want long lasting employees who actually bring value to their work, not those who lived the life of a mercenary.

When The Life Of A Mercenary Employee Is Hurting You

Show A Lack Of Commitment

Job hopping is fine and maybe even beneficial if it happens every few years. However, if you only keep work for a few months to a year every future employer will think that you will only work for them for a few months to a year.

If the job is something people would call a “good job” they will generally expect you to work at least a year. Good jobs usually require long training sessions, sometimes months of it and more time for mastery. Jumping to a new job after a few months may give the appearance that you work to boost your resume, maybe even obtain a good paycheck and then look for new and better work. Wash, rinse, repeat. That is never a good selling point as a potential employee. Never.

No Forward Momentum

If you live the life of a mercenary employee, you may change jobs just for a new type of work or paycheck. However, people with the mercenary mindset fail to remember one of the proven tracks to obtain new work and better paychecks. Leadership. Leadership is one of the most valuable traits in the workplace, and it is neigh impossible to obtain any leadership experience at a place for less than a year.

Promotions are not just a pay bump and title, they are responsibility and authority. In fact, you may be surprised at how many promotions do not come with a pay bump. I know of two fellow scientists who went from job to job and never broke through the title of assistant or associate yet. They are a few years my senior and I have a scientist title, at least one level above either of theirs. Much of the time it is easier to be promoted internally than to apply for a job with the hope of a higher rank.

Show A Lack Of Passion

Would you hire someone who shows little to no passion for their work? Why would you expect any other employer to think differently then? And what shows more lack of passion than working for a short period of time?

When Finding A New Job Is Beneficial

If There Is Unaddressed Abuse

You never should tolerate abuse, but until more employees show disdain towards abuse it will not stop. If you see that employees, or even yourself are abused you should report this to the correct authority, most of the time internally. If your employer cares, they will address and resolve the abuse.

Unfortunately, abuse is a clear symptom of an imperfect world full of imperfect people. Even figures who should resolve abuse can abuse their authority as well. Once again, imperfect world full of imperfect people. If the abuse is not properly resolved take a line from Jordan Peele’s debut horror film and get out.

Forward Momentum Is Not Likely Where You Are

Sometimes you may want a larger role in the company and even display leadership skills. However, even under the best conditions you may not receive the promotion. Bias may be an unfortunate reason. There is not much that can be done about that aside from finding a new employer (as you should). But there are numerous and thankfully more common reasons you may not receive said promotion.

  1. You do not have the specific leadership experiences your employer wants.
  2. The promotion you are looking for is simply not available.
Need Specific Leadership Experiences

There are many different forms of leadership. Some leaders are authoritative and strong, others are calming and nurturing. You may require certain characteristics for certain positions. I know a US Marine who has lead people while under missile fire in the Middle East, but he may not be able to lead a team of accountants to fulfill all their clients’ needs before a deadline. Their potential incapability to lead accountants and tax experts is not a reflection of their character (clearly).

There are many ways around this. Leadership is a skill with a broad spectrum, and you can easily train and hone those skills even if they are complete opposites of your strengths.

The Promotion You Are Looking For Is Simply Not Available

As surprising as this sounds companies do not have a safe full of promotion titles just waiting to be handed out. They do not just hand those out to the hardest working employees. Unfortunately, at small companies including some start-ups there are only so many positions available and even fewer leadership positions.

However, some positions do open up and your employer may consider you if you have the leadership, charisma, and of course the work ethic.

Even in the worst scenarios you could find something innovative that your company may want to produce a department for. They will likely need a leadership position for that new department and maybe they will want the person who spearheaded that innovation to be in that position. Sometimes it is better to be original and make a new position than to hope for an opening of an unoriginal position.

Leave If The Promotion Is Not Likely

If you have been praised by your company for leadership, capabilities, or even innovation but have not been given a promotion, even when you asked for the promotion it may be time to move on if you want to move up the ladder.

You Need More Experience

I always recommend learning more. Unfortunately, what you can learn from a single position with a set list of responsibilities has a knowledge and skills ceiling. You can only learn so much by doing the same thing over and over with little creativity thrown in the mix.

Luckily the best cure is to use your creative nature at work. Many companies even recommend finding some innovation in the works. Besides, have you actually learned “everything” from your job? I highly doubt it.

However, if there appears to be a lack of innovative drive at the company you are working for it may be time to update your resume. You should be proud of what you learned at your job, even if you have learned as much as you can from them.

Final Thoughts

While the advice to switch jobs rather frequently sounds like a good idea on paper, it just does not appear that switching between jobs often provides many benefits. Not if you are looking for a job in a competitive job market. You need to sell yourself as a good employee to your potential employer and the life of a mercenary employee just does not advertise reliability.

That is not to say that there are not benefits to switching jobs nor good times to switch jobs. Just do not make it a habit of it. It will certainly show on the resume.

Author: Papa Foxtrot

Most of my life I was careful with money and learned where I should invest it. I was very lucky to have parents who taught me financial literacy when I was young. Unfortunately, I am very lucky because many people lack the financial literacy I know. The purpose of Forge Your Wealth is to teach people who are just starting out in life how to obtain their wealth or anyone who just realized they may need to learn more to handle their finances. I currently have a PhD in biochemistry, just started a job in industry (will not disclose where exactly for personal and professional reasons) and am currently married to the love of my life. I am one of the lucky few people in America who graduated with no student debts, my wife was not. Over the series of a little over 3 years we paid for our wedding with no debt and paid off her federal student loans.

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