When you get up in the morning and go to work, who do you think you work for? If you’re making the morning commute to the office, staying for eight hours, driving home, and repeating this Monday through Friday, you’d probably tell me Company XYZ. What would you say if I told you you’re not actually working for this company. Sure, Company XYZ may pay you a modest stipend for a fair day’s work, but it’s important to avoid the mindset that you're working for this company. You’re actually working for yourself. Always. Whether you’re punching a clock at the factory, swiping a badge to enter the office, or working from home—you’re never working for someone else. It’s all you, baby.
This argument may seem like semantics, but semantics are important—especially when considering mindset. When you believe you’re putting in those hard hours for someone else, you begin to develop a dependence on the company—or maybe even resentment. And that can be problematic.
There are two main reasons why you should remove the mentality that you’re working for someone else:
A self-assigned limitation on your success
A false sense of job security
Meet Joe. Joe has been an IT systems administrator for 20 years at a large company. Joe is extremely smart and the go-to guy for just about any IT problem you can think of. If there’s a problem that no one can figure out, everyone gives it to Joe because they know he'll solve it. Joe loves his company, and he's treated well. He makes $90K a year, gets modest 3-5% raises yearly, enjoys the company picnics, and likes the people he works with. There are times when he hates his job, but those are few and far between. Overall, Joe is pretty happy, and he plans to retire from his company in another 15 years or so.
Now, meet Rick. Rick currently works at a much smaller company, and he's only been there for a couple of years. Rick used to be an IT systems administrator with the same genius and experience as Joe. Rick was pretty happy in his job, but he began to see some trends he didn’t like. So he started looking for other opportunities, which led him to his new company. Rick is now loving his job so much more in this new position. He thought he was making good money before, but now he’s making twice the money and working far less.
Rick was content at his other job, and he could have been fine living out his daily routine. But Rick decided to keep his eye open continually for other opportunities. One day, an opportunity came by, and it just so happened he was able to take it. If he'd been content with just feeling “OK” about his job, he'd still be in the same position he was in years ago—making decent money, feeling mediocre about his job, but consistently feeling that small void thinking something is missing.
No Job Security
You expect to come into the office, do some work, go home, and get paid every two weeks, right? Sure. But do you have any kind of job security? The job market (as of late) has been volatile. Some sectors have seen major turnover. These jobs have no security at all. But what if you're a knowledge worker employed at a century-old company that’s never had a layoff? Are you safe? Sadly, no.
The point here isn't to become paranoid and distrust everyone and every company. Not at all. The purpose is to remind you that no company has an obligation to keep you around. Even the best, most caring companies in the world will lay you off if that’s the last resort. Companies depend on revenue. Revenue and profitability is the lifeblood of a company. It’s nothing personal. It’s “just business” when you get laid off.
When you shift your mentality away from working for someone else and start thinking in terms of working for yourself—but simply with a company—you begin to think differently. You begin to hold yourself accountable for your own success instead of just waiting for the next carrot your company dangles in front of you. This "working for yourself" mindset naturally allows you to feel more at ease when shifting jobs, rather than feeling like a long-term relationship is being broken.
By all means, if you’re happy in your current role, don’t quit right now just because there might be something a little better out there. But always keep your eye open for different opportunities. Because if you don’t, you’ll never know what could have been.