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March 2013
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I’m Getting Ahead By Working For Free

Do you consider yourself a short term thinker or a long term thinker? When it comes to finding a new job, what’s on your list of things that matter most to you in your new position? Is it benefits? Salary? Flexibility? Based on your list, I can tell you immediately whether you are thinking about your immediate wants or your long-term goals.

Short-Term Thinkers

Typically, those that are selecting jobs with a short-term mentality look at nothing other than the hourly wage that the job offers. If their current job pays $12/hr but there’s a company offering $15/hr down the road, they’ll immediately drop their current job and work for the other company because there’s higher pay.

Short-term thinkers also make employment decisions based on medical benefits. They know that they’re in need of some sort of surgery soon, so if they could find a job that offers great benefits, they’ll be able to save themselves a few hundred bucks in the short-term. Since there is no real thought about the job or the environment where they will work, this is extremely short-term thinking and will only lead dead-end results in the future.

Long-Term Thinkers

Do you select a new job based on a matching 401(k) program, a chance for advancement in the company, or the opportunity to improve your leadership skills? If so, you my friend, are a long-term thinker!

Long-term thinkers typically look ahead at least 5-10 years into the future – and some even think 20+ years ahead. Even if you’re only 25 years old, if you’re thinking long-term, you might be gauging the company you work for and deciding what career path is right for you in order to have the most satisfaction in your life (and maybe that comes with a decent sized paycheck as well). The paycheck today doesn’t even matter if you are learning valuable skills now and have a great chance for advancement in the future.

That’s Why I’m Working For Free

Before you get on my case about needing money to survive, it’s true, I’m working for free, but it’s not my regular full-time job. I’m still getting paid there. It’s in my spare time that I’m deciding to work for free. So now the question is, “What am I doing? And why?”

About a year ago, I decided to seek out a mentor in my company that would help me with my long-term thoughts and goals. Lucky for me, I made friends with one of the top dogs in finance. The best advice he gave me so far was to get involved in an organization outside of work – more specifically, to get on the Board of a local organization. I didn’t really understand why at the time, but I decided act on his suggestion anyway.

Within a few short weeks, I found a non-profit organization that was looking for a Board member with experience in finance. I quickly applied for the position, went through the interview process, and was ultimately accepted onto the Board. The salary was a whopping zero dollars, but I actually enjoyed being part of a worthy cause so I didn’t mind much.

Turning Weaknesses into Strengths

When I’m working at my regular job, I rarely venture outside of my cubical. I talk enough to know my co-workers names, but I am shy by nature and it’s clearly evident when I’m at work. I know that I’m an intelligent person and I’m able to lead projects, but because of my shy nature I’m not often selected for these roles of leadership.

There was a Board meeting the other day, and I was just listening intently to what was going on. Then the unexpected happened. The current Treasurer (who sits on the Executive Board (that’s the highest level team in an organization) announced that he would be retiring from his position at the end of February and that they needed to fill the position ASAP. At that moment, the Treasurer and everyone else that belonged to the Executive Board turned and looked directly at me. To my surprise, I was officially nominated right then and there.

If I were to accept the Treasurer position, I would still be working for free and I would increase my responsibilities, which means that I’d have to put in more time. Sounds terrible doesn’t it? But, think for the long-term a second. What is my major weakness in my career right now? Leadership. With this new position, I will be heading up all of the Finance Committee meetings, and I’ll be summarizing our actions in front of the entire Board each month! If this won’t kick my butt into leadership, I don’t know what will. With this new skill, I’ll be more effective in my day-job, which will provide me with a huge benefit for the long term!

Are you a long-term thinker? Would you be willing to work for free to achieve your long-term goals?

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