You need a side-hustle.
I’m not necessarily talking about a part-time job working for Uber. I mean an outlet for you to explore both your skills and interests, preferably at the same time. It doesn’t have to make money immediately, but it should have the potential when pressed.
In the 21st century, having a 9-to-5 job is not enough.
Wages are stagnating.
A robot may replace you.
Pension funds are drying up.
Corporations are outsourcing to overseas.
There is no guarantee that you will have the same job that you have had for the past 30 years. And that should scare the hell out of you.
But there is another way.
Nurture Your Interests and Skillset
Work does not end after 5:00PM. We come home, cook dinner for our families, clean up the house, tuck our pets and children into bed, and maybe have some time to ourselves to read and unwind. This is all work – regardless of it being unpaid (as dictated by the capitalist labour market, but that's for another essay).
Developing your interests and skillset should be added to that list.
Personally, I like to write. A few months ago, I created a blog. I now write every single day, publishing content around 3 – 5 times a week. Not only am I slowly becoming a better writer, but I’m also teaching myself about marketing, content strategy and entrepreneurship. After only two and a half months, I have already been quoted in an article by Canadian Press (syndicated to BI, CBC, and HuffPost Canada), written an article for one company, and have had thousands of people reading my blog. When I first launched my blog, my goal was to have 200 unique visitors in the first month - and even then I felt like I was being too ambitious. This shows that consistency is vital.
If I suddenly lose my 9-to-5 job, it would suck. But now I have a wider skillset. I may not be making much money off my writing now, but it's one more income stream I can explore than before. I'm developing skills to become good at something else. Something I love.
A Case Study of 2 Accountants
In Taylor Pearson's book The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without the 9-to-5, he creates a scenario of two accountants: Max and Rand. Both went to the same university, received the same degree, and started working at the same accounting firm. Max’s plan is to “play it safe” and stay with the company. His assumptions about success, which is supported by his parents, is to put in his dues and work his way up the corporate ladder.
Rand decides that he doesn’t want to spend the next 25 years of his life stuck in a cubicle. He decides to leave and travel for a year (something he loves). While travelling, he realizes that there aren't healthy granola bars. He stumbles upon an idea for a business. Rand who is now cash-strapped, moves back in with his parents and goes through a series of trial and error with his product. It takes a while for it to become truly profitable. However, through this gruelling journey, Rand learns to deal with risk, live on an inconsistent income, and gains skills in networking with other entrepreneurs.
Although there are plenty of risks associated with Rand’s career – these are risks he can anticipate. He notices immediately when sales are declining. He has the ability to adjust his product based on feedback. He can pivot.
Max, however, does not anticipate his risk. One meeting with the manager of HR and his total income can be wiped out within weeks. Although Max thought he was taking the safe route - he ended up taking the most dangerous. After years of stable paychecks, he increased his expenses, took out a mortgage, and spent more money than he should have. He assumed that he would be receiving those paycheques for as long as he wanted.
As Pearson states,
These are also silent risks. If he loses his job as an accountant, he hasn’t built up a skillset around building systems as opposed to operating within existing systems – he’s used to following orders, which dramatically reduces the options available to him.
Because the silent risk has been accumulating for decades, it all hits him at once. He could lose his house, put an enormous amount of stress on his family, and have to dramatically reduce his lifestyle expenses.
If you put yourself in a position which creates very little value in the market for ten years, and it gets replaced by machines or Marissa from the Philippines when you’re 40 years old, at peak earning potential, with a family and mortgage, you’re a turkey on Thanksgiving.
What You Need to Know: Stop Wasting Your "Free" Time
Let's be practical here. You don't need to quit your traditional job. However, you need to stop wasting your free time outside of your 9-to-5.
In this current labour market, we must throw out all our preconceived notions about secure and stable employment.
Above all, we must start to learn to deal with risk.
Healthy volatility makes us stronger. Overwhelming volatility can crush us.
Healthy volatility is when our car breaks down and we use a portion of our emergency fund to cover the expense. We learn how much we need to pad our emergency fund in order to feel mentally secure. We also can now anticipate how much a car expense may cost in the future. The circumstances weren't ideal, but it didn't break us -- in fact, it made us stronger.
To summarize in 16 words:
The labour market has changed.
Anticipate the unexpected.
Foster your craft everyday.
Prepare for the future.