Employment, or having a job, or career, is simply exchanging your time working for someone else, and in return, receiving money in the form of, wages, a salary, a pay check, or compensation as it is sometimes known in more senior roles.
This route of making money is by far the most common in the UK, with 28 million people doing it in one form or another. It is therefore highly probable, that most people’s journeys of making money, will begin with being an employee.
The relationship between employer and employee will be based on a written contract and is subject to certain employment laws. The employer can be a business, corporation, not for profit organisation, or even an entrepreneur, with payment terms being agreed on either an hourly, weekly, monthly or annual basis, depending on the respective roles.
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Some employees in certain sectors also receive non-monetary benefits, such as life and health insurance, gym membership, free meals, and help with housing costs. Others may benefit from gratuity payments, such as tips, or even bonuses.
The money to be made from employment can vary tremendously. Many will earn less than the personal allowance tax threshold in a single year, whereas others will earn multi-million £ packages. Everyone else will sit somewhere in between these two extremes.
Whatever role you eventually decide to go for, or end up in as the case may be, is entirely down to you. It doesn’t really matter which job generates your money, it’s what you do with that money, and how you learn to manage it, that’s important.
The beauty of aiming to become financially independent is that its meaning, and value, is personal to everyone. It is proportionate to your own income and outgo, and not anybody else’s. For example, for you to become financially free, you just have to replace your own earned income, and not that of a chief executive's income, (unless you are a chief executive of course!).
The average annual salary for a UK employee is just under £30,000, and with tax deducted, £2,000 per month remains. So, the average person has to generate £2,000 of unearned income and spend less than this each month, to become financially free. This is well within most people’s abilities, it just takes time, commitment, and a plan, which will be discussed in a later page.
TIP: You will never get a better opportunity to negotiate your package, than just after you have been offered a new job, but before you have accepted it. Negotiate firmly at this point, and it could be the easiest money you ever make.
If you do end up in employment of any sort, which most of us will at some point in time, then you need to be aware of, and understand, the game of “office politics”.
Despite the name, office politics doesn’t just apply to offices. It applies to all places of work where there are groups of people, brought together, with their personal emotions, wants, and needs, ambitions, agendas, and insecurities.
Whether you like it or not, office politics are a fact of working life in any company, and the sooner you understand this, the sooner you can use it to your advantage, and try to get what you want out of your employment, without compromising your values, or your integrity.
What are office politics?
We all want to do well and be successful in our careers, but we don't always agree with each other about what this means, or how we should achieve it.
Office politics can arise when these differences of personality, and opinions, become difficult to manage. We care about what other people and especially more senior staff think about us, or our colleagues, and we, therefore, seek to influence their thought process and choices.
Engaging in good office politics, can enable you to further your own personal interests and career, and generally have a more comfortable, and positive work experience.
Being subject to, or the victim of, bad office politics, can hinder your career, chances of promotion, and make your working life an unpleasant experience.
Office politics can involve backstabbing, spreading malicious rumours, gossiping, and telling tales. It can also involve a positive approach and attitude to the right people, being a “yes man”, and even “sucking up” to the right people, at the right time. It is also about not letting others take advantage of you, to better themselves at your expense.
How to play and win at office politics
To make office politics work for you in a positive way, you must accept it as a reality of working life. It may change slightly over time as new staff join and others leave your company, but it will never disappear entirely.
Eight tips to help you win the game of office politics
1. Study your company’s hierarchy chart – Office politics may not follow the formal company structure. You must quietly observe for a while, and then map the real political power and influence within your company. You are looking for the influencers, the most respected staff, those with authority, and those who mentor others. Also, try to identify the gossips and tell tales.
2. Understand the informal network – Examine people's interactions and relationships with others closely to find out who gets along with who, and who doesn’t interact well with others. Look for “in groups” and “out-groups”. Are any connections based on external friendship, romance, or respect? Are there any signs of conflict between anyone?
3. Build your own network – Once you understand how the existing relationships work, then you can start to build your own network. Look across the whole business, from co-workers to managers and directors. Include politically powerful people, and respected people, these are high-quality connections. Try to avoid aligning yourself too closely with one group or another, you must remain neutral, with one foot in both camps, or all camps, as the case may be.
4. Develop your people skills – Politics are all about people. You will need great interpersonal skills to develop and maintain your network. Always be friendly to everyone, control your emotions, and think before you speak or act. Try to listen more than you speak, you will learn a lot about people.
5. Leverage your network – Now you have built your high-quality network, you need to use them, to build your own standing and reputation. Learn to discreetly communicate your achievements to your connections. These will eventually get back to your boss and could open up opportunities for you, and your team.
6. Keep your friends close – But keep your enemies closer! This expression has some truth with office politics. It is much more effective to keep potential enemies, office gossips, and manipulators, close to you. Be friendly and courteous as usual, but remain guarded and cautious with any conversations with them. Never moan or gripe with them, this negativity will be spun straight back to your boss.
7. Never get involved with negative politics – It is all too easy to get caught up with the, “he said”, “she said”, office gossip, but you must refrain from becoming involved yourself. Instead, try to make the workplace become a more positive environment, by not repeating negative politics, such as rumours or tittle-tattle, and try to proactively present positive thoughts and actions.
8. Beam positivity – A positive outlook, and a “can-do” attitude, will get you noticed in the right circles, in no time at all. A simple smile, an air of positivity, and a bounce of energy will do wonders for your positive office politics plan.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know
You will have spent a great number of years being educated in, “what you know” and having the message reinforced by parents, and teachers alike, throughout the years. The importance and focus on building "what you know", is drummed into us from an early age, and is often linked to the gaining of academic qualifications, and then onto either success or failure, when entering the employment market.
Now, I am not saying "what you know" is not important, as I believe it is still very important, and we should all try to learn as much as possible, throughout our lives, both during formal education and after.
What I am saying, is that as well as learning “what you know” by way of education, we should also be aware of the future opportunities, which may become available to us, through the avenue of, “who you know”.
The importance of building "who you know" connections, otherwise known as a network, is not readily learned in mainstream education. It only gets considered once you are involved in the workplace, and is often considered too late.
These key “connections” are taught and well understood at prestigious educational establishments such as Eton. Parents send their children to these places, knowing they will be rubbing shoulders with, and sharing classrooms with, royalty, future politicians, prime ministers, CEOs, company directors, company presidents, and large business owners. Imagine having all these people in your own personal “who you know” network? How could you possibly fail?
Think about all the multi-millionaires and billionaires that have created huge companies out of their entrepreneurial ideas. For example, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, James Dyson, Alan Sugar, Richard Branson, along with many others, whose names are not always in the press, but they are still worth a fortune, and run significant businesses.
Each and every one of these people went to school, had other people sat next to them in class, had other people in their teams during sport. They had best friends at school, they had friends develop as they grew up, they had colleagues, and social circles as they progressed with their visions, and ultimate success.
And who do you think now occupies some of the most senior positions in these companies, earning millions of Pounds a year, and all the trappings of a life of luxury? Correct, the people in their network, who they went to school with, worked with, and socialised with, and now trust to run their businesses. I’m pretty sure some of them don’t have any formal qualifications whatsoever, thus backing up the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!”
TIP: Never miss an opportunity to build your network, you never know who will eventually make it, providing you with the opportunity of a lifetime. This is especially true in professional environments, where the right connections can make all the difference.
Now you understand how important building a network is for your future career and potential business opportunities, we shall briefly look at one of the best places to begin.
Fortunately, modern technology now allows us to build our network with a great deal of ease. Anyone over the age of 13 can create a profile, and start to build their network, using powerful platforms such as LinkedIn.
There are other networking websites around, but LinkedIn is the clear market leader and a must-have for serious network building. It hosts more than 600 million professional profiles, which means an unlimited supply of network connections, and job opportunities.
Ten LinkedIn tips
1. Keep your network all in one place – Being the largest professional networking site, means that anyone who is anyone should be on it. Once you have created your profile, and you are happy that it looks great, then invite all your current personal, business, and social connections to it.
2. Add new connections – Every time you meet someone new, through business, or even pleasure, send them an invitation to connect with you.
3. Connect with a few intro words – After you meet new people, and decide to add them to your network, don’t just hit the invite button and send blindly, add a few lines of text, as an introduction to make it more personal. You will get a better acceptance rate doing this.
4. Seek new powerful connections – Depending on what industry you are in, or thinking about being in, look at some of the other people in similar industries, and connect to any that look as though they would be useful, for example, MD’s, HR managers, CEOs. You must send some intro text with these, or you will be ignored.
5. Accept other people’s invites – Once you start to build your network, other people will ask to connect to you, as LinkedIn often makes recommendations of who they may know, and who they should connect to. As noted in the previous section, you never know who will become a valuable connection at some point in the future.
6. Make your profile the best – Your profile should be kept up to date, accurate and professional, as you never know who’s looking. (In fact, you can know who is looking, but you will have to pay for the premium package). Very often, recruiters from other employers will browse profiles for new roles they have, so make sure your profile contains the keywords they would search for.
7. Use the “I’m interested” button – Even if you have a job you are happy with, there is no harm in turning on your, “I'm interested” button, which will let recruiters know you're open to hearing about new opportunities. LinkedIn will hide this open invitation from your current employer.
8. Build your personal brand – You can use LinkedIn to build your personal brand and reputation. By having a great profile, a professional picture, engaging interactions, and useful articles and blogs, you are showing the business world how great you are. Don’t post funny cat videos or holiday pics on LinkedIn!
9. Use it to research others - You can research other companies and their employees. Many companies maintain their own LinkedIn pages, where they provide company information, update company news, and show their current employees. This could be useful if you were considering applying for, or accepting, a new role there.
10. Use the news feed – The news feed is a great way to stay up to date within your industry and see who is doing what. It will contain updates from your connections, your groups, and your company.