benjamin alexander smith

New Year's Resolution: Work Hard, Get Rewarded

As I tweeted yesterday morning, I have only one resolution for 2011: work hard, and get rewarded. Perhaps it sounds more like a mantra than a goal, but I think it has a lot of value.

Throughout our lives, we work. We work for satisfaction, for payment, for food and for shelter. Some of us work for something to do. Most of us work because we have to. Very few of us stay at home and do nothing all day; even after retirement, plenty of people continue to work in one form or another. Our lives are bound up in work. It can be joyous or crushing. It can make the rest of our lives easy, or leave us living from paycheck to paycheck.

The key to work, and to life, is to throw yourself into it and to get rewarded for doing so. Idealistic? Sure. But I believe that it’s true, too.

When I talk about rewards, I don’t just mean cash. Sure, I want to make a few extra quid as much as anyone else; in fact, one of my goals this year is to organize my finances and get started in the world of investment. But rewards come in many guises, not least of which is job satisfaction. There’s little better than coming home from a long day with the feeling of a job well done, of value, of worth, of knowing that your boss appreciates your work—and so do you. I want both kinds of reward: financial and emotional.

But how can the desire to be rewarded fit in to the category of “New Year’s Resolution”? We have some measure of control over our job satisfaction, but surely the level of financial reward is a decision for our employers alone to make? I couldn’t disagree more.

First of all, never forget that your job and your salary are not forever fixed. A hard worker is valuable to their employer, whatever category they fall into, and you should always make sure that you’re paid what you’re worth. That said, this of course requires that you are a hard worker. But beyond this, if you stay with your current job then think about finding ways to take on more responsibility. Be more involved. Be more important. Work harder, be appreciated, and when the salary review comes around you’ve got a great bargaining chip to get yourself a raise.

If your job doesn’t interest you, that’s fine: do something on the side! You can work hard at anything from a side business to a student society. You can volunteer some time for a local charity or a non-profit organisation. You can start a blog, or become an amateur photographer. There possibilities are endless, and importantly, each one has the potential for both emotional and financial reward. I’m not the first to talk about making more money from side projects and I won’t be the last.

So what’s the plan? I’ve written myself three key messages.

  1. Work hard in your day job, and get a good raise at your annual salary review. This will keep me focused, keep my job satisfaction at a high level, help me progress through the company, and will ultimately make my daily life more rewarding. To boot, any increase I can get when the salary review comes around will ultimately stand me in good stead for the future: raises have residual benefits and will boost your income for many years to come.

  2. Stop being lazy when it comes to personal finance. Last year I let my savings sit in a 0% interest account because I didn’t get around to starting a new one. I let a CreditExpert trial run on for months after I’d checked my score because I couldn’t be bothered to cancel it, wasting almost £50. No more. This year, I’m going to just get on with the small finance tasks—and I expect that doing so will make me hundreds of pounds in interest and saved fees over the course of the year.

  3. Don’t stop when you achieve your goals. Don’t stop when you fail. Persevere. I’ve got a slew of projects—some of which have been rumbling on for years, some of which are still cooking—and any number of them could be making me money on the side. They’re not. Why? Either because I succeed, stopped and let them dwindle, or because I never found a way to succeed in monetizing them and I gave up trying. Neither is a good course of action. If I pick a project with potential and work hard on it, I’ll reap the benefits.

I’m sure that these three messages could benefit plenty of people beyond my desk. And though they’re simple, they have the potential to make a real difference. It all comes down to my single New Year’s Resolution for 2011, and one I intend to keep: work hard,  get rewarded.

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