Betting on Yourself

August 12, 2019 11:08 am Published by


Betting on Yourself

In her graphic design program, my youngest daughter was taught early and reminded often not to work for free.

What may at first blush seem like an opportunity to impress a potential employer, is more often a dead end after the free sample has been provided. It is a train of thought common in many professions, mine included, and is often accompanied by catch phrases such as: “If you don’t value your work, why should someone else?” True enough. But just like all good rules, they are on occasion best broken.

A friend of mine who operates a large company with hundreds of employees recounted his experience in having hired two high level managers for different departments. His hires were, and remain, on opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum when it comes to negotiating your role with your employer. To wit.

John and Mary, (not their real names) had equally impressive educational and professional backgrounds. They both knew their subject matter well, interviewed well, and both appeared to be perfect fits for the needs of the company. John and Mary were both offered employment contracts. This is where their similarities ended.

John was a ‘cross your t’s and dot your i’s’ type, and so his contract was meticulously crafted before eventually being signed by both parties. A good rule of thumb, in business as in life, is to avoid getting into anything you don’t know how you are going to get out of. Johns method passed this test, and it would surely be the favoured approach if you sought the opinion of an employment lawyer.

Mary on the other hand, took a different approach. “Why don’t you pay me a nominal salary for a year, and lets see what I can do for you. If it works out, we can talk about compensation then”. My daughter’s professors would be aghast.

Twelve months after their respective hiring, John had moved on, unable to deliver on the high expectations he himself had set. Mary on the other hand had become indispensable, and eventually entered into an employment contract far in excess of anything she could have negotiated at the onset of her tenure. Mary had bet on herself, and she won. Her employer however, also won. Unlike professional sports, the business world has no salary cap. If an employee can deliver exceptional results, the employer can deliver exceptional remuneration. If he or she doesn’t, someone else will.

I wouldn’t go so far as to offer this as professional advice. Not everyone can be a Mary, and in fact, most of us aren’t. But if you are going to be excellent at something, betting on yourself is not a bad way to go.

Thanks for reading,

Jeff Neumann

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