On your job: Don't hate, liberate!

Now that you've celebrate the freedoms of our nation, toss a thought to your job. Are you living like a free citizen, or has your work got you cornered? If you feel trapped, the following ideas might be liberating.
The fastest way to become enslaved by your job is to need the money it provides. OK, what planet am I living on? Most people do work for the income. I accept that. But I also know that the more you need the money, the more compromises you'll make. You'll take a job with fewer benefits, or farther from home or with less dignity -- all in the name of a steady paycheck.
Imagine that you could live on half your income. If that were true, you could reduce your hours or apply for jobs that you can't consider now. Or you could simply save the other half of your paycheck and retire earlier.
What can you do?
Is this a pipe dream? You tell me. Look at all the ways you're using your money, from mortgage to groceries to commuting and ask yourself how you would cope if you had half the amount to spend on those items. Would you rent a room to a boarder? Join a food-buying cooperative? Drive a smaller car?
What if you did those things even though you don't have to? What if you doubled your savings over the next year and put away enough that you could afford a lower-paying job? You may not want to do this, but the exercise is interesting. Remember, the minute you need less money, your work options expand.
Health care:
Have you become trapped in your job by the availability of employer-paid health insurance? The fear of an emergency or serious illness can be enough to keep you on the payroll, even if you don't need a full-time income. And if you have a pre-existing condition -- well, as the song goes, you owe your soul to the company store.
Is there any way out of this mess? Without trying to fix the nation's problems, let me ask you: Would you have more freedom if you carried your own health insurance policy? Yes, this can be expensive, but it can also eliminate a lot of uncertainty. If you control your policy, you can take a combination of part-time jobs, start a business, or even negotiate a higher salary with a small employer, all because the cost of your health insurance is covered.
Buying your own policy also keeps you out of the fray when your employer switches carriers or alters its agreement with employees. Because a growing number of employers require at least some payment for premiums by their workers, your overall cost increase might not be as much as you think.
Other issues to consider
Two questions: How do you get to your job? Do you enjoy this time? If your round trip takes an hour or more -- that's 30 minutes each way -- this question matters.
Think about it: An hour a day, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. That's 250 hours! If someone told you your job would require you to be miserable for the equivalent of six full workweeks -- all without pay -- would that sound good to you?
Enough said. Find a way to improve your commute. If you can't, make sure your next job is closer to home.
Work annoyances:
What bothers you at work? Is it big, little, personal, systemic? Is it a problem that can be solved? Take a moment to identify the issues that have been bugging you and find ways to resolve them. Some will be small enough that the advice "get over it" is appropriate. Just get over it and move on.
Why tie yourself down with unnecessary frustrations?
Other issues will be more difficult to resolve. You might be stuck on split shifts, or there may be more work on your plate than one person can handle.
The advice for these situations is also simple: "Deal with it." Do. Figure out what matters to you in each situation, and what the ideal outcome would be. Then find a way to make that happen.
If you can't resolve the problem, you have two choices: Get over it, or get out of there. Pick one and do it. Every job has frustrations and some of them are really ridiculous. But what's more ridiculous is the way we let those things eat at us every day instead of coping. This year, liberate yourself from complaining and see if you don't feel freer.
XAmy Lindgren, the owner of a career-consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn., can be reached at alindgren@pioneerpress.com.

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