6 Creative Ways to Use Your Job to Make More Money and Live Better

job satisfaction
Flazingo Photos under Creative Commons

Of the hundred ways I've made money, the dozens of jobs were not my favorites. But they each served a purpose, and the purpose was not always just to pay the bills. Of course, they can be good for that — my years as a blackjack dealer paid the bills easily enough.

But I got more than just a paycheck from that job. The casino was a great place to meet people, some of whom became business partners. For example, I loaned money to a co-worker who flipped a car to make an easy profit that we split.

I took advantage of other opportunities, too. One year, I collected $1,500 in returnable soda cans from the casino break room. And I regularly rented rooms in my home to other employees, which helped me quickly pay off the mortgage. Non-financial benefits included meeting some of my best friends and going dog sledding in Canada as a volunteer for a youth group run by the Native American tribe who owned the casino.

Clearly, a job can mean much more than a regular payday. With that in mind, it's time for some new perspectives on the question: What is a job?

1. A Path to a Better Job

Most jobs provide promotion opportunities, and in some industries, these can come quickly. At 20 years old, I had held my first fast-food job for just for three months when I was asked to be the general manager of another restaurant owned by my employer.

These types of promotions are common in restaurants. McDonalds says, “40% of our top 50 executives are remarkable individuals who started their career in an entry-level position at a McDonald’s restaurant.”

Dan Munro got promoted to a top position in a competitive government department within five years. He says, “By rising quickly, I have become the youngest Senior Adviser by far, have doubled my income, and don’t have any particular qualifications.” He suggests you…

  • Identify your employer's biggest problems and help solve them
  • Support your immediate supervisor
  • Ask for tougher assignments
  • Promote yourself constantly
  • Find a mentor
  • Admit your mistakes and fix them

Of course, a job can also lead to a better position with a different employer. If that’s your plan, think of a job as…

  • A way to gain skills and experience
  • A way to build a resume
  • A way to meet potential employers

Learn what you can to get ready for that better job. Stay long enough to make your current position look good on your resume. For example, wait until January to quit so your resume shows a date range that includes two different years. Talk to everyone who does business with your employer, since some of these people might want to offer you a better job — it happened to me!

2. A Business Training Course

A friend who has a very successful carpet-cleaning company started out as an employee and later bought the business. It makes sense, right? If you wanted to start an insurance agency, what better way to get ready than to work as an insurance agent? Many jobs are excellent business training courses, if you use them that way. McDonald's says 60% of their franchise owners began as crew members.

Last year, I briefly worked as a house painter. I enjoyed painting (a surprise), but I also listened carefully when my employer negotiated with clients. In addition, I saved copies of invoices to see how he billed the jobs — he paid employees $10 to $12 per hour and billed clients $35 per hour.

I prefer to write for a living, but now I have the experience to start a painting company if I choose.

3. A Place to Meet the “Right” People

Workplaces are great for networking, and the “right” people are not just those who can offer you a better job. You might find business partners, as in the example of my car-flipping buddy at the casino. At that same casino, a player who won $80,000 later taught me how to clock a roulette wheel to identify and profit from biases.

You never know who you'll meet, or how you might be able to help one other, so keep an open mind. Consider the many movie stars discovered at work. Harrison Ford was working as a carpenter, installing a door for the Lucas film studio, when he was noticed by George Lucas, who then cast him as Han Solo in the Star Wars.

And it's not all about the money. Sometimes you'll meet people who become great friends or traveling companions. I may not have started climbing mountains 20 years ago if I hadn't found a co-worker who was willing to accompany me up my first glacier-covered peak (Mount Shasta, in California).

4. A Place to Sell Things

Norma Hislop explains how she got permission from her boss to sell handcrafted jewelry at the office. Sales were brisk, and she soon expanded into jewelry repairs. Another jewelry maker, Diane Rico, made $400 in sales from her first “lunch hour jewelry show” at work.

You could sell plenty of products and services to co-workers or other people you meet through work. I mentioned that I found tenants for my rooms at work, but at another job I also made high-interest loans to co-workers and cashed their paychecks for a fee. Some people bring their daughters’ Girl Scout cookies to work to sell. One advantage of selling at work: Your customers already know and trust you.

5. A Business

Seeing your job as a business is a perspective that puts you in control, as you’ll naturally look for ways to increase your “profit.”

You might increase the price of your labor (get a raise), or find better clients (employers). You could cut expenses (like commuting costs) and find work-related tax deductions (uncompensated employee travel) in order to boost the “bottom line” (your net pay after all taxes and job-related expenditures).

You may think this is just a metaphorical exercise, but anything that can affect the way you think can affect your results in life. I've always found it useful financially and psychologically to be in the business of selling my labor, rather than being an “employee” or worse, a “wage slave.”

6. A Place for Opportunities of Every Sort

Finally, a job is a place to watch for opportunities of every sort. I played chess for money at one job, and I also had a side income from playing poker on breaks.

My wife had a student in her Spanish class who flipped houses. We met him and his wife for dinner, and since then we've made good money investing with them.

After learning on the job how to paint and do repairs (plumbing, electrical, etc.), I was able to save thousands of dollars painting and fixing up our latest home.

And once again, the opportunities aren't all about making or saving money. Did you know that 30% of office romances result in marriage? Keep an open mind and see what else your job might provide besides next week's paycheck.

Your Turn: What else has your job been for you besides a way to pay the bills?

Steve Gillman is the author of, “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. Of the more than 100 ways he has personally made money, writing is his favorite (so far).

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