Use your job as a tool

January 21, 2013 — 34 Comments

Ok Confucius, we get it.  Find what we love, and we’ll never have to work again.  The only problem is most of us have not found what we love Confucius Quotebecause we are definitely still working!  Even many of the people who have found what they love wouldn’t do it everyday if money was no object.

However, lack of certain discovery should not lead to despair.  For example, my parents had jobs they didn’t necessarily love  all through life, but they made it work in pursuit of an end goal they now love – retirement.  Essentially, they used their jobs as a tool to help them get to where they wanted to go.


Why use your job as a tool?

What I really wanted to write there was “How to use your job to BREAK FREE in pursuit of your passion”, but I didn’t want to fall into the Confucius trap.  Some of us will always have a full time job we don’t love, but it’s still important to use your job as a tool in this scenario.

Here’s how I see it: you should always use your job as a tool to further yourself in life – even if you’ll always have this job.  Here are some valid reasons to use your job as a tool in this scenario:

  • Provide for your family
  • Enable you to retire
  • Fund your hobbies


What if you want to use your job as a tool to BREAK FREE in pursuit of what you love?  Some reason would then be:

  • Set yourself up financially to take the risk
  • Build relevant skills to help you succeed in your next thing
  • Build your network


How to use your job as a tool

I confess, I have ulterior motives for work besides wanting to do my best for the company.  Don’t get wrong, I’m very respectful of the companies and people I’ve worked for, and I’ve always completed the job right.  However, these are the steps I’ve taken:

Build a skill set

You generally get paid based on the amount of value you bring to a company.  In “How to be a Consultant“, I discuss how to build a skill set and keep it sharp.

Build a network

There’s probably nothing more powerful for your career than a strong network.  It will allow you to take more risks because you’ll have a support network to fall back onto.  You can use your network to further your current career, propel your next “thing”, or simply for advice.

Maximized my income

This one’s important, especially if your BREAK FREE story will require some excess capital.  Once I built my skillset and my network, I was able to switch to another job with a nice raise.  Even when I was at my previous employer Accenture, I was always look for ways to switch to new groups or areas and make more money.

Dominated money

You’ll never be able to BREAK FREE if you don’t have control of your money.  I know people who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year but can’t save any of it because their bills are too high.  Take control of your money, start investing, and build up a cushion to allow you to pursue your passions.


One guy who did this beautifully is Chris Fagan, you can catch his full video interview here.  He has built a thriving business and his doing quite well.  However, he worked his butt off to get there and used his previous full time job as a tool while he built his side business.  He built a network, learned a skill and technology, and worked during his “off time” so he still had a full income while he built his business.

One thing to keep in mind is it’s important to find something you like and align with ethically or you won’t be happy.  You still need to gain some fulfillment and respect out of your job or it won’t cover your psychological needs.  In Thou Shall Prosper, Rabbi Daniel Lapin wrote, “It is a reliable fact that you tend to start enjoying anything at which you become competent and from which you derive a sense of happiness.”  Most people can find that in a day job.

Do you use your job as a tool?


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34 responses to Use your job as a tool

  1. People struggle every day to find that something they love. When I used to train people for working in kitchens (as an assistant in school and then as a trainer in restaurants I have worked in) the first thing I had to teach people was how to use the tools. Knives are the most common tool you use everyday but most do not know how to use them and fear that sharp edge. It is only when you learn how to use them properly that they reach their potential of achieving what you need them to do.

    Thanks for this, it was a reminder of something I should have already known. But just like using a kitchen knife, sometimes we forget that it is our job to use the tools not let the tools use us.

    • Jon – it blows me away when chef’s chop with a knife and always avoid their fingers! Good analogy though, gotta learn to use the tool right for it to be effective!

  2. Dan,

    Sometimes its the outside things that we love to do keeps us able to go to a job that we don’t love. I know when I was working in corporate I would looking forward to getting off and doing the things that I really enjoyed doing.

    Great article and tips,

    • So true Jennifer, when I was at my previous job, I loved doing philanthropic activities with my team and it definitely made it easier to work there.

  3. Hmm, your poll question is a tough one. I enjoy my work, and I like the company I work for, but do I LOVE my job? No, not like I LOVE my family, my friends, my home, and the things I enjoy doing in my spare time. But I really LIKE my job and my career. I wouldn’t want a different job!

    • Grace – it’s definitely not an easy “Yes” or “No” question to answer, and I think most people would agree with you that their love for a job is different than their love for family/friends. It’s great you don’t want another job!

  4. What I found working in the corporate world is if you enjoy what you do it is also important to work in the right company. Also never stop learning and again in the right company you will find mentors who will help you.

    • So true Susan, it’s always sad when someone loves what they do, but they can’t stand the people they work with! That’s what I really liked about Accenture, there were always great mentors to work with.

  5. Building a skill set and a network of contacts are two very important tools you can use in your entire life that you get through a full time job. Obviously both of these are important for the job at hand, but if you want to progress in your career or have plans to get another job in the future these will certainly be tools of great worth.

    • Totally agree Kelly, my network has probably been my strongest asset so far in my career. It definitely helps to have a good skill set, but if no one knows about your skill set, it won’t matter much!

  6. Definitely using my job as a tool. Working to get where I want to go so I can do what I love. Three guesses as to what that is and the first two don’t count. (wink)

    • Ha! I’m sure you’ll find it soon with one of your two websites :). You have a love for writing and you’re good at it, so I’m going to guess that!

  7. I would say I have used my old teaching jobs as tools to start my freelance editing and writing career. Without all the writing workshops I’ve participated in as well as teaching college composition and high school English, I would not be able to feel good about striking out and seeking editing jobs. My former jobs and trainer have definitely enabled me to be on the path I am today. I’m just glad I got to leave the madness of public education behind!

    • Jeri – makes total sense, and I can see it in your writing. You’re definitely a teacher at heart and it comes through in the your posts when you try to help the rest of us get better!

  8. I couldn’t agree with you more. If you love what you do but not where you work, then use it to help build a better future and a work place of your now. I’m working hard to do that now. 🙂

  9. I noticed that the majority of your survey respondents love their job! Isn’t that wonderful? I suspect if we’re blogging, we have something we feel passionately about and our blog gives us an opportunity to express ourselves. I love to network online and also belong to a writers’ group where I’ve made some phenomenal friends.

    • Krystyna – great point about a lot of bloggers falling into the “love” category. It definitely takes a lot of passion and commitment to stick to a blog long term so that makes sense. I think the challenge most of us have is turning it into a full time gig!

  10. I love what I do (working on my blog)..when I’m not at work, or I’m just in my lunch break :)…It makes me feel myself…
    Interesting survey. I congratulate those persons who love their jobs!

    • Laura – I was actually surprised to see how many people “love” their job! It’s actually quite refreshing to see and provides up for the rest of us to take our part time loves full time!

  11. Thank you for reminding us to use our job as a tool. That is a theme with you and its a good reminder, especially when I’m starting to get impatient. However, I will say I’m using my job as a tool, in many ways. I would not be able to fund the things I’m doing on the side (fitness) if it weren’t for my job. Getting my personal trainer certification is part of that, but my job is going to be a tool in another way soon–I’m pretty sure I’m going to get my yoga teachers certification, and part of that is to student teach while I’m studying. I plan to give lessons to people here at work, so, yeah, my job is going to be a tool in more ways than one.

    • Funding is such a huge part of using your job as a tool! I definitely wouldn’t be able to do the things I like to do (like our upcoming trip) without the great job I have now. That’s awesome now far you’re going with your studies… can’t wait to see what you continue to accomplish!

  12. I do not love my work that much.So, I work part-time. I can’t handle more than that now. Since I started to view my work as a way to serve people, I started kind of liking it. My hobby is not getting helped by my job. My work is not giving me any connections needed for the business. I fund my hobbies by selling the crafts. All my connections are outside work.

    • Bindu – great way to put a positive spin on work by viewing as a way to serve people. It’s always a fun challenge to see if you can make someone’s day or exceed their expectations.. I’m sure you’re doing a lot of that now!

  13. I, too, was surprised at how many people commenting love their jobs. Throughout my career I didn’t meet a lot of people who loved their jobs. I think it’s worse now because there is no longer loyalty between companies and employees. A job is a tool to support yourself and your family. But it should be so much more than that. Being miserable 8+ hours a day can make you physically ill. I feel for those people.

  14. One of the takeaways that I get from reading your post is using your job to build your network. That is so important.When I was “down-sized” from my last job (after working there for 15-years), I made sure to keep in touch with many of the people I worked with or had contact with on a professional basis. In addition to being friends personally with many of them, some have become clients and others have given me referrals.

    • Sherryl – so awesome you’ve kept your strong network as friends and that you’ve been able to get business out of it!! It’s tough when you pour so much into a company and get let go… but it can also be good because it forces you to learn and grow. It seems you are doing quite well so it sounds like it’s worked out!

  15. Love your post! I worked my finance business before being able to take a step back and complete my book, A Broken Ring which has taken me on a whole new career path. My friends and family would laugh at me though in the past because I enjoyed my finance business too and worked long hours each 7am through til 11pm. People called me a workaholic but it didn’t feel like it at the time. It’s so true that if you find work that you love then it just doesn’t feel like work 😉

    • Claire – that’s great you’ve been able to find multiple things you love! I’ve worked those kind of hours with my jobs, but I definitely don’t like it as much as you!

  16. Dan – Very thought provoking! I do love my job, but the points you raise make me wonder if there is more than just the profession that makes me love what I do. It is also interesting how many people will trap themselves in a role that they are not happy with, and end up making others around them equally unhappy.

    Thank you for sharing!

  17. Really excellent advice here and it is refreshing to step into the reality of the daily grind as it can be for so many. I can’t say I love my job, but I do have autonomy and very little stress, which counts for a lot. I could do without the commute though and would love to spend more time with my kids.. but I try not to focus on what I DON’T want.. and instead I listen to audio CDs while I commute, which has made it my ‘reading’ time! We don’t always love our circumstances, but you have provided great tips for making the most of them. We can still love life and be constantly in pursuit of something better.. though let’s not spend every minute of the day wishing for something other than the here and now.. that’s a easy trap to fall into. I try to walk the middle ground of enjoying my part-time business that I see as eventually providing a full time income, but I have to check myself if I pin too much emotion on that outcome. It often seems contradictory to be told that you must have the burning desire to succeed and visualise your goals as if you have already achieved them, but to also live in the present moment..

  18. JOHNETAN PITALUGA March 26, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    I don’t love my job but I am grateful to have it.

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