Take Charge of Your Career Independence

ANGELA COPELAND | Special to The Daily News

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about the importance of independence. So often, I meet people who are struggling. Whether they’ve lost their job, or work for a boss who doesn’t appreciate them, they’re going through a rough time.

The hardest part is often not the difficulty they’re experiencing in that moment. That time will pass. It’s the overwhelming sense of feeling helpless that can drive someone’s mood and self-esteem down.

Without even realizing it, we often turn over our power to those around us. For many, we give it to our employer.

We fall into this trap by living beyond our means, or right on the edge. In the middle of our careers especially, we’ve been making decent money for quite some time. We’re comfortable earning that much, and with spending it too. We assume the money will always be there, and we structure our lives accordingly.

The problem with this approach is that it’s not only an illusion, but it also takes away your independence.

As you progress in your career, you take on jobs with a higher level of responsibility. For your first job right out of college, you may have been an analyst. Over the years, you were promoted to managing 10 people. Then, you became a vice president over 100 people. With each promotion, your company paid you more. Along the way, you purchased a bigger house and car to go along with your bigger title. You started to travel to faraway places with your family on holiday.

Unfortunately, the more money you make, the harder it is to find a replacement job. For example, as a manager of 10 people, you make more than your employees. However, only one manager is needed to manage 10 people. So, in this example, there’s just one manager job for every 10 employee jobs.

So often, I speak with executives who are very unhappy. From the outside, it may seem strange. They appear to have it all: a big house, a nice car, beautiful clothes and extravagant vacations. But, many of those same executives feel trapped at work.

Why? Because they have adjusted to an exaggerated standard of living they’re now committed to support. The prospect of finding a replacement job is tough, so every day, they go to work because they have to; not because they want to. They’ve lost their independence. They’ve given up their choices.

The answer to this issue is a bit more complex than my simple recommendation. It’s not recommended that you don’t take on high earning positions. But, what is recommended is that you learn to live below your means. Create an emergency fund. Save extra money for your retirement. Pay off that credit card that’s been looming.

When you take charge of your financial future, you also create independence in your career. You give yourself the choice to walk away when you’re unhappy, and to take a lower-paying job if you want to.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com.