Don’t forget the day job!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on the link and then decide to buy the product, I will receive a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

If you are not feeling fulfilled by your work then it’s easy to focus on side hustles or dreams of quitting. This could be because you’re not earning enough to reach your financial goals. Or, you might have talents or interests that aren’t stimulated by what you are doing. I know I’ve felt this at various points in my life.

However, there are many changes that you can make in your main hustle that can have a massive impact on your wealth and wellbeing.

For example, you can often increase your earning potential in a more efficient way than trying to earn that money with a second job. This could be through focussing on realising objectives that could earn you a bonus or promotion.

Even if you don’t see yourself staying at your job, you can also use the resources or opportunities available at work to develop skills that could be useful for a career change.

Lastly, there are many ways to enjoy your time at work more, which may mean that you are more relaxed in your free time and can make healthier choices about what you do with it.

Here are my top suggestions of simple steps to take to maximise your day job:

  • Set up a club or engagement group relating to something you feel passionately about. For example, if you feel strongly about sustainability you could create a group of like-minded colleagues and roll out initiatives to make your workplace more eco-friendly. There a many advantages to this. Firstly, you are focussing on your values at work, which can boost your sense of purpose, particularly if your job is not related to those areas. Secondly, the types of activities this causes you to take part in can be quite different from your normal role. For example, you may end up doing more public speaking, thinking more creatively, or dealing with external stakeholders from different fields. Other examples of groups you could set up or join are:
    • A diversity and inclusion group
    • A group to raise money for a local charity
    • A wellbeing group
  • Have more regular career conversations with your manager – Unfortunately, career conversations often only take place when setting objectives and when reviewing performance (if they happen at all). They can feel like uncomfortable or intimidating conversations to have, but there are huge benefits. If your manager really understands what makes you tick and what you want to develop then they are much more likely to spot opportunities for you or to put you forward for things. This can make all the difference when it comes to securing funding for training or being supported for a promotion. For fantastic, actionable tips and guidance check out the Squiggly Careers podcast and the hosts’ book here (affiliate link).
  • Find a mentor and become a mentor – Being able to talk about yourself, your work, and what you want to do with somebody who doesn’t have an agenda is sometimes all you need to progress. Your boss or colleagues are important and helpful but they have skin in the game and that can limit their ability to support you or be honest. Your friends and family can be hugely supportive (and honest) but they may not really understand what you do for a living. A mentor can help you learn from your mistakes, but can also share the insight they learnt for their mistakes (so that you don’t have to make them). Sheryl Sandberg has some great advice on finding a mentor in Lean In (affiliate link). The TLDR is: don’t go looking for (and asking for) a mentor. Be great and they will find you! Also, even if you don’t feel like you have a lot to offer, don’t forget to offer to be a mentor too. If you are the kind of person who is interested in developing themselves then you will naturally have something special to offer as a mentor.
  • Sign up for workplace training to build up skills you feel drawn to, whether they are directly related to your role or not. Many workplaces offer subscriptions to sites such as LinkedIn Learning to pick up IT or soft skills or language learning software such as Rosetta Stone.
  • Work towards a professional qualification – Working towards a professional qualification or taking on further academic studies will be a significant investment of time. These types of courses are usually very expensive, so having an employers support in terms of the fees is hugely valuable. They can often help towards a promotion or make you more marketable to a new employer. When negotiating this you may need to offer to cover some of the costs yourself or using your own time to study, particularly if the course is not directly related to your current role. At the very least, the process of studying outside of work is often a bootcamp in productivity, giving you superpowers that last beyond the course!
  • Join professional groups outside of work – Spending time with people who do your job (or similar) at other companies will bring you fresh perspectives. It will also build up your network which will help enormously if you want to recruit into your team or do something a little different. Again, it’s a great opportunity to get outside your comfort zone, for example by taking speaking opportunities or finding mentoring opportunities outside of your company. If you feel drawn towards side hustles then it’s probably partly because you don’t want to put all of your eggs into one basket. Joining a group outside work, even if it’s related to your main job, is another way to broaden your horizons and feel more confident.
  • Apply to work from home – It may seem like you are distancing yourself from your work if you do this, but the benefits are huge. There are ways of making good use of a commute, but undoubtedly you can usually make better use of the time at home to:
    • Spend more time with family
    • Sleep later (my personal favourite)
    • Exercise
    • Achieve more at work
    • Work on your side hustle(s) if you have them
  • All of these things are hugely beneficial to wellbeing. Another great outcome is the money saved (not to mention the reduced carbon impact). After Covid-19 many workplaces are so much more open to these kinds of requests. Even the most “backward” companies now see that their employees can achieve just as much from home.
  • Take a packed lunch to work, if your application to wfh was not successful! – This is often suggested as a money-saving measure, and it’s a great one! I also find it’s another nice way to “bring myself to work” as coworkers are often interested to know what I’m having and get a little insight into my life outside work. It feels comforting to eat something from home and of course, there’s also less waste when you are bringing in (compared to buying a lunch in packaging).
  • Build exercise into your day – At one point in my career I was going to a 7.30am jazz dance class before work and I would bounce into work with a massive grin on my face afterwards. This was when I worked in London and pre-work dance classes are not so easy to find (or get to) now! However, working some form of exercise into the day – either as part of the commute or the lunch break – can give a great boost of energy and endorphins. For example, could you cycle/walk to work (and also save your travel costs) or go for a walk or run at lunchtime? Doing this with a colleague or group also has the benefit of building friendships with your coworkers, and there’s a lot to be said for a more friendly, kinder workplace. Lastly, think about converting some of your meetings to walking meetings. If you were just planning to be talking anyway, this way you can at least get some exercise and fresh air. This can also be a good tack for the career and mentoring conversations I mentioned above as often it can be easier to say things that make you feel vulnerable if you are not looking somebody in the eye.
  • Take enough holidays – If you are feeling drained or dissatisfied at work then you will probably feel a whole lot better if you take proper holidays. By this I mean ones that are long enough to really relax and where you are not thinking about work or checking your emails. If you find it hard to suddenly switch off, it can help to do something at the start of the holiday that will force you to throw yourself into something else. This could be some sport, or a big DIY project at home.

I wanted to write this post because there is so much focus on side hustles on the internet and I think there is a danger of pouring your energy into them when putting a bit of that energy back into the day job could reap bigger rewards. As a blogger with a full-time job I obviously believe in exploring interests and building incomes outside of work so I’m not challenging that. I do hope though that these ideas are helpful to those who want to make the most of the opportunities to learn, develop and find “work-life harmony” that day jobs can offer.

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