You’ll often hear that the cost of living is constantly on the rise all over the country. This is especially true in big cities. People flock to the city in search of better jobs; competition goes up, not only for employment but also in terms of living space.
With floor area at a premium, the cost of housing increases. More people rent, or else use verticality to expand their homes. They install a helical staircase to access upper floors without compromising floor space, make use of multi-purpose furniture for storage, and periodically attempt to declutter their homes.
Meanwhile, the quality of life arguably diminishes as our lives get busier at the expense of well-being. Leisure activities, personal projects, and socializing must be squeezed into our schedules. It’s true that some jobs will give adequate compensation without keeping you so occupied that you don’t have a life. But how do you reach that coveted situation?
Skills will set you apart
In theory, finding work and progressing in your career follows a simple model. An employer posts their vacancy with the required qualifications; if you’re interested and feel like you meet the requirements, you apply. Hopefully, this leads to an interview. Make a great impression, and the job is yours. Do well and you’ll get promoted, or perhaps move on to even better opportunities with another employer.
Your skills play a critical role throughout this idealized journey. One big problem, though, is that most of the skills we learn in school only help with the first part: meeting the checklist of requirements for a position. In everything that follows, you’ll need to learn new skills or draw upon skills you weren’t even aware of.
Soft skills help increase your chances of landing a job through referrals or by impressing your interviewer. On the job, being an active learner lets you master the sub-skills and small details which help improve performance and ultimately lead to advancement. Networking and other interpersonal skills bring new opportunities to your horizon.
Running into limits
Working on various skills will help you to progress in any career. In turn, this will increase your chances of finding a job that affords better work-life balance and other factors that contribute to your satisfaction and well-being. Thus, if you set a clear goal and embrace continuous learning, you’ll improve and take steps in the right direction.
However, even if you intentionally chart a course in this manner, you’ll encounter many limitations. Not every job offers ample opportunities for growth or a clear path forward. So-called ‘dead-end jobs’ exist. If it’s crowded at the top, you can’t get promoted to take on new responsibilities. That’s assuming you even want such a role. Some occupations are static; no matter how much you take it upon yourself to learn, your work doesn’t change.
Learning new skills also requires time and effort. If you’re lucky, you get to do this on the job, perhaps with the valuable mentorship of a manager or senior colleague. Instead, many employees must do this on their own time. Thus, your already limited free time becomes an additional constraint on how quickly you can improve and move on to better jobs.
Maximizing your time
In high school chemistry, you might have learned about limiting reagents. Chemical reactions proceed in a fixed ratio. When one reagent runs out, the reaction stops, no matter how much of the other reagents are left to spare.
At some point, time becomes the ultimate limitation you have to overcome. Suppose you embrace learning and read self-help books, study online tutorials, or take additional courses to improve. Your rate of growth is still throttled by the amount of time you can set aside.
Furthermore, you’ll experience diminishing returns in most occupations. Employees might be paid according to different models, but these always tend to follow a linear scale. Spend more time on the job, and the amount of compensation doesn’t scale to match the value of those additional hours.
Entrepreneurs aren’t vulnerable to this problem. Running a business is demanding, but you have the potential to earn on an exponential scale. As you invest more time and effort into the enterprise, your returns can be even greater.
Founding a startup isn’t for everyone. Instead, many will eventually turn to passive revenue streams to grow their income. The principle is the same, however. You need to recognize the value of your remaining time and find the best way to make it work for you. It’s a compound skill of time management and financial literacy. Master this, and you’ll be able to achieve balance, keep pace with the increasing cost of living, and avoid compromising the quality of your life.