Mercenary for the Man
Although almost two decades have past, my time employed with a large North American electronics company, still deeply effects my perspective on corporate life. I started out as a simple salesman, but over time moved myself up through the various positions the company offered, and by the age of twenty two I had a hundred and fifty people below me on the corporate ladder, and only two above. I was making myself quite a decent income.
During my last two years with this company, I found that my boss had started to ask me to take over more and more responsibility. I was told that if I did the work now, great wealth would follow, as time went on, I gave more and more of my time and energy to the company, sixty plus hours a week was pretty normal, often with business trips thrown in, where I was basically “at work” 24 hours a day.
After a couple of years, I began to go beyond asking, and demanded the raise they had promised me, there were various long winded “reasons” why it could not be given to me, but the truth was, that the pay of my non-owner boss above me, would have had to be slashed to pay me for all his work I was doing for him.
The incredible work hours of the last two years, had taken a huge toll on my social life without helping my financial status at all. They had me working my ass off for nothing. I was “chasing carrots” I would never be given. I cant believe I let them do this for me for almost two years. I had been given much more responsibility, and many more headaches, but no reward. My corporate slavery had distanced me from my close friends, and ended up losing me my girlfriend. My work had become the unhealthy centre of my life.
Disgusted at how the company had strung me along for two years, and heartbroken over my lost love, I quit the job, though they tried tossing money at me to get me back, I had already lost my faith in them, so off I went. I took the money I had saved from working there for so long, bought myself a backpack, and began to travel around the world.
Sixteen months later, while hanging out on a beach in Thailand I ended up meeting five English teachers on vacation from their work in Korea. We spent a few very fun days together, since I was starting to run out of travel money, but didn’t really want to go home, I began asking them about their work in Korea. They all agreed with one another that they didn’t like the job, and even went on to say they didn’t like the country, the people the boss or anything.
I was a bit taken aback by their unanimous dislike for their job, and asked them “Why on earth do you work there then?”
One guy said something that has stuck with me to this day, and I have often considered just how much I agree with this, he said: “I don’t work for companies, I work for myself, I do it for money, I am a mercenary.”
Obviously he wasn’t a real “mercenary”, he was an English teacher, but I liked his idea. He didn’t do what he did for his company, or his boss, he just did it for the money.
Since that time I have always approached work this way. I don’t care what a jerk my boss is, or if I like the company, and I don’t do things to help my boss or the company for free, because in the end, the company and the boss only care about the money, they don’t care about you. They only want you to do things for free, because it saves them money.
Of course I still do my work as well as I can, you need to do a very good job to be a demanding employee, but if people ask me to take another responsibility, I will ask if there is an immediate raise involved before i agree to do it. My loyalty now has a price.
I also became a mercenary for the man.