A Job is a Transaction

Posted on Posted in Entrepreneurship and Learning, Ethics And Morality

Everyone sells themselves.

The job that you hold is a business transaction like any other. Even if you are not in sales, you can never escape selling.

So what is your product?

Like any trade, you are selling something that other people value more in return for something that you value more. This is exactly what you do at your day job, as much as any traveling salesman or ancient Greek merchant on the Agora.

Though we are not really trained to think this way, at your job you are selling the value you add to the organization, for both money and a place to work. People tend to think that they are selling their time just for money. But this is not the case.

At the end of the day, most businesses do not care about your time. Even if they don’t realize this. All they care about is if the value you add is greater than the value they give to you in the form of a salary and a infrastructure or system in which you can productively use your skills. If they are paying you more than the value you are adding, then you are gaining at their expense. This is a poor trade on their part. If you feel the value you add exceeds the benefits and money you receive in return, then that is a poor trade on your part.

What’s key to remember, however, is that it is not just money that you are receiving in return for your added value.

Try to imagine doing your job without the processes, systems, factories, and products that your place of work provides you. What are your skills on the car assembly line worth if there are no assembly lines or raw materials to transform? My guess would be not too much.

Now, to be sure, many people don’t need infrastructure provided by an employer to realize the value in their skills. These are people who have the know-how, competence, and balls to be able to create value for others on their own. They create their own systems, their own infrastructure.

But though many more people could probably learn to have the know-how, competence, and balls to create value on their own, most people don’t. Many because they can’t, many because they’ve never thought of it, and many because they prefer to work within systems that other people created that allow them to add value. Which is absolutely okay if that is what they want. That is one of the things you are bartering for when you agree to take a job.

The point of this is twofold. One, to understand that you are owed nothing. You have a job because your company believes it is profitable to have you working for them. If you fall back on your side of the bargain, namely if you consistently bring in less value than they are paying out to you, then you should be fired.

Two, it’s to have a little humility in the face of your place of work. To understand that your wage or salary is not the only thing you are getting in return for your hard work and time. You are literally getting a place that allows your skills and know-how to produce value for yourself and others. A place that allows your value to mean something.

But like any business transaction or trade, if you feel you are not getting your due, walk away from it. Just as you would not buy a ten dollar apple at the supermarket, you should not sell your value for less than you think it is worth. The only caveat I would add to that, however, is that your own perceptions of the value you can produce need to be grounded in the real world. Based on the real world outcomes that you have produced.

Because at the end of the day, if you feel you are worth two hundred dollars an hour, while everyone else you talk to thinks you are worth twenty dollars an hour, you’re either consistently talking to the wrong people, or you are living in a fantasy world.

Only be a party to fair transactions, but your measure of fairness needs to be ground in reality. There’s no way around this.

Understand that you are selling yourself. And understand what both you, and the other party are bringing to the table.

To sell is a noble thing.


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