by Niall Doherty

Yes, you read that title right.

I’ve written a lot previously in support of self-employment and entrepreneurship, but today I’m going to tell you why going out and getting a job (or sticking with your current one) can often be your best move. I’m also going to tell you why I, a guy who once thought he’d never be an employee again, have come to believe that getting myself a job might be a very good idea.

Let’s dive right into the two reasons alluded to in the title. I actually believe that these are the only good reasons to get or keep a job. (If you can think of any others, let me know via the comments.)

1. To Earn

If you’re broke, get a job. Pretty much any job will do at first, since for some magical reason it’s easier to find another job when you already have one. Work the window at McDonalds if that’s what it takes to start putting some money in your bank account. Work hard, display initiative, see if you can rise through the ranks and up your payscale. Don’t just punch in and go through the motions. If you’re going to be there anyway, you might as well make the most of it.

Some people subscribe to the idea that you work better when your back is against the wall, so being broke can help you be more creative and give you that extra dose of determination required to make your startup succeed. No doubt that works for some people, but for most of us a much better plan is to get yourself a regular paycheck, pay off your debt, and save up 6-12 months of living expenses. Once you get to that point you can figure out ways to free up some time to work on your own thing (more on that here).

2. To Learn

Lately I’ve been learning and practicing rock climbing. I came across the blog of a chap named Harry Cloudfoot who writes about his mission to go from zero to hero on the rock wall in just a few short months. With such an ambitious goal, Harry got busy brainstorming ways he could hack his environment to make success more attainable. And…

“I concluded that the best way for all of these goals to manifest, would be to get a job over the winter at a rock climbing centre.”

I would have to agree. Perhaps the only “better” way to reach his goals would be to spend a shit-ton of money on a personal rock climbing coach and gym fees. But by getting a job at a rock climbing centre (which he did), Harry not only managed to flip the financial part of the equation, but he also surrounded himself with a bunch of rock climbing experts and gave himself almost limitless opportunities to practice.

A few weeks back I heard about a job opening here in Bangkok for a real estate salesperson, a six-month gig. Now I didn’t apply for that job and I have no idea if I would have had a shot at landing it even if I did, but here’s the thing: I’d love to learn more about sales and about the real estate industry. Would there be any better way to do that than to go and get a job as a real estate salesperson for a few months? I certainly can’t think of one.

Sure, I’d have to go back to wearing a shirt and tie and wake up to an alarm clock and do what the boss tells me, but the education would be invaluable, I’d be getting paid to learn, and worst case scenario I could just quit and become self-employed again.

I’d also have a big advantage over other salespeople in the industry: I wouldn’t be worried about job security. I’d be in it for the learning, and so I’d be willing to take risks and experiment while everyone else would be playing it safe.

That’s just one example of a job that I’ve considered taking, and I’ll continue to consider others. I have actually taken on a job of sorts in recent weeks, working as a researcher for the 2014 edition of the Thailand Startup Guide. It doesn’t pay much, but it’s a fantastic excuse to reach out to and interrogate chat with a bunch of savvy business people here in Bangkok, something I was eager to do more of.

But let me return to my main point here: Getting a job can often be the smartest way to learn a new skill. If you’d asked me a year ago I would have considered a return to employee status to be a step backwards, but with the right kind of job it can actually be a huge leg up.

Ask yourself…

What do I want to learn? What do I want to get better at?

  • Sales? Get a job as a salesperson or assisting one.
  • Fitness? Get a job at a gym.
  • Auto repair? Ask if they need any help down at the local auto shop.
  • Farming? Get a job as a farm hand and learn to grow your own food.

Get in, work hard, learn what you want to learn, get out.

Jobs aren’t the enemy. 9-to-5 isn’t the enemy. All you want to avoid is working endlessly at a job that teaches you nothing.

What kind of job would you learn a lot from? Tell me in the comments.