15. Patience: The Most Overrated Skill There Is
We are all (and by "all" I mean "lower and middle class folks in the United States") taught to be patient from a young age. "You have to be patient and wait to get dessert after dinner" is ingrained in us from the day we can speak. That's all well and good- you shouldn't just eat sugar all the time, after all.
This doesn't just apply to kids, either; the desire for instant gratification is popular for everyone in our society these days. I've encountered plenty of grown adults at T-Mobile who throw a temper tantrum when they find out they can't get the fancy new phone they want right now, often acting more childishly than, well, their child standing right next to them.
Patience is often a good thing. But there's a problem with the constant "patience is a virtue" mantra we receive throughout our lives, and that problem is that not all patience is created equal.
Somehow I feel as though we have it in our heads that "be patient and eat dessert after dinner" is somehow equal to "be patient and wait for that company to respond to your job application" or "be patient and wait for a promotion." Yes, you should be able to be patient when it benefits you; but there's also a time and place when being patient because a company doesn't want to promote you can cost you a great deal, and I don't just mean monetarily.
When it comes to your career-which is directly tied to your quality of life in terms of how many hours you work, how much you're paid for that work, and what benefits you may or may not receive from that work-being patient is often the worst thing to do. The first reason for this is that statistically, companies have no loyalty to you anymore. A business is a business, after all, not your friend. For many businesses (most, even), profits and pleasing shareholders are the bottom line to the exclusion of all else, employee and customer satisfaction be damned. I suspect that this attitude winds up hurting these business's profits in the long run more than helping them, but that's a discussion for another time.
People my age (I'm 24) have seen this firsthand, not because we've been laid off much, but because so many of our parents were laid off at some point in the recession. We all know the story-the company had to downsize, the company wanted to hire on someone younger than our parents who would do the same work for less money, whatever excuse they came up with to not care about their employees (yes, I know sometimes laying people off is unavoidable, but the lack of effort on the part of many corporations to avoid that option is depressing).
Anyway, it boils down to the same thing: our parents lost their jobs in the recession, which gave us exactly zero faith that major corporations are going to take care of us when we're the employees. This has since produced a vicious cycle in which corporations don't care about their people and their people don't care about the corporation. When corporations lay people off, those people switch jobs faster; when people switch jobs faster, corporations offer better salaries and other incentives to entice those employees to work for them; when corporations offer those competitive new salaries and incentives, the people who have stuck around for a few years realize they're getting screwed and wisely jump ship.
As that link above points out, your pay will go up faster if you switch jobs every year or two than if you stay loyal to any one company. And why would you? Our Baby Boomer grandparents will tell us all about how employees and businesses used to be much better at maintaining long-term relationships (often career-long), but it's not something us millennials are ever going to see for ourselves or for our parents.
Don't get me wrong- this isn't necessarily a negative thing. A 10% raise every two years, on top of your standard raises work gives you, and that's a conservative projection? That's a sweet deal! What's important is that you know that you are likely of greater value to the market place than you are to your current employer, and that's absolutely true if you have continued to learn new skills and grow your network while working wherever you are now.
Patiently waiting for a promotion, for the company you work for to take care of you, is a thing of the past. That's not a bad thing-it's simply a fact that you should absolutely exploit in the game we call the workforce.
Be patient for dessert after dinner or a smartphone you can't get today. But when it comes to your career, your time is limited-don't let misplaced loyalty limit you, too.