Okay, let’s kick off the blog here in 2014 with a bang. Recently, I came across a Dilbert comic strip that got a laugh out of me, I almost hate to say, based on a wry observation it makes about the correlation between career success and happiness. And while I’d love to paste the cartoon in directly for your review, I don’t dare tangle with Scott Adams’ lawyers over intellectual property rights. They’d win. So instead, I’d ask you to take a moment to go check out the strip at the following link:
Did you give it a gander? If so, what was your reaction to it? Is the advice offered by the “Alice” character in the cartoon a wild exaggeration or are we truly reaching the point where career success, at a certain level, demands that people give up many other things in their lives that are important to them?
Personally, while I don’t think the state of affairs is quite as extreme as this cartoon suggests, I believe we’re heading slowly and surely in that direction — and that ambitious professionals need to be prepared to make tough choices about where their priorities lie.
For example, would you take a job that offers consistent work/life balance, even if it required a major departure from your traditional compensation level? Alternatively, would you fore-go the increased security that comes with working for a large and established company in order to embrace the risky, yet exhilarating, life of a start up? Or vice versa, would you trade your entrepreneurial thrill ride for a steady paycheck and some guaranteed health benefits?
Again, more and more, I think professionals are going to have to pick their battles and make tough choices about what’s important to them, work-wise. For those new to my postings, I’ve written several related blogs about this concept over the years if you wanted to check them out here, here, and here. And while we’re on the topic, you might also watch a short TED Talks video by Nigel Marsh you’ll find here that delivers some riveting observations, I feel, on the challenges of navigating the balance between work obligations and family life.
I wish I could say these were all just intellectual musings. But they’re not. I see these issues play out every day in the real world. I was recently visited by a young adult who is currently pulling in $300K as an investment manager, and who fervently hates his job, but has decided to stick with it and be miserable since he knows that if he left his field his income would plummet to a small fraction of what he’s making now. On the flip side, I have another acquaintance who used to be a big cheese in his industry, but decided he’d rather give up the executive scene and the C-suite trappings in order to do what he loves every day — even if it meant downsizing his lifestyle and income level to a massive degree.
Choices, choices, choices. That’s what the notion of career management is all about, and increasingly, I feel people are needing to really bear down and clarify their priorities in order to pursue any realistic notion of career happiness — versus just assuming they’re going to find a role where they truly “have it all” so to speak.
This being said, however, I have to admit that most of the people I meet each day — by definition — aren’t highly satisfied with their current career situation. If they were, they probably wouldn’t be knocking on the door of somebody like me. So I’m curious to hear some feedback from the rest of you out there as to what you feel the relationship is today between the notions of career success and happiness. Your thoughts? Anonymously or otherwise? Have these concepts truly become mutually exclusive to each other — or is Dilbert creator Scott Adams just pushing our emotional buttons, knowing we’ll bite?