2019 marked 15 years in the working world for me. 15 years of relative success, growth, momentum and some notable achievements along the way. And for the most part my goals and targets have remained stable throughout this period. Promotions, pay rises, more responsibility/autonomy and a feeling that I was moving forward.
The first decade of this period was relatively straight forward. 6 years with the business I started with, 4 with the 2nd employer. And a period of periodic promotions, pay rises and increased responsibility.
The last 5 have been less stable. 3 direct employers. 2 redundancies (1 formal, 1 mutual) and a managed exit. And in between 2 periods of consulting.
I have been relatively comfortable with this. I made career decisions for the right reasons and for my own happiness and largely I have been happy. My wife would prefer more stability, it concerns me less. My earnings have increased over the 5 year period regardless (and against a poor economic backdrop) and I have proven my adaptability and resilience when I have had to. I have also learned a great deal and what I do and do not want out of a career.
As 2019 came to a close, and after a rough 6 months, I have found the lessons I have learned and my experiences over the time have caused a shift in my goals and my ambitions. Or maybe its life stage related. Potentially a combination of the two.
So what lessons have I learned that have shaped my decisions up to now and in the future?
Not everyone wants the same thing
This is something I learnt a when I left my second employer. It was a large organisation, lots of tiers of staff, bureaucracy, and a lot of doing what you were told not what you thought was right. On the plus side it was a nice environment to work in, good benefits, little risk of losing your job, private healthcare, company cars etc.
I left for something much less stable but more exciting. You could argue I did the wrong thing as that didn’t last and was the start of the last 5 years. But I was definitely happier.
For all the niceties of the safe role, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like just doing what I was told, and some of the forward moves looked even worse to me. Some people probably thought I was stupid, but I just didn’t want the same thing as them. I understood why they did, but it just wasn’t for me.
Know the type of role you excel in
Having moved up through the ranks from the bottom to the top, I have come to an understanding about the type of role I excel in. I’ve been a ‘doer’, a ‘thinker’, a ‘leader’. I’ve been the one being told what to do, and the one doing the telling.
The traditional organisational structure has you move up ‘the ladder’ from more hands on roles to more thinking and planning. I have realised I am happiest somewhere towards the top, but still close to the coal face. I don’t excel right at the top. Not because I can’t lead but more because I can add more value a rung or two below.
The danger of comparison
I believe it is natural to compare your life and your success to others. With the benefit of hindsight I can see I was doing too much of it however. Wanting to be ahead of everyone else, earn more, live better.
It’s only in the last 18 months I have been able to drop my ego and let people get ahead (whatever ahead is) and no worry about it so long as I am happy. I guess in some way you have to know what success looks like to you before you can truly judge yourself on something other than what you see in other people or what society tells you.
Entrepreneurial but not an entrepreneur
This may be related to life stage, having a family to support, but I have realised am not ready to put it all on the line and chase some entrepreneurial dream. I have built a successful consulting career but have no ambitions of setting up a company with staff and everything that goes along with it.
I definitely have an entrepreneurial side and so like being in those environments, but I don’t have the appetite to do it myself right now.
Money, Money, Money
Everybody wants more money right? That’s part of the reason we are looking for the next promotion, growth of our business, that next big sale.
Whilst I have never been 100% money motivated I have always known my worth and made sure I got it. But what do we want money for? More stuff? a bigger house? new car? I have thought about this a lot.
Right now, I still want my earnings to go up, but I want to for specific reasons. I want to provide my family with the life they deserve. I want to create a home environment I am proud of. I want to take them on holidays. and I want to set up mine and their futures.
New decade, new ambitions
Where do all these lessons and all this ramblings get me? Moving into a new decade what am I aiming for?
- A role which works to my strengths. Be that consulting (which I enjoy and am valued in) or a full time role at the right level.
- An entrepreneurial environment. Consulting gives me that, if it’s a full time role the environment has to be right.
- An earning level the gives my family the life they deserve and sets up our future.
That’s it. No over complication. No attempts to be a become a millionaire. A good life which gives me time for what’s important and doesn’t worry about titles, promotions or being ‘the boss’.
5 years ago I couldn’t have considered something so simplistic but that has changed. Be it wisdom, age, or life stage but I feel a little happier with where I am right now and what I hope to achieve.