Right Sizing Your Career Ambition

I was reading a post over at Retirement: A Full-Time Job on underachievement in your career which got me thinking.  The reality is early retirees do face a particular difficult balancing act on one hand we have tons of ambition but on the other it usually not directed solely at our careers.

I know I’ve personally seen enough of the careers of  senior management and it seemed to me that many of them had sacrificed their personal lives on the alter of their career.  For example, coming back in from your vacation to help out with a special presentation.  Yes, they got their Vice President or Manger title and good salary, but they paid a price that goes against just about everything that I am.  I value my own time more than my job.  So are early retirees doomed to be underachievers?

I personally don’t think so.  Rather I think early retirees have the extra challenge of right sizing their career ambition.  We want the most money for the least amount of personal sacrifice.  We are willing to work hard when need be, but at the same time we much rather just work smarter and take off Friday afternoon as well.

To achieve that delicate balance I’ve done the following things:

  • I seek interesting work.  There isn’t enough money in the world to make me work a job that I hate or that I’ll be bored at.  I’ve done it and promised myself I’m never doing it again.  So I’ve never had a nice linear career, I’m more of a polynomial curve.
  • I’m a corporate mercenary.  Yet I don’t go solely by pay.  Instead I’m smarter and go for the most pay with the least amount of hours and good benefit package.
  • I aim my ambition at the corporate ladder sweet spot.  You know the job, the one that seems at odds with everyone else and gets overlooked all the time by others.  Like the Manger of Special Projects down the hall, who has the title and the pay, but no staff to worry about and who’s job description changes yearly to usually the most interesting project in the company.  That’s where I want to be.
  • I do skill development.  Yet not the skills that most people would go after.  I don’t want an MBA, instead I’ve worked on communication skills: oral and written.  So I end up with different package which makes me stand out from others when I apply for jobs.
  • I expand my career past just one path.  Do other things not related to your job directly to gain experience on new things that also make you happy.  The reality is just about every organization uses similar concepts from Education to Finance to your hobby business.  They all have budgets, forecasts and customer complaints.  So learn from what ever you do and be happy doing it.

So how about you?  Have you ‘right-sized’ your career ambition?  If so, what job are you after and why?

3 thoughts on “Right Sizing Your Career Ambition”

  1. I commented on RetiredSyd’s thread first, so there could be some overlap.

    I retired in January, 2010 and I have to say that the only thing I longed for during my 10+ years in upper management positions was to be able to hang up the skates. The accumulation of titles and personal business achievements were waaaay down the priority list in comparison to having the freedom to do what I wanted with my time and within financial reason.

    Sacrificing things early in one’s career (such as taking on roles with more responsibility and pay) can have its advantages to say the least, but it can also have yield many gut-wrenching experiences to the point when you just feel like throwing in the towel.

    However I do believe your thread (and Retired Syd’s) really highlights just how many people are ‘programmed’ (for lack of a better word) differently and some people really need to be in the heat of the action and in career mode for most of their adult lives. Others on the other hand, would just like to give it all up for personal time and pleasure as soon as they can.

    Personally, I believe I will always continue to be active doing projects and continue doing business or working in some capacity, but they will be on very different terms and at a different pace.

  2. The Rat,

    Thanks. I appreciate your insight, I think you nailed it with the word ‘programmed.’ We tend to not see what options there are because are assumed frame of reference.


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