Ambition and Safety are the two opposites that factor into many career choices. Given the stage of your career and life, answers to which one you should prioritise will differ.
Say you’ve just graduated from University or are in that 1–5-year range of commencing your first full-time role, you most likely have all the motivation in the world as the corporate grind hasn’t worn you down just yet. The corporate “perks” still seem like a novelty and furthering yourself through “learning and development opportunities” and “growing your CV” are probably factors that feature high up on your career agenda.
For this stage, ambition is perfect, go on, slave out that role in Investment Banking for a few years, do the equivalent of 8 years of work in 4 years and leverage those skills to find a “cushier” job once you’re ready, or ride up the ladder and stick it out until you no longer want to.
I’ve also come across people who choked hard after university then managed to cover it up with some better roles a few years in, most of these types had a major chip on their shoulder as they struggled to land anything decent straight out the gate and felt the need to prove themselves, so they did, just years later compared to everyone else.
- You’re wanted and in demand in many more companies across different geographies and industries.
- Financially you’ll likely be able to command much better remuneration, if not already, then in the future.
- Pivoting into less demanding roles and industries is much easier than vice-versa, you’ll have a solid work ethic and your expectations of yourself will be a lot higher compared to those around you if you decide to take a step back.
- The network you build will be with some of the most accomplished people you know. This becomes much more important later as you can get a lot of “favours” from the right people.
- You will work like a dog and potentially lose some of the best years of your life slaving away late into the night and working weekends.
- All that stress will very likely impact your health, especially considering you’ll struggle to sleep well and wake up in the middle of the night thinking of work.
- Aging is a real tragedy when you work a job that you always need to be “switched on” for.
- Work becoming such a huge part of your life will take a toll on your personal life, many relationships die because one or both parties aren’t able to put in the time, effort, and commitment required to maintain them.
Perhaps you’ve done your years slaving it out in Banking, Consulting, or in a top-tier Technology company where you’ve made a bit of bank and cashed out your stock options. The burn it took on your health started to add up and you’re looking for a more cruisey role so you can at least enjoy some time outside of work or focus on relationships/family/hobbies. It would make perfect sense at this stage to prioritise Safety.
However, some people, finish university and do this from the start, sometimes by choice, other times through necessity. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, but to coast from Day 1, when you could do so much more, one must wonder where all that extra energy goes?
The upsides and downsides are basically the opposite of what was written earlier. Less money, more time, better health, lazier network, harder to pivot careers/move abroad, and potential for better social and personal life.
I remember coming across this quote from the Dalai Lama which I feel is relevant to this discussion:
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
So consider wisely..