We all want to bu successful in some way. Since some of us identify with our job, job satisfaction, stabilit and financial success are extremely important. To which extent are different aspects of job success related? Can we have it all? For today’s research I got too many results, and decided to list some of them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
The best and the worst career advice
Somehow the best and the worst career advice are often the same advice. By now I have heard a lot of these pieces of advice. They all seem good and make sense, yet I would think twice before following them. In the next sections, I will list some of these pieces of advice with what I think about them. You are welcome to shape your own opinion and share in the comments.
Follow your passion
The most common career advice is to learn the subject you are truly passionate about. Men tend to hear this idea much less than women since the men are supposed to provide for the family. Men also tend to earn more money and have better career progress than women.
My wife Anna is many things, yet before everything else, she is a teacher. She became a teacher when she was too young to know better not because of the social status or because she enjoyed facing an audience, but because she was truly passionate about changing the lives of each and every child. When she asked her mother what is the best thing to do, she was told to follow her passion. So she became a teacher. After several years of training, she got the relevant degrees. When she tried to face a class of students she failed miserably. Beaten and confused, she returned to University. She was not the teacher she hoped to be, but she understood about learning much more than most of us. At some point, she started to teach teachers and invented the speedreading methodology she taught me.
Following your passion may lend you a job you cannot do or a job that cannot feed you, but it can also help you discover your calling and change the world.
Find a scalable job
This is usually formulated in a different way, like do not let your talent get wasted. Those who even attempt to land a scalable position are probably extremely talented. And even they succeed maybe in 1% of the cases. If you are extremely talented, not trying is a huge waste. Yet, trying and failing often feels like a bigger waste.
Some jobs do not scale very well. When a mentor sits with a protegee, or a doctor sees his patient, this is usually a 1:1 situation. Other jobs scale extraordinarily well. Once an actor is filmed in a movie, the movie can be seen by billions of people over the decades. An author of a book or a painter may get loyalties even after dying, possibly for 72 years after dying.
Scalable jobs are associated with fun, fame, and stardom. Unfortunately, very few practitioners get any level of success. Most entrepreneurs, musicians, actors, artists, authors, athletes and so on do not get enough money to put the bread on their table. Those who somehow succeed, work very hard and use every means available to get at least some edge.
There are some jobs who are somewhere in the middle. If you are a scientist or an engineer, you can write or build something extremely successful. Even if unbelievably successful, you will probably not become a star. How many Nobel prize winners do we actually know? Yet, most of the time you get a decent salary and a good job you like.
Follow the money
While the girls are typically advised to follow their passion, the boys are expected to earn well. Men are highly competitive and often compare the level of control and financial prosperity. In primitive societies, the successful men get as many females as they can feed, and unsuccessful men do not get a chance to procreate. We do not live in a primitive society, so effects are psychological rather than physical. Yet, we all fight for social status.
Jobs with high social status are very demanding. The competition is tough, the stress is unbelievable. Many people get burned out. Some end up with jobs they hate. Some players cheat. Very few of those who break the laws eventually get caught, but being a criminal is asking for trouble.
A big part of financial prosperity is a show. Some people have much more than they want us to see. Others have much less. People who chase power and money often look at the mirror and do not like the person they see.
Do something that helps people
Being a medical doctor is a great status. For one simple reason: you get to save people’s lives every day. It is hard to predict which level of stress will we handle successfully. Even harder to predict how much we will earn twenty years from now. Yet, if we do the right thing we feel good about it, we are respected and we have a damn good reason to get out of bed every morning.
Helping people, creating true value for people, and simply doing something meaningful is in itself a measure of success. It is so valuable, that quite often it is sold as a substitute for something more tangible. This is a quality often found in volunteer jobs.
A couple of years ago I volunteered for a political campaign. Something in the campaign appeared to be strange. I confronted the person running the campaign, and he told me that there is no price tag one can put on our values. I did not give up and was somewhat surprised by his next response. He called me naive and told me how I could benefit financially if I play the game correctly. Some of us help others to feel good with themselves, others know how to use people and benefit from situations. I felt dirty…
Futureproof your career
As we lower our expectations, we start looking for stability. Some cultures value stability over everything else. There is a voice in our heads recommending to learn, get a good job in a big company or for the government, and settle down. This is the voice of generations who have done the same, bought houses, raised families and lived happily in total anonymity. For me, this is the voice of my parents and their parents. In some other families, the children are expected to take over the family business or to follow the parents’ occupation. The children of doctors are likely to become doctors. My own children want to follow in my footsteps. Parents can help children in their careers. Even having the role model of a successful professional is a huge help in itself.
Traditional activities are often assumed to be future-proof. If several generations were doing the same thing, several more could do it. Right? Maybe. Unfortunately, we live at the age of AI revolution, and many traditional jobs become obsolete.
Following a trend is another form of futureproofing. If there is a huge demand for data scientists, as the data scientists fuel the AI revolution, there will probably be a huge demand and the future. Maybe. And maybe AI will learn to sustain its own needs and we will need much fewer data scientists. Nobody knows.
Futureproof jobs are a solid safe choice for most people. They are the backbone of our economy and our lifestyle. They also happen to be very average, even soleless. We all would love occasionally to be different and find true meaning in our job. After all, we spend most of our lives working. And then there is also the risk that no matter how hard we work to futureproof our jobs, the life itself is stronger than all of our efforts.
Work for yourself
Another moderate request we may have is fairness. More often than not our revenues are not directly linked to our efforts. Many people get tired of working hard and not earning more and open their own businesses. Being a freelancer you are paid directly for the work that you do. Opening a company your revenues are proportional to the product or service that you sell.
Granted, some people are chasing a huge vision or financial opportunity. Others simply look for the freedom to chart their own lives. Yet, the most common reason to work for yourself is fairness. We want to get more money if we are willing to work more. We want to work less if we are willing to earn less. These choices are not something big corporations or a government position or even a family business can offer.
This is definitely a valid choice for those who are skilled at selling their own efforts. Being freelancers, we often spend more effort in selling our efforts than working on the projects. The financial prosperity is also subject to changes over time. When the economy changes, the market gets very competitive. It gets harder to land jobs, and some customers file bankruptcy and simply do not pay. I think freelancers have more fun the market is good, and they suffer more when the market is bad. Moreover, they value their freedom and are less likely to land a great job if they decide to do so.
Success, passion, and satisfaction
I do not know career choice that can guarantee a great balance of success, passion, and satisfaction with medium or low risk and stress. In most cases we allow ourselves to waste our talents to gain stability, sometimes after trying several times the hard task of following the passion and finding a scalable job, or following the money and working for ourselves. The social status, financial prosperity and personal satisfaction are often correlated with the unlikely success of a risky career. No career is truly futureproofed, yet the combination of learning, hard for and following the technological trends is a good gamble. Personally if asked for advice I suggest getting two jobs: one for stability and another for the sole. I would also suggest focusing on strategic learning and smart investment strategies over creative gambles.