The purpose of a career in your 30s
Or how I’m starting to wonder what life outside of an 9–5 office job would be like
My mom drilled into me at the tender age of five the importance of studying and work ethics. My elementary school weekends were spent doing extra practice problems and memorizing the multiplication table…and lots of tears.
Very quickly I learned if I just get all my work done and get good grades, I will be seen as a success, and no one will tell me what to do anymore.
While this approach comes with its own set of traumas and insecurities, but I can’t deny that that becoming “good at school” afforded me with a lot of opportunities. It wasn’t hard to get into college with a scholarship, and it wasn’t hard to land my first job at a Big 4 account firm.
So, I spent my entire life until age 22 working towards the end goal of having a “good job”.
It never crossed my mind to think about what I actually wanted to do. The job was the final check box in the game of life that I was winning at. All I needed was a recognizable name and a good salary.
And then what? Once I started working, I starting chasing the next promotion and the next raise. My job title and salary became an indication of my worth. I would look at senior management with awe, impressed that they’ve “made it”.
As I got into my 30s, I started to realize that you can get pretty far on the career ladder just with the passage of time. You don’t necessarily need to be amazing. I no longer find it automatically impressive that someone is a director or a VP. I mean, at their age, that’s where they are most likely to end up based on years of experience alone.
When I left my Big 4 job in my late 20s I was hyper insecure about my abilities to secure a next job. After all, I hadn’t spent any time thinking about what I wanted nor plotting a path towards it. Suddenly, 5 years into what on paper is a promising career, I felt like my experience was so specific and boring that I wouldn’t be useful anywhere.
Instead of facing the problem head on, I went back to my comfort zone — school — and enrolled in an MBA program. My time during my MBA was rife with self doubt and personal growth…