Mod Note: Throwback Thursday: this post originally went up on 08/13/13
Reaching for that golden ring of career success, as most of the monkeys here are trying to do, can have significant costs. Some are obvious: preparing for interviews, networking, and getting top grades in college take time away from drinking and fornicating. And once you start working, you'll likely need to deal with unreasonable bosses combined with an expanding waistline from too much SeamlessWeb and not enough time in the gym.
There are also some more subtle costs that come from placing as much emphasis on your career as we tend to here. After all, what happens when you get your dream job...and 6-months in realize you despise it? What if you've done everything you can to transition from IB to PE but managed to fail miserably? A number of posts over the years have centered on these very questions as many monkeys begin to experience their first career troubles and late-20's existential crises.
I think that people that post on this board are uniquely susceptible to taking these sorts of job difficulties very personally. This is because we tend to be poorly diversified in terms of things that we derive intense satisfaction from. Our emotional portfolio is overweight in career advancement.
The great James Altucher has a wonderful post where he discusses how to diversify your life to be more creative and successful. I decided to adapt his basic concept to suggest 4 ways that you can more readily withstand the bumps that will inevitably come up on the road of your career:
1. Sustain your friendships and develop new ones.
It's generally not hard to find people to go drinking with after work, but it's usually more difficult to replicate the sort of close friendships that you develop in college. The best way to try and cultivate these sorts of close, post-college friendships is to find people with whom you share strong similar interests, or are working together with towards a common goal. Sports leagues (kickball doesn't count), volunteering, and church/religious organizations are some of the best ways to do this. It will require a larger investment of time and energy, but should pay greater dividends than relying on going drinking all the time. You may need to try a few things before finding something that sticks, but it will be worth it.
Don't forget to tend to and cultivate the friendships you do have. Trust me, they can whither away and die otherwise. Make an effort to visit people that live on the other side of the country, and stay in touch with acquaintances from college: you never know when your paths will cross.
2. Develop specialized skills outside of work.
It doesn't even need to be with the goal of developing a side income stream (though that's not a bad idea). But doing some combination of the following can increase your career "surface area" by exposing you to other people, problems, and ways or working. This in turn can lead to other opportunities down the road, as well as valuable connections.
First, you can look into pro-bono projects that utilize your technical skills: Taproot is one resource. Also: , but how many people use it as effectively as a typical consulting/finance monkey? Not many, I'd guess. There must be opportunities out there. A few years ago I was a volunteer tax preparer, helping to complete tax returns for low-income people. It was a great experience and also made me much more thankful for the advantages that I have in life.
Writing is great too. Good communication skills are needed everywhere, and not many people have them. Write for WSO (!), Seeking Alpha, or just start your own blog. Forcing yourself to come up with something every week can help to get your creative juices flowing.
3. Read widely.
Fiction, self-help, philosophy...you've probably read enough books about the financial crisis and things in the Liar's Poker /of finance books. Read as widely as possible, and you may be surprised to see what you learn about yourself.
4. Ask yourself what you would do if you lost your job now.
You'd probably bounce back sooner than you think.
I'll close with a quote from James Altucher, in his original article:
When properly diversfied, nobody can say "no" to you anymore. Disappointments and failures become a natural part of life that you learn from, in the same way you learn from success and opportunity. Intelligence springs forward from the additional creativity. Love comes from the most blossoming part of the social tree you build for yourself.
Monkeys, what do you say? Do you think that your job has sapped your creativity? Are you too dependent on it for your sense of fulfillment? What makes the rough parts easier to bear?
related discussion: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ehrlichfu/2013/08/15/w... by Thomas Ehrlich