Maximize meaning or maximize social side?

DatesExcelModels's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,165

Hi everyone,

Curious to get some thoughts on this. I have two job offers: One is to be a technical analyst on a health venture that's close to my heart. My parents suffered from cancer, and this unit actively tries to do those scans better. Hence, the mission is very meaningful. However, it's in the Valley. As a single guy, this is not ideal, I have no friends living there currently, and seldom like west coast Americans as much as I do east coast Americans.

The alternative is a normal strategy role at a FAANG in NYC, with a lot of my friends (and the NYC dating scene). I generally get a lot of my happiness out of my social life, which will be much worse in the Valley. Hours in NYC would be very mild (I know two people on that team well, and they work 9-5 at most).

My experience so far with achieving my career goals (getting into a target, getting into a BB, getting into a FAANG) has been that the happiness associated with that is short-lived, whereas day-to-day relationships make a huge difference in my happiness and only gets stronger.

Hence, curious to get a sense from the community: does it make sense to pick a job that puts relationships on the backburner because it's more meaningful?

Comments (5)

Most Helpful
Mar 3, 2020

This is one of the best thread ideas on WSO in a long time and the topic of professional trade offs is very dear to my heart. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, but I'll try to work you through my thinking with my situation.

I am a mission-driven person. I need to believe very deeply in what I'm doing to be maximally effective and that belief is what drives my motivation. For me, it's the difference between jumping out of bed in the morning and begrudgingly making my way to work half asleep. I'm a believer in the value innovative design, proper street level engagement, and proper architecture brings to a city. I'm a staunch New Urbanist. I worry regularly about the housing affordability crisis impacting American cities.

Unfortunately, the merchant-built apartment world that I work in has only two missions - build it for as cheap as you can and sell it for as much as you can. Innovations get value-engineered. Design gets value-engineered. Quality gets value-engineered. While people struggle to afford housing, I'm raising rents to hit or beat proforma, or building new product in a new submarket and causing everyone's rents to go up as a result. The student housing world that I dabble in is even worse - as I pay thousands a month in my own student loans, I'm actively plunging hundreds of college kids into debt every semester to be able to afford luxury student units that they don't need.

I struggle with this almost daily and see it as a personal moral crisis. So how do I live with myself? Two ways:

  1. I work on the side with industry groups that advocate for responsible development, speak to leaders and politicians about better solutions (because there are some terrible "solutions" out there), and volunteer with a fund that supports affordable housing growth in my city. It is important to remember that your day job is not the only use of your time, and working for that FAANG role doesn't mean you cannot contribute to cancer research, either with your time or your money.
  2. You can change a lot more once you get to an established, settled place in life. In my case, there are only so many firms that develop real estate in the way that I want to. Short of lucking into a role at one of them early on, the only way to get there is to learn the craft, get reps in, and then transition. In your case, with the level of happiness you get from your social group, you have to ask yourself if you would be effective at the health venture if you would be slowly getting more and more distant from your friends and people you care about. Maybe you make new friends and you learn to love it, but it'll rarely be the same as it is now.

Only you can know if the draw to the health venture is large enough to offset what you'd be giving up. The most important thing to remember though is if you do turn it down, you don't have to turn down your passion for the cause. Volunteer in NYC. Give money and time to the cause. Work for the FAANG firm for a bit until you can find a way to use what you learned and earned to have a greater impact in cancer research. You have tons of options.

Also, don't discount every day things that you value - a social life and East Coast sensibilities for you, a paycheck and experience for me - against the "bigger picture" things that you also value, such as cancer research. All of it is important and you are a much more well-rounded person by understanding the value in each.

    • 9
Mar 3, 2020

Unfortunately, unlike CRE up there, I'm not a very mission-driven person. I'm primarily driven by efficiency, results, and reward. Perhaps I'm the more cookie-cutter finance bro that roams these forums.

I do, however, agree with most of the things CRE has mentioned BECAUSE I'm a results/efficiency-driven person.

I'm a huge believer in doing all that you can do to best position yourself to achieve your long-term goal. If you believe that taking the technical analyst role at the health venture will best set you up for your long-term goal of working to help better cancer scans, etc., I'd take that in a heartbeat.

However, chances are you're still relatively junior (apologies if not), and you'll be able to make a lot more meaningful contributions/impact when you're in a more senior position, regardless of the industry. Always remember that you don't have to have the technical skills to make a difference. You don't NEED to work as a technical analyst or have a degree in oncology to make a contribution to for the betterment in cancer research--all you need is the passion and the means to influence a change, no matter how small.

If I were you, I'd take the FAANG role and continue to progress my career in a happier environment where I can continue to take an interest and spend resources (time and/or money) to keeping yourself involved in your cause.

If you feel this isn't a strong enough factor and your heart is just tugging away at the technical analyst role, don't be afraid to take that either. You know yourself much better than you think you do, and whatever your gut feeling says is going to be on the money most of the time.

To offset your qualms about relocation, I too moved out to the west coast (LA though) about two years ago, and I too am less of a fan of west coast natives compared to those from the east coast (just way too different in our drive and general outlook). BUT I met my wife out here and got married last Saturday, so take that as you will.

    • 4
Mar 4, 2020

Good points, thanks for the insights. I'm relatively junior (3 years of FT experience, two promotions in), but I do have really strong technical skills. I basically teach programming internally at my FAANG, so I would be able to help in a non-immaterial way on the technical side of the scans.

Again, as a 6'5 former competitive rower chad (with a European accent), I am pretty reluctant to not have a couple of good years in NYC dating wise as I do well and enjoy the shit out of it, especially because some of my best friends will be in exactly the same boat.

On the other hand, I feel some level of guilt that I have the opportunity to help contribute to cancer research in such a massive way (rather than as an aside), and instead concentrate my efforts on hanging with the boys & slaying models. Essentially, I feel like I am selfishly leaning towards hedonism when my pleasure morally can't matter too much in the grand scheme of things.

Mar 5, 2020

"I feel some level of guilt"

I would think that should be your key indicator that you should take the FAANG role.

Maybe on a subconscious level, you feel the need to take the technical analyst role because of your parents. As unfortunate as it is, I wonder if you would have the same passion had it not been for your specific circumstance. There's nothing wrong with crushing some cold ones with the boys while trying to slay them .xlsx models (let's be real; your being 6 foot 5 inches is actually two different measurements). All in all, you should never be guilted into doing something, whether it's from a 3rd party or from yourself.

Also, despite your proficiency at programming, I would be reluctant to believe that you would be able to impact significant changes, given your level in seniority, or the lack thereof. That's just the corporate side of things though--you'll most likely run into a bunch of red tape. It's possible that you would be able to make material contributions that really shapes the industry. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't think FAANG would better position you to make more impactful changes in the future.

Whatever you decide, they're both fantastic options, and I think you'll have the opportunity to do well and good on both of these roles. Best of luck, bro.

    • 2
Mar 3, 2020

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee