Career compass: understanding compromise for your success and fulfillment
Welcome to The Management Consultant, a newsletter about the game of consulting written by a long-time player.
If you’re not a subscriber, sign up and get interesting content on how to improve at management consulting delivered to you for free (on an irregular schedule 😅)
Life is all about compromise.
I often emphasize the significance of those lesser-discussed soft skills when it comes to advancing in your career. As I like to say, early-career professionals invest a considerable amount of time in acquiring hard skills, and rightfully so. However, with time, they tend to overlook the importance of refining essential soft skills.
These skills hold more weight than domain-specific capabilities as professionals ascend the career ladder. Yet, for various reasons, they often don’t receive the attention they deserve for enhancement.
“Life is all about compromise”, as I was mentioning.
Imagine you’re on the hunt for a home for your family. Your evenings and weekends are consumed by exploring the city, attending open houses in the quest to find that perfect abode. Every spare minute you have is dedicated to scrolling through real estate apps. You save a multitude of listings on those apps, all with the intention of dedicating more evenings and weekends to inspecting these properties in person. And then it starts…
You like one house, but the garden is disappointingly small.
You move on to another option, but it’s located far away from the city center, a place you’re not too keen on anyway.
You decide to check out another listing. It looked fantastic online, but in person, the kitchen feels claustrophobic.
This pattern continues – you grasp the concept.
Let me say it straight: there is no such thing as the perfect house. In fact, it’s a mirage. You’ll inevitably have to make compromises.
Perhaps you’ll prioritize location over size, or maybe you’re not much of a cook, so the kitchen’s dimensions aren’t a big deal. You might even believe that with a bit of effort, you can turn a modest house into something suitable for your needs. Regardless, a choice must be made.
Certain factors take priority over others.
Now, I'm sure you’ve already connected the dots, but this post isn’t really about real estate.
It’s about your career.
In your youth, full of energy and idealism, you hold onto the belief that only the perfect job will do.
A job where you adore your boss, your team members are all wonderfully supportive, your workload is light and enjoyable, the pay is mind-blowing, and if you decide to take off for two months to conquer Kilimanjaro, well... no worries, clients will understand.
However, reality has a way of asserting itself. As you mature, you begin to grasp that careers, much like life, demand compromise.
Hello 👋 one quick ask before you keep reading.
If you are new to this newsletter, please subscribe: it’s free… and interesting ✔
If you are already subscribed, please share it: don’t be selfish! 🤗
The role you set your sights on might not offer the same salary as another option you’re considering. However, the level of flexibility that company provides is unparalleled.
A prestigious brand extends an offer, but it’s for a position lower than the current one you are covering in a less renowned company. The compensation will be lower. What’s your move?
I could come up with dozens variations of this dilemma, but the “what” is less crucial than the “why” here.
Navigating these decisions calls for compromise.
First and foremost, pinpoint what you’re seeking in a job.
By now, you’ve realized that the ideal job is a myth. It’s a blend of good, bad, and, well, sh*t aspects. However, these aren’t universal truths – you must evaluate what each of those aspects is to you.
At different life and career stages, you might prioritize certain factors over others.
The amount of time you can dedicate to work might be significantly higher in your 20s, when you’re single and ready to explore the world, compared to when you’re in your 40s, with a young family and more settled in a particular location. As your personal circumstances evolve, your career outlook will likely shift too.
By your 50s, assuming your career hasn’t been tumultuous, your financial priorities should be more or less in order. Money might hold less sway, and lifestyle could rise higher on your priority list. Spending time with your children and perhaps even your grandchildren becomes a focal point.
Life, as well as your career, hinges on compromise, but it’s crucial not to compromise on the things you haven’t figured out yet.
Start by examining yourself: delve into your motivations, uncover the driving forces that fuel your actions, and truly understand what holds real significance in your life. This undertaking requires substantial effort because, whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, the constant barrage of contrasting opinions and influences from your surroundings can easily lead you astray. You are - we all are - in a crowded room with everyone voicing their opinions, and the noise becomes overwhelming and confusing.
To counter this, set aside dedicated time and commit to this task.
Be prepared for this to be an ongoing process: your self-awareness needs consistent nurturing. As you evolve and as circumstances change, your priorities and goals will shift. Thus, periodic self-reflection is essential to ensure that the path you’re on remains aligned with your current aspirations. This isn’t about finding a fixed answer and sticking to it rigidly: it’s about making sure that what was working for you then still works for you now.
The perfect home does not exist and you won’t serendipitously stumble upon it. Your perfect job won’t magically appear either.
However, this realization is remarkably empowering.
It signifies that embracing compromise doesn’t equate to surrendering your dreams or settling for less.
You realize that compromise is not a compromise in the pursuit of a well-lived life.