Many students go to college and pursue known money-making degrees—engineering, computer science, and business among a few of them.
They may pursue these career tracks because they are truly interested in the field, or they may choose them because they want to be financially comfortable during their lifetimes and they know that a lowly English major, while pursuing her passion, will never be rich. (Ask me how I know.)
Follow these individuals 20 years later when they have achieved a great deal of financial success, and you may find them less delighted with both their lives and their chosen career paths.
A High Power Corporate Job Isn’t All It Seems
Monica is a friend of mine who studied accounting in college.
She joined the factory line of a pharmaceutical company while in college, and when she earned her degree, she moved up to the administrative offices.
Each year has brought her a greater promotion, and now that she has been there 20 years, she is making a very nice salary and has survived several rounds of layoffs.
Monica often thinks of leaving her job, but she is afraid to step away from the money and the insurance benefits. She secretly wishes that she will be offered a buyout so she could find a less stressful job, but that hasn’t happened, and though she still hopes for it, I don’t see it ever happening.
She is too valuable of an employee, and she rarely says no to her employer.
Monica has two small children, and she looks to her family members to help raise her children because she works so many hours and has to travel for work. She is frustrated that she is unable to spend time with her family, and she is exhausted. In the last 10 years, she has gained weight and feels miserable.
At Least You Have a Job
In this economy, people don’t like to complain about their jobs because they feel grateful to have them.
However, the ones who are left, like Monica, may be making good money, but they have more and more responsibilities put on them as other employees are laid off. They may now be doing the work of two or three employees when just ten years ago they were only doing work for their own job.
The hours have gotten longer during this recession, and the financial compensation has not followed.
As University of California-Berkeley economist Brad DeLong notes, until not long ago,
“businesses would hold on to workers in downturns even when there wasn’t enough for them to do—would put them to work painting the factory—because businesses did not want to see their skilled, experienced workers drift away and then have to go through the expense and loss of training new ones. That era is over. These days firms take advantage of downturns in demand to rationalize operations and increase labor productivity, pleading business necessity to their workers.”
The True Cost of Your Corporate Job
Having money is nice.
It can bring you financial freedom, many of the pleasures in life and a comfortable retirement. If you choose, you can donate to help others.
However, too often there is a downside to making a good living.
The hours required may cause you to sacrifice time with your kids and spouse, which may eventually lead to a divorce. Your health can be sacrificed, not just in weight gain but in more serious conditions such as heart attacks, in part due to stress.
I am not condemning a good living.
Money is appealing and can make life much more enjoyable.
However, when you have a job that requires so many hours to make a good living that you are sacrificing your health, your family, your marriage, maybe even your life, you have to ask yourself whether your high power job is really worth the sacrifice.
If the answer is no, the time has come to ask yourself what you can do differently.