Tripling my income in 2 years
I was in a bad place.
I had been stuck in what felt like a dead-end job, or at least a slow trudging march toward office-induced insanity, for a few years.
I had applied for dozens of jobs - some within my industry, some not - with a focus on trying to find work that would interest me. I wanted jobs that were fun, exciting, or at least just not so bloody mind-numbing.
I got nothing. No jobs, no offers, not even an interview.
I was so unhappy.
One day, in a debate with a close friend about the stupidity of searching for a 'dream job' I decided that I was giving up. Giving up on a dream job, giving up on finding a job that I enjoyed, giving up on being happy at work.
Instead I was going to be a mercenary.
Money money money. That would be my focus. I would focus my energy on moving up as quick as a I could, gaining experience, and propelling myself faster up the earning ladder.
Enjoyment at work was no longer a priority. Work was just about making money so I would focus on exactly that.
And I succeeded.
Two years and a couple of job-jumps later and my yearly earnings were triple what I had been making. Triple! Oh yeah baby.
I had all the trappings of big corporate employment - paid gym memberships, expenses, living subsidies, laptop, mobile phone, big salary, big bonus, and big soul-crushing sadness.
I hated it. Every day was another 1000 papercuts on my soul. I was miserable.
I had tripled my income AND my unhappiness.
Turns out the mercenary approach didn't work for me. I couldn't just switch off at work to take a paycheck. Even in the most depressing and demotivating environment I still had a personal drive to do a good job. I still wanted to be useful, solve problems, and make the world more efficient. I couldn't just suck it up and focus on the money.
I didn't realise the mercenary approach wasn't for me straight away. I struggled hard for a few years through the tough times, using the excess income as motivation to persevere. When I finally realised I had to escape I felt like I was stuck again.
The money had become my golden handcuffs. It was hard to consider taking other jobs that might be up to 40% less money.
I was on the cusp of giving up my mercenary life but was beginning to doubt myself.
What if those jobs sucked too? What if they were just as a bad? What was I going to do?
At the time I felt completely lost but looking back I realise this was all a necessary part of my career journey.
Not all choices or paths will lead to a positive end. Some will take you deep into a dark and scary forest only to end with you staring face-to-face with a giant monster. Wait, I'm thinking of my kids' bedtime stories…
But the point is the same. Not everything we choose in our careers will be the best thing for us. We will make mistakes, focus on the wrong things, take a bad job, pursue goals that don't make us happy, and occasionally just completely screw things up.
That is good.
The important thing is to be aware of these possibilities. Always reassess your situation. Check whether your mindset has changed, whether those earlier choices still feel right, or whether you have discovered something new about yourself.
As you travel down the path(s) that are formed through your career your will change. You will grow. Your experience will make you become a completely different person with completely different goals and motivations.
Just ensure you keep considering your career choices in your new light. You wont get everything right but you can always reassess and change your path later on.
As for me, well here are the three main lessons I learned from my long detour in to the mercenary world.
1. Income is not everything - once you are above a certain point the amount of money you earn doesn't drastically change your life. Don't focus just on money at the expense of fun/interesting work.
2. Know your own motivations - I went against my gut feeling of looking for enjoyment and interesting work when I chased money. This just made me extremely unhappy. It was only when I went back to what was true to myself when I began finding good work and excelling.
3. Relax - careers are long. Mistakes happen. Shit jobs happen. But so do the good jobs. If you know what you are looking for and keep yourself moving toward it then the chances are high that you will have a long and enjoyable career. So don't get so focused on just what is happening now.
Good luck and happy career building!
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