Climbing the Corporate Ladder…But At What Expense?

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Posted August 28, 2013 by Kristen J. Zavo in Career Moves

Ladder

Now you’re climbing to the top of the company ladder
Hope it doesn’t take too long
Can’t you see there’ll come a day when it won’t matter
Come a day when you’ll be gone

I understand about indecision
But I don’t care if I get behind
People living in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind.

Recognize those words? If you didn’t know better, they could be part of a conversation between two seasoned business women, but they are actually the words from Boston’s Peace of Mind (full lyrics here).

I’m a big fan of classic rock and Boston is one of my favorite bands. I’ve heard this song countless times, but the last time it came on the radio, these words stood out to me. I wondered – How many of us are climbing the proverbial corporate ladder at the expense of our peace of mind?

It doesn’t have to be this way. Although not always easy, it is absolutely possible to have career success and peace of mind. I believe that self-awareness, honesty with ourselves (even when we don’t like the answers) and the guts to follow our dreams (even if it goes against convention), are the keys to making it work.

Formula for Success?

When we were younger, the formula for success was relatively simple. Work hard, get good grades, graduate to the next grade so you could get into a good college, repeat the process, and then get a good job. Climbing the corporate ladder – that is being promoted, earning higher titles and more money – is the adult equivalent of moving on to the next grade level in school. It is the logical thing to work for, and an easy way to measure success.

And this might work for you. But if you aren’t happy and fulfilled, you might need to consider deviating from the traditional path, and even go so far as to redefine what success means to you.

A couple questions to consider:

  • Are you putting off living a full life?
    Many women choose to “focus on their career” until they get that promotion(s), hit six figures, etc. – all while putting the rest of their life on hold. This comes at the expense of their health, relationships (both romantic and friendships), vacations, and time for fun. Before they know it, a decade or more goes by. Maybe they are where they wanted to be career-wise, but it can feel empty without everything else.
  • Are you enjoying the journey?
    Do you wake up most days excited to get to work? Are you striving for that promotion because you think you should, or because of your passion for your work? Of course there will be sacrifices on your way to your dream job, but do you enjoy at least some aspects of your current position? Have you thought about what life will be like when you get to the top of the ladder?

Never Too Late

If you find you are trading your peace of mind for corporate success, it doesn’t mean you have to choose one or the other, or even make any rash decisions. Start by taking some time for yourself – even just 10 minutes a day. Use that time to meditate, read, walk, and think about where you want to be in 10, even 20 years – not just career-wise, but in life.

Think about what success means to you, and how you might make that a reality. How do you want your 40 year-old self to look back on the last decade? No matter how Type-A you are, I can’t imagine a long-term goal that does not include maintaining peace of mind… Will the path you’re currently on allow you to get there? Regardless of where you are today, always remember –  it’s never too late to make a change.

 


About the Author

Kristen J. Zavo

Kristen J. Zavo is a product development, strategy and innovation professional, with a special interest in the retail industry. Having always been interested in the people side of business, Kristen loves to explore, reflect on, and share stories about the challenges and adventures of being a businesswoman. No topic is off limits - whether it's how to handle being the only woman in the boardroom, or figuring out how to to pack all the "essentials" for a 2-week business trip in just a carry-on! Outside of work, she loves exploring new places, spending time at the beach and meeting friends to workout (spin or yoga, anyone?!).

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