Author Topic: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?  (Read 5616 times)

epower

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Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« on: October 21, 2017, 02:22:40 PM »
I was speaking to my father the other day (he is 63 and recently retired) about career and climbing the ladder in the workplace.

I try to do a good job while Iím at work and moved into a management position looking after nine staff only a few weeks ago.

The thing that he said when he looks back on it is that he worked his way up, made more money for our family and got more seniority in the companies he worked for but when he looks back he wonders really what it was all for. If he didnít do the job, someone else would have instead. He didnít really create anything other than doing his day to day and it really got me wondering what the whole point of it all is. Dealing with the superficial politics and all the other stresses of a work week and western society of working, commuting home, spending and losing your health, friends, etc in the process.

marty998

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2017, 02:40:10 PM »
It's worth it to the extent the extra income allows you to FI earlier.

Much easier to do if you're on $120k+ in a management position, rather than $30-$40k in an entry level. Your gross savings in $$ terms can pretty much go from $0-$10k per year to $50-$60k per year.

It's a huge difference.

FIREySkyline

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2017, 02:47:41 PM »
It's worth it to the extent the extra income allows you to FI earlier.

Much easier to do if you're on $120k+ in a management position, rather than $30-$40k in an entry level. Your gross savings in $$ terms can pretty much go from $0-$10k per year to $50-$60k per year.

It's a huge difference.
This. Definitely not worth it just for the sake of doing it, but that's the point, we want to FI so we can ensure we spend every minute doing what we want to do. If you move up the ladder on your way to FI and bump the date forward, so much the better. Especially if your FI date is within the next 5-10 years (and if you have a managerial position, no reason it shouldn't be even if you're starting near zero)

ixtap

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2017, 02:58:23 PM »
It depends on the field, the company and how high. Right now, SO still has another level or two where promotions grant him new challenges and a certain amount of freedom, but he still has a buffer between himself and the 5-10 year planning, which he hates. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Uh, US Samoa?

Northern gal

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2017, 06:03:46 PM »
I did a graph I could dig up.

Essentially deducting our expenses from various income assumptions and what that would mean for time to FIRE.

The result was logarithmic: large increases in income shorten the time to FIRE dramatically.

So I grit my teeth and get on with it.

Besides, I have friends who took lower paying jobs in the hope it would mean less politics, stress etc. It never seemed to work. Low paying jobs can be sucky too.

chasesfish

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2017, 06:31:22 PM »
It has 100% helped me, the difference between $70,000 in income and $225,000 is significant.  I'm also not exactly killing myself at my job.

Its all about finding the right balance for you in your exchange of time for money.  I'm at the highest level position I can get where the company won't mess with my position and I'm not selling my soul 60 hours a week to the company.  Some days/things are hard, but I'm finishing up the 4th year and its more robotic and boring vs. difficult.

We're also now right next to our ER date and my wife stopped working a couple years ago.  Its been worth it to us...

rdaneel0

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2017, 07:10:05 PM »
To me, the point is the money. As long as a job doesn't take up more time than I'm willing to give (I'm just not the kind of person who is driven enough to work 60+ hour weeks), I'll take the promotion.

I always laugh when people here say that in retirement they'll just do a "fun" job like work in a coffee shop or movie theatre. Hahaha! Low paying jobs are soul sucking too, they take a ton of your time also, those jobs aren't worth anything either, they don't result in producing something great or giving you a sense of purpose, etc., and someone else could do them, AND on top of all that they also don't pay well.

I'm definitely someone who separates life passion from work. I actually really like my job, but it's not who I am. I don't think I'll ever have a job where I feel a sense of greater purpose or fulfillment, but in my mind, that's why I get paid. I could quit my job tomorrow and the world would lose nothing, I would be immediately replaced. What my job does for me is give me financial security, provide for my family (whom I love more than anything, that's my true passion), allow me to travel with loved ones, allow me to do fun things, learn, solve problems, and do it all in a pretty cushy existence. I'm not up at the crack of dawn doing manual labor outside, I'm sitting in a cushy office in a major city doing something that I have a talent for with reasonable people who are friendly and nice, and for me that's enough. 


Hargrove

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2017, 09:58:23 PM »
Is it worth... "it"?

Well, what's "it"?

It had better be worth whatever you answer. We're all here because we decided that going to work because "you have to" and blowing any higher-pay advantage on slightly nicer, bigger, more expensive-to-upkeep... stuff... is totally not worth it.

But if that money is going into investments to buy you the freedom to do anything you want with your life three times faster, that's totally worth it.

It seems like your question is whether it makes sense to be on a prestige/promotion treadmill. And the answer is no - not unless that stuff is deeply satisfying and fulfilling for you, and I'm guessing it isn't.

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2017, 01:19:33 AM »
I was first tier management for a couple of years and disliked it.

I've moved around companies and industries to get better paid individual contributor work and found that worthwhile. I've been offered management responsibilities and turned them down. I now get to do the interesting strategy work with our senior leadership in my specialism, so I have some degree of influence, but don't have to deal with any people management issues. 

I'm happy that my decisions worked for me.

Dicey

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2017, 05:29:12 AM »
It also depends on what you do. I spent most of my career in sales, with a few years in management. I generally enjoyed life more when I was not in management. I stayed in commission sales for a better work/reward ratio.

Mr Griz

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2017, 06:05:16 AM »
Iíve worked for the same Megacorp since grad school. I didnít spend much effort trying to climb the ladder but it happened naturally. What made the difference to me was taking new positions & assignments that interested me instead of trying to maximize my labor grade. No doubt I would be higher up and make more if I had more actively managed my career.

Working for Megacorp has challenges such as one-size-fits-none processes but over time you learn to minimize the drag. On the other hand Iíve been on and led some fantastic teams and been part of some significant accomplishments. The last ten years have been in new business and itís also been rewarding. Itís also allowed my to travel the world & meet some great people.

Thatís said, even drinking champagne at 30,000 feet gets old after a while.  I could probably go up one more level in the corporation but have decided to retire next year.  I could have left five years ago but being FI actually made it easier to stay. Itís been a good climb and I have few regrets.

albireo13

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2017, 06:38:00 AM »
I work as an R&D engineer for MegaCorp for 32 yrs now.  I've turned down offers for management positions to stay technical.
Why?
1. A lot more pressure in middle mgmt position and little pay incentive
2. a lot more time spent in meetings and spreadsheets
3. IMO ... middle management is the "dead zone" in a large MegaCorp 
4. I just have no interest in "climbing the ladder".   Would rather jab toothpicks into my eyeballs!

Sun Hat

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2017, 06:48:23 AM »
It wasn't worth it for me. Going from $80k/yr to $100k/yr meant going from 80% analysis, 20% management to 10% analysis, 90% management. As a mega-introvert who thrived on the mental challenge of the analysis, I found it exhausting.

When your pay is already quite good and your savings rate is already ~50%, incremental increases in pay for prestige have less inherent value if it decreases your QOL.

Laura33

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2017, 07:28:24 AM »
Depends on what "it" is.  If you're chasing prestige and power, the happiness that provides is fleeting.  But if it gives you more interesting work, more say in important decisions, then absolutely.

Legal work is different from most MegaCorp jobs that are popular here.  But when you're junior, you get a combination of scutwork (e.g., document review) and small pieces of the bigger picture (e.g., research and write a memo on a particular issue so someone else can figure out how that fits into the brief they are writing or strategy they are preparing for the client).  Now I manage the relationship with the client, I come up with the ideas and strategies -- and I have younger people to do the boring research for me.  It is infinitely better.

I also continue to learn things that I didn't know I needed to learn.  For example, I have received some compliments here for saying things tactfully.  That is something I have learned from the responsibilities I took on moving up in my job.  I used to think that what the law said was the be-all and end-all -- I mean, if you're "right," we're done here, right?  But the reality is that being right doesn't make a damn bit of difference if you can't persuade the folks making the decisions -- whether that is the judge, the client, or your opposing counsel.  The psychological/strategy things do not come naturally to me, and it has been an amazing feeling to realize that I have learned these skills that I never realized were teachable.

And, yeah, the money doesn't suck either.  ;-)

nobody123

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2017, 07:34:12 AM »
I'm roughly mid-career.  When I was still an IC, I busted my ass to get the opportunities to move up the ladder (60+ hr. weeks).  I've been in varying levels of management for the past decade, and hope to make one or two more jumps up before I hang 'em up.  Right now, I'm in a good position where I have a relatively low-stress 40 hours at work with the flexibility to make it to my kids' sports and school events.  Ultimately, very few of us are curing cancer; most of us are just cogs in the machine maximizing shareholder value.  As long as I have time for my family, I'll always take the higher paying job.  I learned long ago that that my career is there to make money to ensure my family is secure -- I don't apply any deeper meaning to it.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #15 on: October 22, 2017, 07:45:48 AM »
My career has been, um, interesting.  I went from high-value roles, that were solo in the organizations Iíve worked, to upper management over seeing 2 business units and a large staff with middle-management direct reports. It took me a year to get my hang of things but now I make all the key decisions and have a team that does all the work executing my vision. I like this side of the table but right now, after MMM, itís all just a means to an end for me to FIRE and catch up after years of financial ignorance. 

itchyfeet

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #16 on: October 22, 2017, 11:53:15 AM »
I am a corporate slave.

I am digging for salt somewhere in the mire of middle management, with a few less layers to the top of megacorp than to the bottom.

Apparently there is Still plenty of room for yet more "career progression" in my career :-/ .... if only they knew...

The past 3 years have been exhausting. The money is pretty great, but DW doesn't think it's worth it.

I spend many hours every week at airports and on planes, and many nights away from home. When I am not travelling I am either working late or taking calls deep into the night. The pressure to deliver is often pretty all consuming. When I'm not working I am mostly sleeping on the sofa.... a bad habit I need to kick.

I can see DW's point, she is not getting the best of me. But I think it will all be worth it. So for now it's just a matter of keep calm and carry on.  Just 20 more months and then freedom.

Personally, I couldn't manage this pace for a 40 year career, although there are plenty that seemly can. I can only tip my hat. Senior management is for them and not me. The drive and energy some people have is seriously impressive.

I had a nice balanced life for most of the first 20 years of my career before taking on my current assignment. The last time I had an overly demanding job I just quit and got a new job. This time it's a sprint to the finish line.

I think once it's all over I will look back on this time fondly. It's been a wild ride pitting my wits and negotiation skills against some seriously clever business people from all across the world.

pecunia

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Re: Looking back on career- was climbing corporate ladder worth it?
« Reply #17 on: October 22, 2017, 12:11:42 PM »
I find this post interesting.  I could never climb to the top.  I cannot kiss the lower backside and I've always been too much of a rebel.  I used to refer to folks like yourselves as "swivel chair commandos."  I've seen decisions made about what I am doing without any consideration about myself. 

I'm telling you all.  The ones who have come down to my level over the years and who have actually spent a little time talking to me, I have faithfully followed.  These folks are gems and rare in management.

As time has gone on, I've seen that these folks are people like me.  I've seen them try very hard to accommodate those above them.  Some have apologized for actions which their hearts have known to be wrong.  In my narrow minded perspective, I've never seen the true hatred you folks hold for your positions.  These posts have been an education.

I haven't seen too many people in the crafts post herein.  Many of these people do make good money and work copious quantities of overtime for which they are paid.  Maybe, they don't hate their jobs so much as to want the early outs that everyone here dreams about.

Thank you for the information.