“What’s your hurry?” “You have plenty of time to get ahead in your career.” “Take some time for fun.” “Why would you change jobs when you can coast in the one you have?” “Don’t be so competitive.” “Stop pushing yourself so hard.”
Perhaps friends and relatives have made statements like those above to you. Perhaps they are well meaning and they do feel like you are working too much. Or, perhaps they don’t understand that you have a career plan and that you are moving forward in a determined way. Or perhaps, they are comparing their own career commitment to yours, and they find theirs lacking. Or, maybe they want things to remain as they are, and if you change jobs or move, their lives will be somewhat changed, too.
Others may want to be helpful, but only you can decide how hard you will work or how ambitious you choose to be. There are a few guidelines that may be useful:
1. Give some thought to your career benchmarks. Are they realistic? Do you have an actual plan you are working toward? Have you included some “stretch goals?”
2. What measures of success are you using—salary level, title, authority level, financial independence, or job satisfaction. Where do family life, children, and happiness fit in?
3. What amount of commitment are you willing to give to your current position or career? How does that commitment fit with other personal responsibilities? For example, are you willing to live apart from your significant other for a period of time in order to get ahead? Are you willing to move your family frequently if the job requires it?
4. What about your support system? Is your current circle of friends drawn from longtime friendships, or are they mostly related to your workplace? How much do you depend on them?
5. Are you a risk taker or is stability more important to you. Do you like, even seek, change? These factors have an impact on your career ambition and choices.
6. Do you have a mentor or someone who can help you think through career decisions? Finding a mentor is often critical for career success. (Get your free copy of “Mentoring Matters.“)
7. Do you practice self-care and engage in a healthy lifestyle? Can you fit in time for physical activity and relaxation and personal interaction? So often the comments by others about slowing down are the result of you seeming to spread yourself too thin.
8. Do you have some friends and colleagues who are equally ambitious? In some ways, they can provide a professional–perhaps even a personal–mirror. Are they always exhausted? Do they drink too much or use other substances to get them through the work week? Are their personal lives rewarding or in shambles? Is your interaction with them always competitive, or, on the positive side, can you exchange tips and provide encouragement and support to one another?
Ambition is essential for building a career. So is hard work. But how you get ahead in your career, and how quickly, should be measured against other life goals. There is nothing wrong with being in a hurry, but be certain you are hurrying for all the right reasons.