Posts Tagged ‘Millenials’

I read Marci Alboher’s Shifting Careers blog in the New York Times on Saturday, and have been thinking about her Friday post it all weekend.

She pointed to Marc Andreessen’s posts about creating a successful career.  He makes some interesting points in the entries. I especially like what he has to say about making sure that you expose yourself to opportunities to fail, so that you can learn how to handle tough situations.

He also says that his advice is “aimed at high-potential people who want to excel throughout their careers and make a significant impact on their fields and in the world. These posts are not (emphasis in original) appropriate for people for whom work/life balance is a high priority or for whom lifestyle is particularly important.”

This is the part that Marci takes issue with, writing “I believe that it is possible to make a significant impact in one’s field and in the world while also having at least some modicum of work/life balance, even if it may not feel like that every day.”

Now if you’re reading my blog, you know that I tend to agree with Marci that you shouldn’t have to choose career achievement orsatisfaction in other parts of your life. You should be able to have both. But Andreessen’s advice is directed at young people – people starting out in their careers, even folks who are still deciding where to go to college and what to major in. I wonder if the advice is appropriate for people in that stage of life.

To excel and make significant impact, don’t you need experience, skills, expertise and even wisdom? And to excel and make significant impact that before you’re 50, don’t you have to give your career your all during some part of your life, so that you have something to offer when you want to dial it down a bit?

Here’s where I’m coming from: There are some things that I’m really good at. I can do them better than almost anyone in my company, which is why I can do my intense, exciting and gratifying job only four days a week –  sometimes I do it so well that I do it better in four days than most other people would be able to do in five days. But I wasn’t always so good at all of these things. It took time, dedication, and commitment. In fact, it took almost all of my time for many years of my life.  

I work with a lot of young people, Millennials, who feel like they should be able to quickly rise in the working world without sacrificing other parts of their lives. Is it wrong to ask them to give up that belief? Is there really another way to excellence and impact than working your butt off?

One answer to these questions is to encourage young people to choose a career that they like doing enough that it doesn’t have to feel like a sacrifice when they give their jobs a lot of their time. That way it feels fun and good and compelling even when it does “take over your life” for a period of time. But is that a cop out? Is there, in fact, another approach, that you can take from the beginning of your career, that I and my generational cohort didn’t know about?

I’m not sure. I’d love to hear some other folks’ opinions.


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