At the age of 25, I graduated with my MBA and decided that I wanted to be involved in the tech industry. Previously, I had worked in finance and consulting and always wanted to be a part of something more innovative, creative and disruptive. I didn’t like the stuffy culture in finance — tech seemed much more authentic and true to me. Like many others, the lure of working in tech was exciting! Being hired to support the sales side of the business at a large software company was lucrative. Generous salaries paired with even more generous bonuses driven off big deals won during the year. By the time I had completed my second year, I realized that with my bonuses I was taking home a lot of money for a professional at my age. That too in Canada. One of my bosses during my tenure there used to say the best businesses are soft, namely soft drinks and software primarily driven by the large margins prevalent in these industries. As a young person, it’s easy to get caught up being comfortable — living life with corporate travel paid for by clients, a relatively good work-life balance and a generous income that can more than support a single individual.
Looking back, here are some lessons I learned from working in a high paying corporate job before becoming an entrepreneur.
It’s all about confidence
It’s easy to feel intimidated when many of your coworkers are much older or more experienced than you. What do you know about the deal that could potentially be more valuable than a veteran in the industry? The reality is most client facing careers are a confidence game. Sales people change all the time, some have little to no knowledge of what they’re selling and still march in like they own the show each and every time. As a young person, I always struggled to see my potential and sometimes didn’t have the self confidence I should have had. Getting good grades throughout my academic career meant I understood the subject matter well and could grasp new concepts quickly but university is not the real world. Building more confidence comes from being more vulnerable, being more out there and not in the comfort of a classroom. Raise your hand to take on the next challenge at work, ask “silly” questions, keep learning and be bold. You have nothing to lose.
Don’t expect to constantly feel fulfilled
A high paying job and a dream job are not necessarily the same thing.
As a purpose driven individual I always question most things I work on. Why are we doing it this way? Why is it beneficial to the customer? Why can’t we do it this way instead? Unfortunately, there is not always an answer to these questions in large corporations and sometimes it is just a matter of it is the way it is. It can be unfulfilling to not have the ability to do things your own way or learn things you are not interested in but it is part of the job. You do it to do your job really well, not to always feel fulfilled. That is the reality.
Always think about how what you’re doing today will get you to tomorrow
It’s easy to get complacent and enjoy the benefits of a high paying job. This will however not always promise you growth. Always think about how what you’re learning and doing well today will be a stepping stone for your next position. If it’s a promotion, are you working on tasks that will make you a good fit for that position? Are you taking on added responsibilities? Or are you too caught up being so good at your current role making yourself irreplaceable in your current position? There’s a fine balance in doing your role well to earn your next promotion and being too narrowly focused on it leaving you stuck in the same position.
Money isn’t enough motivation
Just like most things in life, a great job comes with several challenges. Steering through corporate politics, unreasonable deadlines and unclear tasks. In order to love your job there are many factors beyond pay that must be aligned to allow you to contribute your best work. Though most people in high paying roles tend to be A type personalities where competitiveness is embedded in their DNA, we are all humans at the end of the day and want to feel acknowledged for the work we do. Our salary and bonuses are meant to indicate our worth to an organization, but that isn’t enough to keep going. The culture, management style and care for our health all matter so much more.
“If you want to be successful in this world, you have to follow your passion not a paycheck.” — Jen Welter, NFL’s first female coach
With a steady job and financial freedom comes a certain sense of stability. But once you know you can have that why not explore what else is out there? This job can always be yours but since you have financial freedom maybe you can invest in a side hustle? Try learning something completely different? Surround yourself with people you otherwise wouldn’t. This expands your horizons. For me a strong corporate background was the perfect launchpad to start my own business. Having my finances in order for a couple years meant I could go try something completely new. If I wanted to go back to doing a similar job I knew I always could. The risk of staying in a comfortable job for too long is that the more you delay trying things you really want to, the less likely you will ever be to achieving them.
“The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now.” — Zig Ziglar
Hopefully, I’ve planted some thoughts for you to think about as you explore what’s next for you in your career.