In Defence of the Slow Build Career
Millennials are the impatient generation, but it’s time we slowed down
According to recent reports, over 90% of millennials want ‘rapid career progression.’ They also want the same benefits other generations enjoyed — opportunities for growth, job stability and a competitive salary — but the speed at which they want them is much faster.
It seems that we millennials want all the things, and we want them now. But in reality, it doesn’t always turn out like this.
My career trajectory (read: various attempts to avoid a career entirely) plays out very differently.
I ditched the rapid progress for the slow build.
And I’m glad I did.
The Long(est) Game
Everything I’ve embarked on in my working life has taken years of work to get off the ground.
I started a business fresh out of university. Not because it was my passion, but because I had no idea what I wanted to do next. When you throw yourself into a business without the slightest idea what you’re doing, you can’t expect it to take off like a rocket. My story is no quick-rise to fame. My startup journey was neither quick nor did it end in fame. It took 4 or so years of my life just to establish a reputation in our local area, and then Coronavirus turned up and shot it all to hell.
I’ve been writing since the end of 2016 — thousands of words and hundreds of articles — and only now is it showing signs that it could become a viable and sustainable career option for me. My work with the Post-Grad publication is also nearing its two year anniversary, with the publication already into its fourth year. While tremendous progress has been made since day one, we’re only starting to see the fruits of that labor now.
The point of this is that in total, I’m clocking around 7 years of work spread across three separate ventures, and only now do I feel like I’m getting somewhere. Even then, I’ve only managed to get feet onto the bottom few steps of the ladder. I’ve got a long way to climb yet.
Sure, 90% of millennials want fast-moving, give-me-the-money-now careers and retirement at 35 as a millionaire. Why wouldn’t we? But for most of us, it isn’t feasible. I’m not even sure it’s beneficial to sprint through your career with the aim of retiring as fast as possible. Think of everything you’d miss along the way in your relentless pursuit; learning, growth, relationships, exciting new opportunities and more.
When you’ve got time on your side, your 20s is the best time to relax, try your hand at various ventures and extract every drop of learning that comes your way.
The Benefits Of The Slow Ride
When you forget about what age you should have ‘made it’ by and stop putting your focus on rapid progression, you free yourself from expectations. I’ve never told myself, “my company needs to be making this much by the end of the year.” I’ve never uttered the phrase, “I want to be a famous writer by next Tuesday.” I don’t put that kind of pressure on myself. Forget the end result — the journey is the most exciting part.
I start every project with the same line of thinking; this is going to take forever to come to fruition. It’s going to demand everything from me. And I’m 100% in it for the long run.
With that weight of expectation off my shoulders, I focus on doing things right and maximizing what I learn from it, both about the craft and myself. I focus on the day-to-day, making sure I’ve done something, anything, to improve myself from yesterday. I take my time to find the right people and nurture relationships with them. I take the time to give back and help others.
So instead of fixating on the end, focus on the now. Take just an hour of your time each day to yourself and dive into the things you love doing. Reach out to someone once a day — not to boost your career — but to make friendships and connections that are far more than simply transactional. Allow yourself to follow your curiosities, and take on new and exciting opportunities when they arise — even if they seem like a step back at the time. Feel like starting a business? There was no time like yesterday. Wish you were a writer? The door has never been more open. Your 20s are the years to embark on these journeys.
Don’t miss out on this vital period of self-learning and growth. What’s the point in sprinting to the end only to find out you’re not the person you wanted to be when you get there? Those who judge themselves on the biggest number or the best title might feel like winners at the time, but they’re losing out on so much more.
As I move into my 8th year of taking this slow build career ladder one step at a time, I don’t recognize the person who started the climb anymore. And I’m thrilled about that as it means I’m growing into the person I never knew I was capable of becoming.