You–and I–need straight-talking stories like this because a lot of the decisions you make in your career affect every other element of your life. One decision today could put a spike in your income trajectory that sets you up for early retirement, or it could flatten your income for decades. Career changes, or the absence of them, can decide whether you do or do not ever have kids, buy a house, or actually enjoy the 100,000 hours you are likely to spend on your career in your lifetime.

Everyone gives you advice, but it’s often laced with more of ‘what’s in it for them’ vs. what’s in it for you. Your manager may tell you she loves your work, but do you see hard evidence that she’s promoting you with senior leadership vs. using your proficiency to hide her inadequacies from her leadership?

Or did your employer once tell you it is a ‘Best Place to Work’ for employees with families, but somehow, now that you are an employee, you are so overworked that you have no time to spend with your family? How can you hold them accountable for that non-tangible promise? But it was was part of your employment deal? You took a lower-paying job based on that promise but… you have no recourse, no levers of control.

And by the way, how did the company get listed by that big magazine as a Best Place to Work anyhow? Hello!!! Have you ever heard of handshakes, donations, data manipulation, magazine ads, sponsorships, and relationships that start with box seats? What do you think the marketing & image department does all day?!?

Not every action of every company is usury, but you need to be wise when agreeing to anything. Digest the underlying realities of every offer and decision, and decode the messages coming at you. Where are your levers of control? Are there any at all? Or are you accepting nice words and vague promises in exchange for your entire life? That’s not a deal! That’s serfdom.

If you have skills, they need you. You, in turn, need bottom-line conversations about your career decisions and how it affects your work and life. Any time you say the word “okay” or even “uh huh” – you must ask “what will I get out of this commitment and where are my levers of control should they stop holding up their end of the deal?”

So, read on and let me know what additional topics you are grappling with in managing your work/life realities.

Talking straight to keep the game fair – msh


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