When we manage our careers, this issue always comes up. Should we give our all for the firm? I am sure that there are different views out there on this question. Here is my take on this based on my experience.
It depends on the circumstances. I remember working long hours, traveling even longer hours and still getting the boot. I often wondered what the magic formula was for some of my colleagues.
They were pretty good at their work, they were seemingly dedicated to the firm, played the politics to their advantage and “worked” the boss. They always built up a rapport with the boss and seemed comfortable in their roles. They seldom worried about losing their jobs and made a move to new firms with a promotion. No lateral movements for them. It all seemed so easy.
What are the sacrifices that you should make for the firm? Here is an article that discusses the topic: Set Boundaries on the Sacrifices You’ll Make for Work.
Read through this article. It’s really a summary of the obvious. This is the usual stuff that you’ll get from the HR types. In my view, in the end, you need to figure out what you’re getting for what you’re giving. It’s a trade. If you work like a dog, long hours, traveling, not being home and there’s no payback, forget it! Believe me, when they need to cut people that will only vaguely remember the sacrifices that you made. There will be other metrics that are reviewed to determine your longevity: your loyalty to the boss, your relationship with your boss and your performance. Remember what I said earlier, no one ever got fired for incompetence.
So carefully keep an eye as to what’s going around you. I remember the guys that got ahead while working at Citibank Canada. The most aggressive of them (when it came to generating profits) got the furthest the quickest. They understood the corporate culture. But in each case, they had a mentor or a promoter within the organization. No one would go it alone. You couldn’t. The place was too big to get recognition based on the merits. So there had to be another way.
The boss had it figured out
One night I was at the office. The follow in charge of the Treasury Group was working away in his office, papers all over his desk. I asked him what he was up to. He closed the door and sat me down.
He said to me: “You’ve got to understand the accounting. If you don’t understand the accounting you’ll do the wrong thing. Only book deals that benefit you and the firm. If there’s no benefit to you, find another deal.”
I’m paraphrasing the conversation of course. But the point was clear. If there’s nothing in it for you, don’t do it. This gentlemen’s career took him to bigger and bigger jobs. Yes, it’s “form” over substance. But either you’re in or you’re out.
He didn’t have a Ph.d. or an MBA. But he understood how the bank worked. No point in sweating it if there’s nothing in it for you. And his staff members that helped him reach his goals moved on to greater and greater things.