Sometimes making a good career move does not always equate to moving upward. In some circumstances, the best move you can make is a lateral move. We live in a society where we feel like if we are not moving up or moving forward constantly, that is a bad thing. Some call it being stuck in a rut or being in a funk, but it is not always a bad thing to find positions that are similar to your current title. It really just depends on how you look at it. If you are in a job that you love, and it gets you out of bed in the morning, then keep doing it until you can’t or seems like it’s time to move on or retire. It does not mean that you are not successful; it just means that you have longevity and have proved your worth to your employer.
Personal Story That Taught Me Volumes
I will give you a story of a former colleague that I came to respect greatly in the short time that we worked together. Brian (that is his real name; I will withhold his last name) and I worked together at a healthcare organization on the IT team. I was a VMware consultant there on a short-term contract, and Brian had been there for over 10 years…in the same job! Not knowing the circumstances and because I can get sucked into the attitude of wondering why people are not moving up and/or forward, I made a snap judgment, and it was a crappy thing for me to do. Brian is an older gentleman, around 58-60 years old. He was the help desk ticket guy, opening and closing tickets all day, every day. One day, we went for tacos at lunch and the conversation we had on the way there and back changed my outlook on workplace success forever.
Be in a Job that Lets you be Happy in LIfe
I asked Brian, “Why have you been doing the same job for 10 years? Aren’t you tired of working help desk tickets… it’s a thankless job!” He responded with two words: “I’m happy.” The way in which he said those two words spoke volumes about how he really felt. He was happy working help desk tickets; he put in his eight hours (sometimes more when patches came out) and punched out to go home to his wife and dogs. He lived three miles from work, and his commute consisted of 11 minutes of his day, round trip! Sometimes, he even walked to work. He was happy and content with his work-life balance, which is a really great thing. Are you happy in your job, in the daily grind, and in your commute? Do all those dollars you chased or worked so hard for make up for all that? None of that mattered to Brian. He was just happy living his life.
Live within Your Means
As a help desk tech, he was not making a ton of money. He wore jeans and a Hawaiian shirt almost every day, and he did not care about it. He told me that he did not have a ton of bills. His house was modest, and it was paid off. He had a car that he had been driving for 20 years. I realized that I was chasing things: cars, a nice house, a better lawn than my neighbor, etc. I needed Amazon, Netflix, DirecTV, and the Internet to feel entertained. Brian lived within his means and did not have the financial stress that most of us grapple with daily.
Enjoy Time with Loved Ones and Friends
Brian told me he did not chase the corporate ladder or care about big raises because big raises came with more responsibility and expectations from your employer. Brian did not answer late night phone calls from his boss or respond to project-related emails before bedtime. He did not wake up and check his inbox or his text messages. Brian got up early and met a couple of his lifelong friends for breakfast on most days. He enjoyed his wife; he was generous with his time and paid more attention to her than he did to his work aspirations.
A Lateral Move or No Movement is not a Bad Thing
I could write so much about my conversation with Brian and the conversations that followed, but that would take several blog posts. I learned so much from him. However, most importantly, I learned that a lateral move or no move at all is not a bad thing. If you are in a job that you love, keep doing it and keep loving it. Sometimes a lateral move means a new opportunity to learn something you have not done before. It is not a negative thing. Stop for a minute and think about Brian. He was one of the most peaceful human beings I have ever encountered in a workplace (especially in an IT workplace!). Do you want peace and happiness in your life more than you want to climb the corporate ladder? It is good to aspire and to be a go getter, but make sure that you can keep doing what you love.
“As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.” – Ben Hogan