Careers without Cultivation

A few weeks ago, I listened to this podcast from NPR regarding the credit crisis and all the craziness that took place right before the bubble began to burst.

One gentleman by the name of Glen practically leaped out of the report. He was a young guy, fresh out of college, making $75,000-$100,000 per month. His job was to package mortgages and sell them to Wall Street as investment products.

Can you imagine how much hell you’d raise with all that money at 22-23 years old?

I’d imagine any of us would take that opportunity if it came up given the circumstances at the time. Unfortunately, that’s not usually how life works.

Cultivating a career is hard work. It rarely falls into your lap and you rarely make a lot of money when you start. It takes a lot of sacrifice on your own time reading, studying, making connections, etc.

You should expect to spend a good chunk of your early life deciding what you want to do and how you can leverage that in order to feed your family in the future. Once that decision is made, you should expect that it is going to take several years before the fruit of your labor is going to kick in. Often, as in my field, it takes a college degree plus a few years of experience before you start making some decent money.

I’m extremely lucky in that I found a career I love that also happens to offer a pretty decent salary (albeit sub-Glen) all things considered. However, it hasn’t been extraordinarily easy to become good at what I do. I’ve been working at it since I created my first “for-profit” program at the age of 13!

I’d advise anyone to be cautiously skeptical of any position that promises the kind of money Glen was making (or even a fraction of that) without putting in a fairly substantial amount of time and energy. If you’re lucky (and perhaps more importantly, talented) you might be able to cut a few corners here and there. But don’t count on it. Trying to make a quick dollar instead of a career is like a crap shoot and your chances of a sustainable lifestyle decrease substantially the more you believe that you can avoid the ramp up period and jump right into dropping your Hamiltons. Even beyond that, it’s much easier to live a modest life doing something you enjoy than to hate what you do and make lots of money.

If anything, this credit crisis has demonstrated just how fleeting the promise of quick wealth can be. If it sounds too good to be true …


About johnnywey

Welcome to A Regular Expression. This blog is designed to reflect my thoughts on life, music, software design, Apple, faith, philosophy, and whatever else I can think of.

Posted on November 10, 2008, in General, Life, Programming. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Although the military gave me a late start I think there’s something to the phrase “learn in your 20s, earn in your 30s”. Maybe the exact numbers aren’t important but the notion that you should build a solid base before really pushing for a pay-off.

    Probably half of the job choices I’ve made in my career I’ve taken less money and I think my career is more solid and fruitful because I didn’t opt for the short term dollars.

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