I used to think that people, especially before their 40s, who made low-to-mid six figures were in the upper echelons of career nirvana. Yet every year throughout my career I’ve made more and more money. At first this was a little game for myself – how much more could I earn if I just asked for it and exhibited confidence. I’ve gotten fairly good at negotiating, but not so much at holding my value. Big problem.
The thing I’ve realized now that I’m, in my mind, making a lot of money (mind you, not like, wall street money, but still, a solid upper middle class income) is that, surprisingly, I’m not the type of person driven by money. With the high salary comes different kinds of expectations in terms of professional polish and management ability. To just look at myself in the mirror and say “you know what, maybe I’m not cut out for this, and that’s not a bad thing,” makes me feel a whole lot better.
No matter what field you’re in, or what you do, there are opportunities to become an expert at it and make a decent sum of money. But just letting life bounce you into a field that you aren’t naturally good at, and somehow have managed to con people into thinking you can do the job, isn’t an ideal way to live. It’s hyperventilatingly stressful, depressing, and ultimately not good for anyone involved. At some point you have to look at yourself in said mirror and say “listen, you aren’t a six-figure professional, and that’s ok.”
What’s more, I know I’d be incredibly inspired if I were to be able to actually work on the product side of the house vs the more business side. I’d still leverage all of my knowledge form the business side, but at the end of the day I want to build great products. I’ve been saying this for the past 10 years. I just keep finding myself in jobs that pay more and require more responsibilities at something that isn’t a natural fit for my abilities.
When I interview candidates who just LOVE this profession, it becomes very clear to me that I’m in the wrong role. And right now I’m open to a lower salary if it means being in a position where I’m a better fit. I just don’t know how to get there. The lower salary doesn’t bother me, especially if I move to somewhere with a lower cost of living, however to even make the transition it seems grad school is still the easiest way — and then it seems silly to pour a hundred-thousand dollars into a degree that will land me a job that pays a hundred-thousand dollars less than what I make today. But I guess if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.
If money doesn’t make me happy, and it clearly doesn’t beyond meeting basic needs, then I need to figure out what will — and chase after it as if my life depended on it. Because it does.