Deciding against Career

The last weeks I have been very busy and my so much appreciated life-work-balance got skewed quite a bit to the wrong side…

Reason was that a team head position became surprisingly vacant in my company and the job description actually happened to fit my professional profile very well. So well indeed that I could not other than starting to think if I want to apply, because my chances seemed quite fair.

So I started to have some informal talks with the key stakeholders that were to decide on assigning this position and the thing obviously got quite tempting at first glance:

  • Leading a team of 6 people
  • That thing they call “visibility” in my company
  • Own office instead of crammed together three of us
  • Probably more money – I can only guess on that, but I’d estimate +10 or +15%
  • Better career opportunities

So I started to refurbish my CV, thought about formulating my “unique selling proposition”, prepared a case for the assessment center and all the other bullshit you have to do when you want to advertise yourself.

But then I decided to hold on for some days and give it a second thought.

A relaxing atmosphere often helps to understand what you really want. (here: Sailing at lake Chiemsee)

I had a weekend and took two additional days of, and me and my family rented out a sailing yacht at the lake Chiemsee near Munich for some days.

We had great wind, the boy and the baby obviously enjoyed the days (and the cosy night on board) with their parents and grandparents (who joined us). I had my nose in the wind, the ruder in the hand, looking at the mountain side behind the lake, we had our fair amount of beers in old Bavarian restaurants on small islands within the lake, and slowly I started to reconsider:

Leading a team?

Good, probably helps one’s ego, makes one more important and so on…
But on the other side: This means one really has to stand on the side of ones employer, one has responsibility and cannot take a day or two off spontaneously like I can in my current position. One has to tell quite unpleasant things to his team in the next round of cost cutting. One has to push (well, its called “motivate” typically) them to work harder and demand less and all the crap that unfortunately is expected of a “leader” in many “modern” companies.

And very important: I sure would have had to let go on parental leaves, my two days home office a week and frequent conversion of overtime to additional holidays. In other words: An unhealthy shift towards work and away from life.


Holy shit! Who wants visibility in a big company?
There is even a curse in Chinese that translates as follows: “May you get to the attention of important people”. Because if you get, the trouble typically starts. I know what I a speaking off, because I started my career working for a board member. I was very proud and very impressed at the beginning and honored to be able to join “important” board meetings and stuff, but tell you what? It soon became a horrible time, because I had to be at the disposal of my boss 24/7 more or less, and these guys are absolutely not used to people saying no to them. So when I did once in a while (as payment really was average only), things got complicated and I headed out somewhere else soon.
So my advise if you are employed would be: Find an interesting position with as much freedom and nice colleagues and boss as possible and then do all to avoid visibility and politics. And that is what I have already acquired.

Own office?

OK, that I would like. But then, currently I have 2 days home-office which would be gone. And home office is great – you save on commuting time, we sold our second car as Mrs. Woodpecker can do all her rides on these two days, you do not get interrupted all the time and … you have your own toilet 😉 😉 .

Better career opportunities?

Well, same as visibility. And it depends what you want. When I was sitting on the boat and thought about my own entries here in the blog, it became clear quite soon:
Career is nothing I ever wanted. It actually drags you back in the rat-race, and once you are at a certain level it becomes quite difficult to decide for down-shifting, as this is really not what is expected of management people.

More money?

Well, great, sure I would volunteer for more money! But when I started to think about it as being more or less the only motivation remaining with quite a lot of bullets on the con-side, then it finally boils down to the question: Is the money worth the several disadvantages?! And would a bit higher earnings really change my life to the better when I lose a lot of the freedom at the same instance?

Learn to say no to seemingly tempting offers

Given that it’s not so much more money in the end and we all know that our level of happiness is boosted only short-term by more money whereas it is affected long-term by the loss of freedom and time, the answer became clear quite quickly:

I did a good deed, refrained from going for the job and will leave it for one of the other guys who may benefit more from it (or who at least think they do).

And I continue enjoying and optimizing the simple employee life and the really great position I currently have.

I know there will be days when I will regret this decision because suddenly the few disadvantages of the current positions emerge again, but overall my gut says it was right to choose against career this time.

And I trust my gut a lot!

Well, however, finally I am mentally free again to concentrate on the important things: My 4 months of parental leave starting next week and our extended family trip through Italy that I am really looking forward to.

Cheers and keep you posted,



13 comments on “Deciding against Career

  1. […] beginning (I had 6 positions with 3 employers in my first 8 years of career), plus if you avoid the career trap, i.e. better think carefully before climbing a ladder as fast as possible simply because it is […]

  2. […] Exactly one year ago, Woodpecker had a fair chance to take over a leadership position and decided against it (see here). […]

  3. Doris says:

    I agree with every words you said and I’m quite along this line as well. Just that sometimes salary increase could be very tempting – It’s quite likely that there will be a vacancy for a more senior position in my office in the coming months and (un)fortunately it fits my profile. Definitely it’s much more “challenging”(stressful, in another word) and will need to take up much much more responsibilities, but, but, but, the salary increase is almost a double, yes, +80%! I’ve been telling myself all the cons and convincing myself not to apply for it, but… it’s just so tempting. A side of the heart tells you that you will get what you are earning by just working a half less time. But then, i share your thought that it’s a rat race, a treadmill, once you get on, it’s hard to get out of it…Just wondering, would you have decided differently if the salary increase of the promotion you mentioned above was +80% at that time?

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Ha, thats a good question.
      +80% does sound very tempting. The offer I declined was more in the +10% range, which clearly did not sound attractive to me.

      In your case I’d recommend to set up a long-term financial plan and write down what your goals in life are short- and longterm.
      E.g. if your plan is to have a family sometime soon (in case you don’t have any yet), it should be clear that the envisaged promotion might turn out as a major obstacle. A typical company will not accept giving you +80% income and then seeing you walk away into parental leave some months later.

      If you plan is going for financial independence and you like your work enough to give up substancial parts of your free time for the promotion, calculate how much faster you might reach FI with the new job.

      But you asked for the way I’d go. I’d try to go the middle way:

      Clearly these guys want YOU on the job, otherwise they wouldn’t offer you +80%.
      So you are in a good negotiation position.
      Go there and tell them openly that the job offered sounds great, but your work-life balance is very important to you.
      Offer to do the job, but working only four days a week. Also offer to be satisfied with only +30% salary. Show them that this is a good part below 4/5*180% salary, so in fact THEY make a good deal here. Explain that you are fine working hard these four days, that you will be more efficient due to your regular time-off and that they can spend the saved salary on additional support from someone else. Agree on a testing period to see how this works.

      THIS would sound like a great deal for me, much better than simply +80% money.

      See what happens.


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