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The dangers of putting career before health

Is being ambitious still a good thing?

I set my self a target to be a Director by the time I was 50. According to research by the Family and Work Institute in the US most people stop jostling for promotion at 35 coinciding with child care responsibilities. Not me, I dragged my family around the country in pursuit of my goal. However that was not the most destructive element of my ambition. After 18 months in post I would start looking for a new job. I was far too impatient to wait for an opportunity to arise locally I increased my chances by applying all over the country.

Hardly a month went by when I didn’t submit an application, attend a short listing interview and prepare for the final interview. I attended a lot of interviews and spent a lot of Friday nights and Monday mornings waiting for the phone to ring. It ruined a lot of weekends. My success rate to interviews was disappointing but I did change jobs roughly every 3 years. In only one case was I desperate to leave because I was unhappy with the job and my boss. It was ambition that drove me.

I was not so unusual for my generation but future generations will consider such behaviour strange and difficult to understand. Some HR commentators are already claiming organisations are witnessing the end of ambition due to the great resignation following the pandemic, the desire for a better work life balance and a  “it’s not worth the hassle “  attitude from generation Z.
Perhaps rather that the end of ambition it’s more a case of people’s ambitions changing from being about career success to work life balance.
Two things eventually changed my attitude a mentor asking me if I enjoyed my work and the people I worked with why was I applying for other posts where there was no garente it would be as good. So I stopped applying. Stayed. Ironically I was made a Director. But by the age of 53 I needed a quadruple heart bypass, the damage was done!

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