How Financial Independence Affects Career Conversations
I had a career conversation with my manager today. The Company has been pleased with my work to date, and my manager wanted to talk through several potential paths that could help me level up and gauge my interest in each path. While financial independence is still several years ahead of me, the fact that I am on a path to financial independence was a gamechanger to my ability to navigate and specify how I wanted my career to progress.
If I needed more money to sustain my lifestyle, then I would feel like I should choose whatever path led to higher total compensation. But because I have a good understanding of when I will be financially independent if I were to maintain my current compensation level, it empowered me to bring forward my honest opinions about which career paths would contribute to my overall happiness, professional development, and general work satisfaction. I could verbalize preferences over different job roles purely on the basis of what would incentivize me to work longer at this Company (increased job satisfaction) rather than a track that maximized increased earnings but may lead to a shorter tenure due to lowered job satisfaction. All of these hypothetical career tracks would be a level beyond where I currently am, and assessing which track paid more never crossed my mind — the only thing I cared about was progressing on a track that would keep me engaged and satisfied at work.
This type of grounded empowerment in my career options was a new feeling for me, and I loved it! It was also validating to know that I was valued at my Company, to the point that my manager was trying to cater my next steps to match my desires and keep me happy. This degree of flexibility is something that I have never experienced before, and one that I certainly see as a true benefit to working at a larger company that can accommodate the preferences of their employees. My work has been valued at previous companies, don’t get me wrong, but I have never had the “option” to choose my next path before — I’ve always been given more information on what constraints (e.g. budget, politics of reorganization, outsized need relative to resources in a certain area) are out there rather than a menu of paths forward.
Being on the path to FI also gave me a healthy secure space from which to self-reflect: how much longer can I continue working at my current rate? To be honest, this last month or so have been really intense at work, with regular 10+ hour work days and what feels like only a backlog of work to show for it. I am relatively new to this company and wanted to lead with performance, which has absolutely paid off so far. In fact, my manager was quite explicit and transparent that the career conversation would have been different had my performance levels and demonstrated impact were different. That said, I know that this aggressive level of work is something that I would not be able to sustain over a decade, much less an entire year. Something will have to give, and looking back on the past month, my health has deteriorated with amplified stress levels. At the same time, when I have carved out personal time (e.g. weekends, vacation), I have been able to unplug, unwind and refresh.
Ironically, as my career progresses at this Company, the faster I’ll fly towards financial independence and the sooner I’ll have the option to walk away. Once I reach financial independence, I can easily see myself feeling more comfortable drawing firmer boundaries between work and life.