Pride is a powerful tool. It’s ingrained in us from our earliest days. It forms our identity and it helps form our decision making process as we move through life. Of course some of the biggest decisions we make in life are about our career choices. The career we aspire to, the jobs we take, and the jobs we turn down are all influenced by our level of pride. Pride, like so many other powerful things in life can have a good side and it can have a bad side.
When Pride is a good thing.
Life is filled with challenges and there is always, and I mean ALWAYS someone who has the easy answer. They have the easy answer because they have a problem they want fixed, and you are being sold on the answer being easy. Pride has a way of keeping you away from these short term solutions that create bigger long term problems. In life Pride can have you saying “no i’m not going to take out that line of credit to buy a new car” or “I would Never date that guy, no matter how lonely I get”.
For the professional Pride can manifest in the type of position. I can think of two periods of time in my career where Pride stopped me from making a horrible long term decision. The first was for my first professional job. I talked about it on the second episode of my Podcast. I had two options at the time. Electronics Boutique, a mall based software sales outfit and precursor to gamestop wanted to hire me full time and was willing to pay me $2,000 more per year than a competing offer I had with a real electronics manufacturer. My pride, instilled in me by years of my family telling me I had to go to school to get a “real job”, had me choose the 8-5 office job. That got me into the professional environment. I made the decision because I felt that working weekends and holiday’s wasn’t a ‘real job’. Starting your career in retail can be a major trap that doesn’t easily allow you to navigate out into the professional world. Now, if you look at the decision I made.. It was pretty bad. I made the most of it and had a few good years here and there, but wow, it would have been unbelievably horrible if I had chose the retail option.
The second career based example was when I was going through a period of unemployment. At the time I thought it was me, I still hadn’t put two and two together about the nature of sales organizations. So consequently I was really down about what I could offer the world. Then one day on one of my ‘check in’ visits to the career center, – most of you know it as the unemployment office – there was a recruiter there who offered me an on the spot job for $8.00 / hour job giving away food samples at walmart two days a week. He had big promises of management positions in the near future. Something told me I shouldn’t give up my unemployment for the job. After all, if your doing it right, finding a job is a job in and of itself. Network, network, network. These are my examples, but there are others.
When Pride is a bad thing.
Going back to the second retail experience, I had been a regional sales manager making close to six figures at the time I was offered the minimum wage job. I’m sure the recruiter wasn’t seeing that the position would have driven me insane and didn’t make financial sense compared to my actual market value. They were just thinking here is a competent fellow who’s out of work and I have a job that he should take. Both perspectives were true, and that’s the crux of taking the step down.
When it is not justified, when your industry is dying and you have to retrain.
Right now Cisco, and all the major hardware vendors are about to have a massive layoff. These companies have tens of thousands of employees all earning in excess of six figures. It’s a classic market correction because there is less of a need for hardware as everything is moving to the cloud. The cloud needs less people, less of everything, a lot less. Heck, in many cases there isn’t even a sales force.
Many of these people were recruited out of information technology programs decades ago and have known nothing other than a high paid wage in a dynamic industry. They are going to have a collective heart attack when they find out what the real (broader) wage market for their services is. In the best case it’s ⅓ to ⅕ of what they were making previously.
I wonder how many of those individuals will have to go through a huge emotionally challenging realization that they won’t ever make what they made before? It’s not them, it’s statistics and market forces. The emotional challenge will come from the pride that was built up all those years making salaries at the top of the wage scale. Imagine the things they feel entitled too.. The level of vacations, the quality of vehicle, the size of house? Uh, sorry charlie, all that’s gotta go. But hey, it was good while it lasted, right?
Pride is appropriate as a matter of degrees.
The key with the successful application of pride in your career choices is that it’s all in a matter of degrees. For example, assuming a healthy job market, you shouldn’t want to take less in your next professional position because you are in effect saying “I’m worth less”. The problem with this is the needs. If you bought a new car with payments, if you are the sole breadwinner, or if you have other bills, like student loan payments that will never go away. Guess what, you HAVE to take less, because whenever you need to sell something quick the only way to do that is always be the cheap option.
This isn’t about new jobs, it’s also about new positions or new responsibilities. It’s a delicate balance when a company comes to you and says “We want you to be responsible for XYZ now that bob has left”. Well they were probably paying bob $50K a year to do XYZ job. Shouldn’t you get a piece of that at least? (pride argument). The reality is that someone, somewhere is looking at cutting costs… That’s why a new Bob wasn’t hired. If you ask for more, your getting in the way of that initiative and causing someone, and maybe more than one person, up the food chain a challenge. That’s not a good long term play, but then again, long term is a variable concept in today’s professional labor market.
In the end pride is a little like economics. It comes down to supply and demand. The more pride you have in your career the more limited the supply of ‘you’ as a product are. That makes you more valuable in the market. There is always a chance that the product of ‘you’ can be replaced with a lower cost option. Unfortunately that is happening more and more to the professional class.
I’m not saying to have high levels of pride or to not have pride when you consider your career and what you are worth to the world. The point of this article is to say that you should be aware of what your pride is in relation to what reality is. That can be a sobering thought. Come to think of it I’m glad I was awesome and insightful to think and write about it. Maybe I should ask for a raise, you know because I’m worth it.