Last week I came across a new post on LinkedIn that was starting to divide opinion, so I’m keen to share it with you along with some suggestions from Protagion and hear your thoughts.
The author is an ambitious South African, who studied Actuarial Science and Financial Mathematics at the University of Pretoria, and is still new to the world of work. His short post was about on-the job experience:
Food for thought: working 60 hours per week gives you 50% more work experience in the same amount of time than a peer working 40 hours per week in the same position.”
Original post, including others' comments :
While mathematically true, Tristan’s post spurred a strong reaction from some of his connections, with some arguing:
On the other hand, 60 hour+ work weeks are fairly common in some industries, including investment banking and consulting. One comment on the original post argued that “consultancies have always banked [on] eager young recruits slaving away as it means they can get away with hiring fewer people.” And, the pressure of investment banking indicates why a number change focus or industry as they get older, or reach other milestones in their lives.
More background on the LinkedIn post’s author
The author describes himself as an ENTJ and wants to enter the management space in the longer term. This implies he has a directive personality, enjoys building connections, and leading. He’s likely to be a ‘red’ personality, and ENTJ’s have been described as ‘commanders’ too, echoing his open attitude to ambition e.g. “hungry for more milestones, big or small”. He has defined some longer term goals for himself, has stated these publicly, and is also reaching out and building connections on LinkedIn. His hard work is seeing rewards, with a performance raise earlier this year. He is also positive about his choice of profession, saying that qualifying “speaks of phenomenal individual business and analytical powers and capacity”.
Other real-life examples of ambition
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to observe a number of strategies that ambitious people have followed. As ex-colleagues will attest, I myself am no stranger to working hard, and in my early twenties, had a single-minded focus on completing my actuarial exams, putting in extremely long hours to achieve that goal. More recently, as a manager of functions and now a business, I’ve experienced the power of collective achievement rather than individual input, recognising though that all teams are made up of personal contributions. Our roles as leaders are to inspire great performance from each member in our teams. I’ve also seen highly ambitious individuals (like those who win global leadership awards in their twenties) leave organisations I’ve worked with for bigger opportunities, and recall too a move by an analyst from insurance to a hedge fund as he felt his individual efforts would be better rewarded in a specialised asset management context.
There are those too who choose to stay at their organisation and effect change from the inside. One graduate I particularly recall, when asking his immediate manager for more responsibility, was told no one is expected to achieve anything in their first two years of work i.e. put your head down and bide your time! Thankfully, his response was instead to build connections with senior influencers across the business, volunteering for projects to assist them, and at one point, explicitly working two jobs within different divisions as he transitioned across to being executive assistant to a rising star. This exposure to executive decision-making and strategy fast-tracked his career, and within a decade he’d joined that company’s executive committee himself.
An example of a well-known South African who put in additional effort is Roelof Botha, who worked part-time for PayPal while completing his MBA at Stanford almost twenty years ago. In this role, he built a financial forecasting model to help understand the drivers of the business. His approach to modelling fraud losses, which prompted better frameworks for fraud control, got him noticed, and was instrumental in propelling his career into the stratosphere.
Another very high profile example of long work weeks is Elon Musk, who this year caused controversy by admitting he’s been working up to 120 hours a week for his companies Tesla, SpaceX etc, and told the New York Times that this past year has been “excruciating”. It appears too that he’s been working long hours for a very long time – an article last year described how he previously “reportedly scaled back his workweek from a gruelling 100 hours after launching his companies to a more tolerable 80 to 90 hours per week”.
Our thoughts on how ambitious individuals who are in their first few roles can thrive: