I’ve mentioned it before, but I am a pretty ambitious person, I always want to get better in what I’m doing, learn more, and move up in the world. The problem is, this often results in a lot of disappointment, especially lately.
I like to get involved within my community and profession, partly because I enjoy doing things like that, but partly because conventional wisdom would say that should help you get ahead in your career. Whether it’s from what you learned at those events, contacts made, or just from the show of commitment to your career to do these things in your “off” time.
My biggest goal, for as long as I’ve known it was a thing, is to become a member of the Wichita Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 program. This is basically a list of 40 “people to watch” under the age of 40 in the Wichita area. They’re selected based on “their career achievements, their contributions to their organizations and their involvement in the community.” Even though I still have several years of eligibility for this program, I feel like I’ve already given up on the idea of earning this designation.
That goal, along with the strong desire to get ahead and move up in my career, has driven a lot of the “extra,” outside of work, things that I have done during my career. I’ve gotten involved by volunteering in the community (though I’m sure I would do those things anyway, I’ll write another blog article sometime about how I was raised to love volunteering), attending events and learning opportunities through Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) and other organizations, and taking on leadership roles in professional organizations.
The latest endeavor that I’ve attempted is applying for a couple of leadership academies, both to enhance my leadership knowledge and capabilities, and to hopefully increase my chances of earning the coveted “40 under 40” award. The AICPA Leadership Academy politely declined me back in October, and I received the rejection letter for the YPW Leadership Academy last week. To say that I’m having an existential crisis would be an understatement.
When I step back and look at the people ahead of me, the people in positions I want to achieve, either in short term or long term, more often than not they don’t do even half of these “extra-curriculars” that I do. They don’t seem to care about things like 40 under 40, leadership academies, or being active in the community. So if the end goal of all of this is to move up in my career (40 up to 40 isn’t the end goal, it’s just a means to prove my worth to help me move up in my career, to earn another form of recognition), the question I have to ask myself is, is all of this worth it?
I know this is where I should have some inspirational answer, talk about internal sense of accomplishment or whatever, but if you’ve read many of my other blog posts, you’ll know that’s not really how I do. The further along I get in my career, and the more experience I get with people at every level, ones that have moved quickly in their careers and others that have moved slowly, it seems like none of that “extra” stuff really matters, and almost seems like a disadvantage from my viewpoint. So I guess that means it’s not worth it from that perspective.
So does that mean I’m going to stop trying to get into these various programs? Stop reaching for the coveted “40 under 40” designation? As much as I sometimes want to give up on it all, I doubt I will, it’s just a part of who I am. I want to be active in the community, I want to be seen as a leader, not only in my career and within my organization, but a leader in the community as well. So I guess maybe there is something to all that intrinsic value mumbo jumbo after all.