Career Capital

Do the Work, Get the Reward – 8 Years and Many 70-100 Hour Work Weeks – Gets you What?

Gen Y Finance Guy Career 21 Comments

Not many people are willing to put in the kind of time it takes in order to take what appear to be quantum leaps. However, for those that are willing to “do the work,” great reward is there for the taking. In this short post we will explore what is possible in short periods of time with concentrated effort, strategic long hours, and learning a valuable (and marketable) skill set.

Remember that most overnight successes are the better part of 10 years in the making.

If we assume that the average person works 40 hours per week, then at a very simplistic level we can see how mathematically it could be possible for someone that is motivated and ambitious to reach their financial/career goals in 40-50% of the time it takes most people. The math is rather simple.

Simple Math: Let’s assume it takes 2,080 hours to advance from one level to the next in your chosen career. The person who works 40 hours per week is going to take 52 weeks or one full year to put in the work necessary to get a promotion. On the other side of the coin, the motivated person working 80 hours per week could hit that milestone at week 26 or 50% of the time. And the super achiever working 100 hours could get there in 21 weeks or 40% of the time.

This simple example is not to say that all it takes is time in a position to get to the next level, nor that working 100 hour weeks is sustainable over long periods of time, rather it an example to prove out the simple math of how longer hours have the potential to get you to where you want to go much quicker. That said, it will take a ton of deliberate practice and continued learning to make sure the extra hours pay off.

It is also important to realize that the path is not linear, but instead exponential.

linear-vs-exponential

Assumption: For simplicity, let’s assume that effort is concentrated and focused on all the right things that lead to career advancement and the financial reward that comes with it. That is to say you have identified and obtained a skill set that is both rare and valuable in the world. This is the only way that you will be able to build enough career capital to ride an exponential curve of success (for more on the idea of career capital see “So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport”.

The reality is the math is actually a bit more complex than simple arithmetic. If you read my post on “The Reality of the Overnight Success,” you may recall the concept of compound effort. The concept of compound effort simply states that like compound interest, compound effort has the ability to return exponential results over time.

Most people can comprehend the idea of compound interest, but they miss the idea of compound effort. With consistency and sustained effort, the results become exponential. It is harder than it sounds, because the exponential results don’t really start showing up for years.

In the beginning there is often very little noticeable difference between the truly ambitious and average. This causes motivation and excitement to fizzle, and many that start off strong get discouraged and let their foot off the gas peddle. They give up in the middle of the dip, right before the magic of compound effort is about to become visible.

Have you ever heard of the Latin phrase “Fortitudine Vincimus?”

It translates to “by endurance we conquer.” It’s a motto I’ve internalized while building my own career and wealth. It’s a motto I encourage everyone to adopt if they truly want to experience the magic of exponential results. It is endurance (i.e. time) that makes the power of compounding so magical!

You don’t have to be the smartest or most innately gifted. I have found that any normal person can gain an edge by out working and out learning the naturally gifted. To me there is no such thing as competition. Most people are pretty lazy, that means the top is never crowded.

That said, I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that luck always plays a role in success. I’m not talking about the kind of luck people count on when throwing away money on the lotto. I’m talking about the kind of luck you create by being prepared when opportunity comes knocking.

How do you prepare yourself for luck?

You never stop learning and investing in yourself.

You do whatever it takes to obtain a rare and valuable skill set.

You use that skill set to build career capital.

You deliver so much value that the universe can’t ignore you.

You play the long game.

You continually reinvent yourself to remain relevant with the times.

You strategically cash in career capital by asking for what you have earned.

Do you really have to work 70-100 hour weeks to achieve Success? 

No.

That’s the short answer. Working long hours in a very strategic way is just a way for you to turbo charge your speed along the exponential curve of success. It’s works the same way a savings rate of 50% vs. 5% will get you to your financial goals quicker.

Personally, I’ve always been willing to live my life like most won’t for a few years (okay 8 years), so that I could live the rest of my life like most can’t.

That said, everyone is different. My path is not right for everyone, but it is available to anyone!

So, why am I writing this? What was the impetus?

Well, it started with the conversation with a friend that led to the post about the reality of the overnight success. In that post I shared the conversation I had with a friend about a pending promotion later this year to VP. He couldn’t believe how a year earlier I was just a Senior Financial Analyst, had been a Director (skipping multiple levels) for less than a year, and was now up for VP. He wondered how that was possible.

In short, I worked my ass off and helped many people and multiple companies get what they wanted. I built a rare and valuable skill set that allowed me to build up enough career capital to eventually cash in and ask for what I had earned.

I did the work and got the reward!

But this was only part of the story. What I didn’t share then, is that my grander ambition was to make it into the C-Suite in 2017. In negotiating my promotion to VP, I pitched the CEO the idea of creating a new C-Suite position to lead our continued evolution in becoming a data driven organization. After months of back and forth he was sold. I had pitched the Chief Data Officer role, in the end he liked the ring of Chief Information Officer better. I saw no reason to argue about the title, especially since I would be creating my own job description.

The agreement was promotion to VP in late 2016 and then CIO in 2017 as long as I could deliver on my promises.

Well, things have moved much quicker than anticipated (I may have strategically under-promised :). The company continues to grow rapidly, and all of my initiatives are well ahead of schedule…It was just announced that I will skip VP and will assume the role of CIO immediately.

I share this story to encourage each of you to be relentless in the pursuit of your goals and to leverage the power of compound effort to get you to where you want to go in half the time…or faster.

-Gen Y Finance Guy

Comments 21

  1. For sure, dedicated bursts of hard work can do wonders for one’s career. Congrats GYFG on all the progress you’ve made!

    Asking as someone theoretically aspiring for Director level promotion, what sort of value-added did you bring to the table going up the ladder? Building new client relations? Improving internal systems? Creating a new service line? All of the above?

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      Taylor Lee, I think the specific things you do will depend on what you functionally do for the business. Personally, I did the following:

      1 – Added processes that did not exist
      2 – Automated & streamlined existing processes
      3 – Implemented software to accomplish 1 & 2 above
      4 – Built tools & models to manage drivers of profitability
      5 – Added a level of business intelligence, that didn’t exist

      These were above and beyond my normal roles of managing monthly reporting, forecasting, annual budgeting, and analysis.

      The most critical thing you can do is quantify the impact of your efforts in terms of improved topline and bottom line performance.

      For example, by putting the tools and systems in place I was able to reduce our T&E spend by $1.4M in 2015. No one thought it was possible, until I approached it from a different angle, they just didn’t have the tools they needed to make it possible.

      I was brought in to implement a corporate performance management system. I did a lot of the implementation work myself and was able to save the company 33% from the approved budget, additionally, to date I have leveraged the system to automate a lot of reporting that was previously being done manually, this is saving the company about $100,000/year in costs on a $40,000 investment that I recommended, implemented, and manage.

      Things like that. Always try to find a way to translate your efforts into $$$’s. Money is just an exchange of value, and if you want to move up and make more money, all you have to do is add more value and make sure the higher ups know about that extra value you are delivering.

  2. I think your conversations with the CEO shouldn’t be overlooked. Too many great employees do a ton of work and let others ride on their coattails. If you have the track record of producing, you sometimes need to bring that to the manager’s attention.

    Cal Newport’s book Deep Work has had a big impact on me this year. I already want to read it again to keep the principles fresh in my mind.

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      Brian – You are right, I should had added that not only do you need to have a rare and valuable skill set, you have to be good at marketing the value you add with that skill set. It goes back to the whole theory that your in sales even if you are not in sales.

      I haven’t read
      Deep Work yet…will have to add it to my list.

      Cheers,

      Dom

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      Finance Solver – We all have 168 hours a week to work from. If you take out 8 hours per day for sleep (what I am for most nights), that leaves 112 hours for everything else. I can tell you now that i did not do any writing on any of the weeks I put in 100 hours/week. Those 100 hour weeks are rare and usually last only a few weeks in duration.

      When you work 100 hours, 70 seems like a cake walk. I would write in bursts, sometimes first thing in the morning or a lot of the time lately on the weekends. I could bust out 5 posts worth a cummulative 15,000 words in one sitting. That all goes to the backlog. I take advantage of the ebb and flow cycle of my schedule.

      At the end of the day, we have time for the things we make time for. It really comes down to your own priorities.

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      Thanks Michael!

      I appreciate you introducing me to those food spots. We have to go back to that Mexican place and I really want to take my wife to the Market place we ate at. She loved the sweets I brought home.

      I am still more than 7 figures behind…but I will try with all my might.

      Cheers

  3. Congrats! This is huge and I know very exciting. I definitely want to second Brian above… Your ability to translate the work your doing to bottom line $$ for the company and then effectively communicate that is absolute gold.

    Congrats, keep up the hard work!

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  4. Wow first off congrats!!! To skip VP is a huge step and I know that you definitely put in the work to get there.

    Too often people look for the short cuts in life to get ahead and honestly it’s the hard work that nobody sees that create the successful people.

    Once again congrats on your big promotion!!!

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  5. Dom!!

    Welcome to Cheifdom 🙂 Great to hear and see you doing so well!!

    I love your 5 steps to how you’ve gotten to your seat so quickly. I can echo all five. Sad I missed you at FinCON, I’m purchasing 2017’s this week!

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      Thanks Sorro!

      FinCon was fun; I really didn’t attend any of the sessions, rather used the opportunity to connect with a lot of people in person that I have been interacting with on the blog for the past few years. I don’t think I will be making it to FinCon 2017, will wait until it is in my backyard again.

      Cheers

  6. Been a while since I’ve commented but I’ve been lurking! Great job and very exciting things. I’ve been super busy in life and a little stressed out. My gravy train at work is coming to a close as my guaranteed salary of $60k is dropping away. This will directly lower my income by the aforementioned amount. I am now planning to strategize with my senior partners on how they can/should make up the difference. If it doesn’t go as planned….will have to see what the next 3-5 years has in store for me!

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      Thanks for stopping by Sean! I hope your plans go your way on making up that $60K income gap. You still contemplating changing shops?

      Cheers!

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  7. Agree here Dom! As I’ve mentioned congrats on what you’ve achieved..
    I’d also say that occasionally it’s about getting creative as well be that through sending an email to your CEO as you did or changing companies if the growth isn’t there 🙂

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      That email I sent was definitely a defining moment in the trajectory of my career. I always had a stretch goal of making it to the C-Suite by 30 years old, and a few years ago as a Senior Financial Analyst I had my doubts. But I kept putting in the work and taking a little risk…it all paid off and I made that stretch goal a reality.

      Cheers!

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