“But why not apply for the job? It’s worth having an option, even if you choose to return to your public job in Brazil. And, in relation to your daughter, is it better to receive an education in Brazil or in Europe? Where is it easier to become a global citizen?” At a restaurant in Madrid, part of the conversation with a colleague revolved around opening career opportunities.
Options have value, which is ignored by many capable people, who give themselves body and soul to their job without taking time to create contingency plans. It is practically an obligation, in the meat grinder that is the corporate world, to always have two or three good job offers on hand.
What happens if you get fired? Why do a master’s degree? Is it worth selling the apartment to take a course at Harvard? How big are your ambitions?
One of the best students I’ve ever had came to ask me, when I was about to graduate, if he should take a seat at the Central Bank, in a competition he had just passed.
“You are so brilliant that the job option at Bacen will always be available to you. Think about whether it’s worth taking the risk, setting up a company with friends, doing a doctorate abroad, or joining a multinational as a trainee. You will take off regardless of your choices. What life do you want to lead?”
In the end, he chose public job security. There was no other. Within a few years, he was frustrated because he was underutilized in the institution, but with each passing day, resigning to do something else had an increasing cost.
A life as a state employee can be wonderful, as long as it is the result of planned actions, not just fear of exploring the multiverse.
We don’t live just one life, but several. In one, you end up with a global company in Dubai. In another, as a civil servant in Florianópolis. In one you married your first love, in another you keep looking for the right person, and in another you live happily single.
With each relevant decision, we bifurcate our lives. When I turned down a lifetime job offer at Rome’s best business school to renew my five-year contract in China, I knew there would be a risk of regret. But the choice was made with my eyes open and, since then, I have been in contact with colleagues to always have similar offers hanging around me, if for some reason I want to abandon life in China or come to take a trip.
Options have value, but you have to always be building them. In my last master’s classes, I asked how many were there as a step in long-term planning. Among 50 students, very few responded in the affirmative. One of my mentees had a lot of difficulty with his dissertation because he admitted that he came in without really knowing what to expect.
“Let life take me” makes sense when, in an unequal country like Brazil, the only concern is survival. But if that’s not your case, you own your career. If there are no offers from other companies in yours table, chances are you’re screwing up, even if your main plan is to stay at the same institution for decades.
Who do you want to be when you grow up? This question is not only supposed to be answered when you are 18 or 20 years old, when choosing which course to take in college. Whether you’re 30, 40 or 50, who do you want to be when you grow up?
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