Home for Dinner or Play to be a “Winner”
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Title:Home for Dinner or Play to be a “Winner”
In the world of construction management and real estate development, it is rare to find work opportunities that provide a strong ‘work-life balance’. They do exist, but they are almost like an endangered species. As a recruiter, I covet clients who provide this to their employees. I do so because I know certain people will jump on a 9-5 job, even in lieu of growth or monetary gain. I also do so, because I’m in an industry where the bulk of my network works 10-12 hour days, and are accessible nearly 20 hours / day. It feels good , as a recruiter, to provide my candidates with an option to experience life while also paying the rent.
Construction Management, and perhaps to a greater degree Real Estate are both fields that have huge entrepreneurial components to them. While an engineer out of school may make only 50k / year, with hard work, long hours, and successful projects, that engineer could be making north of 200k in 10-15 years. In Real Estate, where more money is typically spent on graduate degrees, or Ivy League credentials, the stakes are often higher. Such substantial college loans might only be rationalized by 300k-500k salaries by midcareer. The dream for any Real Estate or even Construction professional is to go into business for one’s self, to secure enough capital to open a CM firm, Owners Rep firm, Private Equity Group, or Real Estate Investment firm, etc…. But how do any of these professionals get there? Typically they are not eating dinner at 6:30 pm. They are not catching up on House of Cards or Game of Thrones. They’re working, a lot.
Is real growth opportunity and work-life balance really mutually exclusive? I would say that the answer is largely…yes. Does that mean that you aren’t able to grow in an office that empties by 5:30 PM every day? Not necessarily. You can grow with any company that is growing itself. You can also grow at any company that has the potential for promotion because of aging executive management, or even high turnover of senior and executive management. There are various ways to move up in responsibility and compensation. Generally, however, if you want to be VP—if you want that 400k plus package, if you want to own your own company one day…, you’re best bet may be 12 hour days with a company that will appreciate that you spend 2/3rds of your conscious life in working for them.
How do you decide? Well ….there’s a lot to weigh.
Let’s look at the research. New York Times, April 2016. Longer hours increases your risk of heart disease. You’ll find about 100 articles nationwide written about this very topic every month. Ariana Huffington’s “Sleep Revolution”—again noting the health risks of not sleeping, but also emphasizing that success comes more from the hours you sleep and less from the hours you work (paraphrasing). Harvard Business Review 2014. This is a great article. I particularly like the part about managing technology, and controlling when and how you are accessible. This, and other articles speak to how you might manage your quality of work-life balance by creating ‘tech-free’ times in your week.
I often find that those professionals willing to work long hours are either in their early career or late career. 20 somethings who are not married, or at least married but without children tend to know that this is their time to ‘pay dues’, work late, and pave the way for their future careers. Similarly, 50-60 somethings, whose kids have all graduated High School, but may still be on the hook for absurd college tuitions, may say—well, it’s time to get ‘back to work’.
Then there are those who put emotions, children, family life aside, and say—I’m responsible for bringing in the money to our family, I’m the one who carries this burden, and thus…I am the one who will sacrifice seeing their children grow up, to ensure that they have a roof over their heads, a way to pay for college, and to ensure that my spouse and I have a retirement. It’s sad, I must say, to have talked to so many in this industry who truly did not see their children grow up. Having the choice to see your children after school OR in the early morning before school might seem like a terrible choice to have, but to some that choice would be a luxury.
So do you come home for dinner, or play hard to be a winner? It’s a personal choice. It’s a choice that carries risks regardless of the outcome. As our societal fabric evolves more and more into a work-hard play-sometimes reality, the likelihood that you even get a chance to choose is diminishing. If you are faced with such a choice, no matter how you weigh the risks, and no matter how you decide, you would be well advised to not take for granted that you have a choice in the first place.