My lifestyle-centric career
Cal Newport describes lifestyle-centric career planning as deciding on what lifestyle you want1, and then work backwards from there. This subverts the typical advice for high-performers: that you should chase the better opportunity, that higher paying role, that promotion to another level of seniority.
It turns out, this is exactly how I’ve looked at my career in the last 5 or so years. I wanted to:
- move home to Australia.
- work part-time while I had babies and toddlers around.
- have no pressure with regards to “doing more”. I didn’t ever want to be in a situation where I’m stressed about failing to do my job because my kids were sick and needed me.
- have a very autonomous role, that allowed me to work during times that fit into my schedule.
- solve problems, and learn new things.
At this stage in my life, the lifestyle design requirements were more important than how interesting the job was. So I was willing to take any role that fit the autonomy/flexibility component. Luckily, I’ve been blessed to keep working with CodePen while scaling back my work hours. So I have the flexibility, autonomy, and low-pressure job that also tickles my brain daily and involves working with people I like! This is why my response is always a polite no when recruiters come knocking with offers of more money.
This setup wouldn’t suit everyone. I know plenty of parents who feel that ladder-climbing and role-hopping to new and exciting opportunities fit their ideal lifestyle just fine. Or they are willing to make some minor lifestyle sacrifices to satisfy career ambitions. The point Cal Newport makes is to at least consider a lifestyle-based approach rather than assuming you just have to take the next “amazing opportunity”.
A video explaining lifestyle-centric career planning: Using Lifestyle-Centric Career Planning To Pursue A Life You Love (YouTube).
Cal Newport also says that before you can start making lifestyle-centric demands, you have to build enough career capital to do so. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately and how you can best do it as a developer, but that’s a note for another day. ↩
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