Time flies. It doesn’t seem that long ago since I was a new college grad and the youngest one in the office. My more experienced colleagues were teaching me the ropes. But now I’m the older and more experienced one at work. And this week I’ve been asked to share the story of my corporate career with our cohort of summer interns.
As I’ve been thinking through what I want to share with the interns – lessons learned, words of wisdom – I was surprised to find myself reflecting on the positive aspects of my career. After all, I’m currently counting down to the day I can say goodbye to my job and all the “fun” that goes along with it… endless meetings, unrealistic deadlines, annoying coworkers, narcissistic bosses, etc.
So yes, I am eagerly anticipating the day I get to quit my corporate career. However, now that I can see my “quit date” becoming a reality in the not-too-distant future, I’m starting to recognize and appreciate the many perks and privileges my corporate career has provided over the years…
A Means to Financial Freedom – Comp & Benefits
The most obvious (and biggest) benefit that corporate careers can provide is as a means to achieving financial freedom.
Both E and I have spent most of our careers working for Fortune 500 companies. During this time, we’ve tried to make the most out of the benefit packages offered by our employers. More than half of our net worth is a direct result of our benefits – contributions to 401ks, health savings accounts, flexible savings accounts, deferred compensation programs and even a pension.
I’m happy with what we’ve been able to save. However, I’m pretty sure we would’ve already achieved financial freedom by now IF we had maximized contributions to our benefit programs earlier in our career. Hindsight is 20/20 right?
From an income standpoint, corporate careers offer an opportunity to make a very good living – salary, bonus, stock options, etc. I’ve certainly tried to maximize my earnings over the course of my career.
Since the day I started my first corporate role as an admin (AKA secretary), I’ve maintained a laser focus on earning promotions and increasing my income. Things haven’t always gone the way I planned, and definitely not as fast as I wanted. But thanks to several promotions and healthy pay increases, financial freedom will soon be within reach for us.
A Means to Enrichment – Personal Development
Beyond the financial benefits, corporate careers can also provide a means for both professional and personal growth. My corporate career has provided much more than just a means to financial freedom. It’s also enriched my life in many other ways…
- New Skills – training to help me become more organized and efficient, and a better writer, speaker, negotiator, facilitator, mediator, manager and leader.
- Expanded World View – international travel, exposure to different cultures and diverse ways of working and thinking.
- Increased Confidence – experiences to push me outside my comfort zone and overcome fears (like public speaking!).
- Giving Back – delivering Christmas gifts to needy children, providing company matching donations to animal shelters, sending care packages to soldiers.
- Friendships & Laughter – not just a network of business associates, though I have that too, but genuine friendships with colleagues who’ve made me laugh so hard it brought tears to my eyes.
And there are many other development opportunities that my employers offered which I didn’t take advantage of, like taking an overseas assignment and living abroad. Or attending graduate school and earning my M.B.A. on the company dime.
A Means to Fun – Amazing Life Experiences
I saved the best for last. As I’ve thought back on my career – and asked E to do the same – we realized that some of the most amazing experiences we’ve enjoyed have been as a result of our jobs.
Here’s our list of the Top 10 best experiences we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy during our careers:
- International Business Class Travel to Europe, Asia, China
- Team Building in Aspen, Carmel & Monterey
- Meeting Professional Athletes & Celebrities
- Racing Exotic Cars at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
- Front Row Seats at Paul McCartney Concert
- Skiing in Park City Utah
- Floor Seats at NBA Games
- Wine Tasting in Sonoma
- Kayaking in Hawaii
- Tickets to the Super Bowl & World Series
You may be wondering, where the heck do you work that offers perks like these? Trust me, we aren’t special. And the companies we’ve worked for aren’t special.
Some of these experiences were given to us as a reward for a job well done. Some were made possible through friendships built at work. And others were part of company-organized meetings and events. The point is, perks like these are more common than you might think in Corporate America.
My Message: Make the Most Out of Your Corporate Career
I’m still eagerly awaiting the day I get to quit my job and start a new adventure. However, it turns out my corporate career has been very good to me. I’m incredibly grateful for the financial benefits my career has provided, and appreciative for all of the other ways my career has enriched my life and helped me develop.
Which leads me back to where I started this blog. What message do I want to share with our summer interns? I think it will go something like this…
It’s up to you to make the most out of your career. Whether you work for a company 5 years or 35 years, there is so much to gain — financially, professionally and personally. With focused effort, a corporate career can provide a means to financial freedom AND personal enrichment AND amazing life experiences. It’s certainly delivered all three for me.