maximizing worth: what do you REALLY want?

October 28, 2009

by anne lueneburger

salary blog

My work takes me to Columbia University’s Business School several times a month, where I run sessions coaching executives. MBA graduates – especially from top-notch programs – are notorious for seeking out the highest paid positions from the most prestigious institutions. After all, isn’t this what they came to business school for?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with working long hours or aiming for high compensation packages – as long as you enjoy what you do and it is aligned with your desired career path and with who ‘you’ are.

Generally, MBA graduates don’t yet have the constraints of a family of their own; they appreciate the steep learning curves of entry-level executive positions, and they find the significant financial rewards intrinsically motivating and exciting.

The scenario only becomes problematic when, in order to maximize revenues, you either:

  • Spend the majority of your working life in a professional role that does not fulfill you.


  • Work in an organizational culture that is inconsistent with who you are.

If (as is often the case with MBA graduates) you are ‘a performer’, it can be a challenge to break out of this ‘upward spiral’ of receiving promotions and higher compensation packages.  Not a bad way to be, you may think, but: at what cost?

The MBA philosophy encourages you to ask: “what can I do next?”  I.e. what is the most that I am capable of doing next?

Whereas, as we’ve seen over the last couple of blogs, the north of neutral philosophy encourages you to approach the question in a more holistic fashion; to check your values, interests and strengths, and to ask the more pertinent question: “What do I want to do next?”

So, take the opportunities that present themselves to you, strive to improve yourself and further your career, but look at opportunities in balance; weigh up the financial rewards with what you are giving up ‘of yourself’, and think about your strengths, values, motivations and interests and bring these to the table.

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