Why having an Ego can hinder your career

An ego can hinder your career. In this post I will explain why.

What are we classifying as an Ego?

For the benefit of this post we are classifying an ego as when you want to have the benefits and perks that come with a particular job. This isn’t just the Mercedes Benz, a luxury office, the job title, status but also the respect and admiration of peers in and outside of the workplace. Who wouldn’t want the luxury car, perks and admiration? I understand that. There is a bit of that in all of us if we are honest. The problem is when your ego starts making career decisions for you.

Career Objectives

If you have decided that you want a career rather than simply settling for a basic job, you’ll need to make various decisions on that journey. Typical career long term objectives will be to have a senior position, autonomy, responsibility etc. Because having those elements means that you’ll earn well, be more satisfied in your job and have that sense of achievement that made all the hard work leading up to it worth it.

When ego starts making the decisions for you

You should make decisions objectively. This means that your decisions will be based on achieving your career objectives and not based on boosting your ego. The problem comes when your ego starts playing a part in your decision-making process.


Taking recruitment as a career route for example, I can think of a number of examples of Recruiters who had made good career decisions up until a point and have then let their egos get the better of them. I know a guy, let’s call him Bill, who got promoted to an Assistant Manager and was invoicing around 150k per year. In Recruitment this is respectable but not incredible by any means. Better than average let’s say.

Bills objectives once he reached this career level were to get a mortgage and buy a car which wouldn’t keep breaking down. These are quite sensible. However, he wanted to treat himself. A holiday to Spain maybe? Or perhaps some new clothes. Not cheap, but we’re not robots are we. Oh no. Bill comes into work the following Monday with a £4500 Breitling watch on his arm. It’s a lovely watch by all accounts, but is that really a wise application of your money?

And then the often overlooked catalyst to the ego booster syndrome comes into play…everyone loves that he’s got a Breitling. All of a sudden he’s everyone’s favourite guy. A few girls began to give him attention that he wouldn’t have had before. Bill loves the attention and it feels good. Cue the Dopamine rush.

Bill’s Pad

The problem is that Bills growing peer group all have nice pads to live in. Bill lives in a shared house. There’s nothing wrong with that. But before Bill knows it, the Breitling attention and interest has wavered. Someone else has got something impressive in the office and the attention pendulum has swung.

Bill decides he needs a Pad in the best area so he gets a stunning flat in Redland. This is an area of Bristol where £1.5 million is pretty standard for a house. Bill doesn’t have the deposit for a mortgage so rents. Ok, his rent is sky high, but he has the pad. And again, he gets the attention he likes.

Bills Situation

Bill has now found himself earning well. He’s got a great Pad and a luxury watch. The problem is that all of Bill’s earnings are going into renting the new Pad. What about the savings needed for a mortgage? Yeah, they’re gone. How about the car that keeps breaking down? Oh yeah, that’s in the garage getting fixed.

Bill’s got his priorities wrong. Deep down he knows that. But he’s allowed his ego to make decisions for him.

Doing a Bill with your career

Let’s take someone with a career making the same ego based decisions. We’ll call her Suzie. Her objectives are to move up to Director level. Suzie wants this because this mean lots of money, autonomy, power and career satisfaction. It’s what she wants more than anything. Suzie has a lot of potential and the company she works for recognises this. And the company invests in Suzie’s training. Before long, Suzie gets promoted. Everyone starts respecting Suzie because she’s moving up in the world and she likes the attention and admiration.

Moving up the ladder

One day Suzie gets a few calls and emails from Recruiters promising a pay rise and better benefits and a bigger name company to work for. Suzie starts listening. And the next thing she knows she’s working for that bigger name company, with more money and better benefits and perks. But eventually Suzie realises she’s not getting the progression. The money hasn’t gone up in a while. And as for training, what training?

Thinking logically, she starts looking for somewhere that can offer that. She knows that she needs somewhere that will invest in her. Somewhere that will develop her. She gets a few interviews and meets a few people. The problem she finds is that those companies who will offer the development and training aren’t paying or offering quite as much as firm ABC PLC. Because ABC PLC are offering a Mercedes Benz and a more senior sounding job title. They’re also offering £5000 more in salary. And there’s a much nicer office with perks like working from home. The other firms also aren’t as bigger names as ABC PLC either. So, Suzie goes with ABC PLC.

Some time Later

Suzie finds that she hasn’t really moved upwards or developed any other skills. But she does have a Mercedes Benz. Suzie’s career hasn’t really moved towards the Director role she wanted, but she can work from home. Suzie starts looking to find a firm that will train and develop her as she’s quite a way into her career now. But there is a problem.

Nobodies telling her why, but she’s not getting the development type firms showing much interest. She’s got a couple of decades of experience now but isn’t getting the call backs. Younger people are getting the type of jobs she wants even though Suzie has more experience. The one or two firms who will overlook her extra years of experience just aren’t paying what Suzie is looking for. Before she knows it, she’s stuck. If she leaves, she’d have to take such a financial hit she’d have to sell the nice house in the nice area. The Mercedes Benz would be replaced by some mid range vehicle. Her social status would take a serious knock. She’s gone too far down the road to come back and so she accepts her fate. Taking the hit would mean being able to make a giant leap in future, but she’s backed into a corner. Suzie cannot afford to take the hit anymore like she could have done when she was younger.

Take away Ego

Let’s say Suzie didn’t take the big company name and increased pay cheque. What if Suzie went to the firm that developed her to the next level when she was younger? She probably would have got the promotions, development and skills needed to get that Director role. Ok, she wouldn’t have had the Mercedes Benz company car earlier, but she could have bought a Porsche with change to spare later.

Sum Up

Making decisions with your ego influencing those decisions is unwise, but easily done. Would you rather be the one laughing all the way to the bank, with the job you’ll be proud of and the lifestyle you can afford or be the guy wearing and driving your bank account before you really have one just to impress people who’ll forget you the second they realise you can’t actually afford it? It’s not what you earn, it’s what you are able to spend. Make your career decisions based on the correct long term objectives and not the short term ego objectives and you’ll thank yourself for it one day.

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External Links: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2016/05/27/five-job-search-tactics-that-work-and-five-that-dont/



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