What is a career? Why should you have one? Does it need to make “sense”?
I have a masters in finance and I’ve had three jobs in finance. Then I retired. Makes sense, right?
In my mind, I’ve only had three jobs: as a research analyst at SkandiaBanken (1994-1996), as a research analyst at Swedbank (1996-2000), and as a portfolio manager at Futuris (2000-2015). I studied for my masters in finance between 1990-1994.
In reality, however, I’ve been drawn to chemistry (my first choice for college after high school), translation, match making, programming and P2P lending (1984-1987):
My job experiences
When I was 10-12 years old (1982-1984) I programmed my own simple computer games and charged my friends for playing it. I specifically remember a motorcycle game. I also performed a lot of unpaid programming in BASIC and machine code, which I think helped build enormous focus, logic skills and discipline.
Since around when I turned around 12, I started my own “bank”. I used to lend a dollar or two to my peers that lacked cash for candy or pastries in school. I gave my clients the choice of paying back for free the next day or at criminally steep charges for every extra day. It was very profitable. Often I charged 100% interest for a week. Today a kid doing that would probably be expelled or sued in some way.
When I was around 13-15 years I helped with my father’s accounting. I remember getting around 10$ an hour.
During our neighbor’s 40-year party (I was 12), I was put to work recording all the guests’ preferences to create the perfect seating scheme in real time. My take home pay for 4 hours of stressful work with dozens of drunk adults was a total of 4$.
As a 13-15 year old I had to do a week here and there on real jobs (obligatory job experience in school), such as a shoe department, a pizza restaurant and a machine leasing firm. Those experiences finally taught me to never, ever wanting to work in manual labor, in particular not having to stand up all day. Funny how I 20 years later had to re-learn the importance of not sitting.
I also remember some cold winters, around the same age, pushing physical ads down people’s mailboxes for a minimum pay.
I even spent three weeks one summer in sales for personality tests in a company related to the Scientologists. I was paid a bonus for every sale, as well as a fixed weekly wage (around 300$, I think)
Later, around 1990, when I was 18) I was hired to automate that same personlity test in a pretty elaborate Excel macro for a few hundred dollars.
As an 18 year old in college (1990), I was lured by promises of extreme wealth into the romantic matching business Perfect Partners. My job was to get women to sign up for this membership based couples matching business. I was paid a commission per new active member and a monthly salary of around 1000$.
Between 1990-1997 (18-25yo) I translated manuals, authored manuals, not to mention programmed database applications for my father’s company, all the while working long hours as an analyst. Some of those databases might actually still be in use in the pulp and paper industry.
My starting pay as an analyst was around 1400 USD a month before taxes. My moonlighting as a programmer and translator paid perhaps an extra 500 USD a month.
So, between 1982 and 1996, I spent a lot of time on more or less unpaid work. Then my real career took off, each year’s pay dwarfing the previous. Actually, just one single year at Futuris (2000-2015) often paid more than my entire career before Futuris.
In January 2014, however, the money wasn’t enough. I needed more intellectual challenges and consequently handed in my resignation. A year after that I spent my last paid day at Futuris on January 1, 2015.
Since I retired when I was 41-42, I’m doing more than ever…
I run three podcasts, several newsletters, appear in podcasts, TV-shows, fintech debates, lecture, write articles and not least write on a book, not to mention juggle two dozen private equity investments. Fortunately, I spend considerably less effective time on my diverse activities than I would on a typical job.
My average over the last 10-12 weeks has been close to 25 hours a week on writing, producing and investment meetings. Add another 20 hours for dog walks and 5 hours lifting weights (plus a few more for getting there and back, and showering) and you quickly see the need for good organization not to be unnecessarily occupied all the time.
To make sure retirement feels like retirement, I’ve scheduled two full weekdays per week completely off “work”. Those days I just read books, take long walks, hang out with friends or my dog or girlfriend.
Be careful what career you wish for
So, what’s the point of all this?
Ask yourself what kind of career you really want, and why you want that career. What is the point of your career; how is it supposed to make your life in total more meaningful and enjoyable?
Tip: Regularly take stock of what you have actually done, what you currently seem to be doing, what you actually want out of life, and whether your daily actions are bringing you closer to those targets. If not, make a change! Quit that job, start that business, leave your family — if you think it will bring more meaning.