Bonus Time – Reassessed

March 25th, 2010 LIKE WHAT YOU READ? SHARE IT!


By Mandy Lehto


It’s bonus time in the City of London.  I know, because this used to be a key moment in my previous investment banking career.  Sometimes there were smiles.  Sometimes, long faces.  As one colleague said, you never knew whether you’d be celebrating with champagne or hemlock.

The hours were grueling with young children.  My son, a wise little soul of four at the time, said, ‘Mummy, sometimes I forget what you look like.’

If that wasn’t enough of an arrow to the heart, I realized I had no time (or energy) for writing, seeing friends or exercising.  We lived on ready-meals.  I left before sunrise and returned after dark.  A banker friend said, ‘remember Mandy, this is a living, not a life.’

Light bulb moment: I had no life – at least not on my own terms.

So I made the leap. I resigned from the trading floor and reinvented my career.

I reintegrated the people and activities into my life that made me feel nourished and balanced.  I love the freedom.  I attend school plays and blow bubbles in the garden.  But I’m a serious career person too, running a coaching and image advisory business 5 days a week.  Now, I have a life – and on my own terms, to boot!

Ahh, if only it were that simple…

When you’re redesigning your career, you’ve probably made some tough, albeit conscious choices.  You’ve mulled over work-life balance.  You’ve flirted with dusting off your hobbies, or maybe participating in your children’s lives on a regular basis.  Or friends, remember them?

So why are the hours in front of your laptop stacking up to what you spent in the cubicle?  Why are the kids watching Peppa Pig on repeat so you can work?  And why do days, or even weeks, pass without physical activity while you’re in full-throttle business building mode? (And no, going to the fridge and back doesn’t count!).

Anybody nodding?

I realized that while I had redesigned my career and lifestyle, I hadn’t reassessed my work ethic or my means of measuring success.

Big mistake.

There was never a sense of completion.  There was always more to do, another client to call or another blog post to write.  It didn’t matter that it was midnight on a Sunday (did it?) since it was all in the name of success.  This pattern went on.  And on.

My partner finally asked me, ‘so what constitutes success now – what’s the “bonus” of being self-employed?’ – a doozy of a question.

Here’s what I discovered after marinading on the bonus question:

  • Give yourself permission to go slow and steady – it takes time to build credibility in a new field, a new client base and a solid community on Twitter;
  • Sometimes other things take priority, like children – and that’s ok.  This very freedom may have been a key reason for changing careers in the first place.  Embrace it;
  • Consider your daily measure of success. But know when to call it a day;
  • A bonus/promotion/pay rise doesn’t have to be about financial remuneration.  Consider your definition of compensation.  It can mean quality of life, doing what you love, or spending time with the kids.

If building your new career with the full-throttle approach is eclipsing the very reasons you leapt, maybe it’s time to reassess your “bonuses”.

As I finish writing this blog post, my son is practicing his recorder.  “See mum, this symbol shows us the tempo we have to play. If you don’t go the right speed, the music doesn’t sound so good.”

I couldn’t have said it any better.



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