Is the early-years grind a necessity?

Is the early-years grind a necessity?
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

If there’s one thing we learned from the pandemic, it’s that we sometimes have to clearly create boundaries between our work and personal lives. When people were working from home, this was necessary because dining rooms, living rooms and bedrooms became offices. When that happens, it’s far too easy to lose sight of a healthy work-life balance. But is it possible to achieve that healthy balance without grinding away in the early years of your career?

See, the traditional corporate ladder involves a lot of grinding at the front of your career, with a more relaxed back end once you get older. The idea is that if you put in the long hours and grind away at the outset, you’ll gain the experience, connections and knowledge that it takes to advance in your career – meaning you have more autonomy to dictate the pace later on. And there are advocates for this way of thinking, with some experts saying that the trajectory of someone’s career is set by the energy they bring at its outset – so you might as well make the early years count the most.

“Your professional trajectory is disproportionately, and unfairly, set by the early years of your career,” says New York University Stern School of Business professor Scott Galloway. “So, if you want balance later in life, you shouldn’t be seeking balance in your twenties – but influence, relevance and economic security.”

But the reality is that the grind can also lead to burnout, stress and mental health problems – all issues that younger generations are increasingly aware of and vocal about. And that’s not to mention that the traditional view of how to be successful is being challenged by companies that are mixing things up by allowing employees to work from home most of or all of the time or requiring vacation time.

One way or another, it looks like this is the kind of trend that the market will decide. In industries with an abundance of skilled workers available for hire, balance may be a little harder to come by. But in industries where talent is scarce, companies will likely be more willing to work on balance and positive company cultures to attract those skills.