Power Trip

It’s Okay to Not Want a Promotion

In defense of a thoughtful lack of ambition

Jean Hannah Edelstein
Published in
5 min readOct 22, 2018

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Photo by rawpixel/Unsplash

I couldn’t tell you what the meeting was about or exactly when it happened — probably a year or so into my first job at a tech startup — but I feel certain I was sitting at a meeting room table and listening to someone go through a slide deck when the thought struck me: Maybe I should get an MBA.

Somewhere, a record scratched. Who had I become? Well, I’d become an ex-writer — a frustrated journalist who hit 30 and felt like her career wasn’t matching her ambition and then pivoted into the MBA- and dude-heavy world of tech startups. Partly because I was worried about not saving for retirement, partly because the job afforded me the opportunity to move to a new city where I wanted to live. Most of all, though, I felt like I’d been stalling professionally. My future in journalism seemed less than bright, and switching industries seemed like the only way to move forward — even if I didn’t know what I was moving toward.

For a while, I went all-in. I became a copywriter, then moved into a strategic marketing role. And so maybe it’s not surprising that when I spent my days being told what to do by powerful people (for the most part, men) who had MBAs themselves, I began to think I should follow the same path.

It felt like a weird thing to consider: Never before had I aimed to start a business or to join a C-suite. (Never before, in fact, had I known what a C-suite was.) But immersed in this new world and bossed around by these new people, I began to doubt whether I’d been doing myself a disservice by not going after the same things for my own career. I might not know what I wanted, but I knew I didn’t want to settle.

“It can be helpful to disentangle two questions: ‘Can I do it?’ and ‘Do I want to?’”

This is a thing about ambition: It takes a lot of personal strength to be surrounded by people who are all reaching for the same brass ring and not think that you should be reaching for it too — regardless of whether you really like brass, or rings.

Lisa Sanchez, a San Francisco–based leadership coach, often comes across this phenomenon in her work. Her…

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Jean Hannah Edelstein
Forge
Writer for

is a writer who also works in tech. This Really Isn’t About You is her new book, and she’s written dozens of marketing emails that you’ve probably deleted.