Career Freakonomics – 6 hours per week

November 4, 2009

I’m a big fan of Levitt and Dubner’s work – their NY Times blog and Freakonomics. I just finished up the new one (Super Freakonomics) and couldn’t put it down. Definitely worth a read.

The first chapter had a line that forced me to write here, though. In the middle of a discussion about how women are still underpaid in America, this quote appeared (pg. 45):

Over the first fifteen years of their careers, women work fewer hours than men, 52 per week versus 58. Over fifteen years, that six-hour difference adds up to six months’ less experience

These are the average working hours for MBAs that graduated from the University of Chicago. (Original Paper Here)

This is something that applies to me. Early in my career, I had no social life. I spent all of my time working on computing projects through college and the first 4 years of my career. I ported a version of Gnome to OpenBSD for fun because I wanted it to run on my laptop. I figured out how to run my home firewall with the OS unbooted. We found the first remote vuln in Windows 2000. And I worked at crazy startups non-stop. I worked 70, 80, 90 hour weeks for years.

And it gave me a huge advantage. After 3 years, I was doing what people who had been in the business for 5 were doing. After 5 years, I was doing what the 10 year people were doing.

I always felt like hard work was the biggest advantage. I’m excited to see it in an academic paper (and in Super Freakonomics.

And I realize that I’m an extreme example. But you don’t have to be so extreme. How many of your peers work 35-40 hour work-weeks? If you average a 58-hour week (like the majority of the male MBAs in the study), after 5 years, you’ll be six months ahead of them. After a decade: a full year.

While we often counsel people on their careers and give advice on resumes, interviewing, career planning, etc., I think the best advice I can give is simple:

Love what you do and work hard. The more you love it, the harder you’ll work. And the harder you work, the more successful you’ll be in the long-term.

Not quite Tim Ferriss. But definitely true.

Posted by mmurray | Filed Under Advice, Behavior, Personal 


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