Environment Matters Most to Career Success

career success

I’ve always wondered how people achieve career success. Is it their personality, is it that they outwork others, or is it that they’re naturally talented? I recently started my career mid-2016. As a person who’s heavily influenced by Malcolm Gladwell, I’m beginning to realize that what matters the most for a career to be successful is the environment.

Career Success Depends on the Environment

I don’t mean the environment as nature related. Rather, the environment as your surroundings. If your surroundings don’t support your career, it’s very hard to achieve success. Putting yourself in a position where bosses are recognizing hard work and achievements is paramount.

You can be the most hard-working, intelligent, and value generating person on the team. However, if coworkers, bosses, and clients aren’t supportive of you, then all the hard work in the world won’t matter.

Of course, demanding a boss to recognize talent before the dues are put in is illogical. That’s why the first step should be to always put in the dues and for recognition second. However, if the recognition isn’t there, it’s difficult to project yourself forward. 

A $9425 Mistake?

I shared my current salary in my last post. What I didn’t share, however, was that the salary offer wasn’t the only one I received in college. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that I worked as a valuation intern my Junior year summer.

The internship paid $16 an hour (which I didn’t think was the best, but I took it just because it was an internship in a field I wanted to be in) and I was lucky enough to receive a full time offer from them afterwards.

The offer was for $65,000 yearly salary, plus a $2,500 signing bonus, plus a discretionary bonus at the end of the year, plus generous benefits. The median family income is somewhere in the $50,000’s. It’s definitely a significant amount of money to be offered, especially as a fresh college graduate.

My current job will pay me $58,375 in my first year (my salary is $54,300 but they gave me a $4,075 signing bonus). The difference between the first offer and my current job is around $9,425 (plus bonuses). Did I make a mistake? 

Beyond Cash

I currently do not know if I made the right move or not. I may know down the road, but I currently don’t. There’s reasons why I’m convinced I didn’t make the wrong move, however. It’s because of the different environments that I saw.

When I interned at the valuation company, valuing private companies’ worths, I enjoyed the work. It was interesting putting my finance classes put to good use. However, there was one aspect that was huge to me that I thought would be detrimental to career success. One of the Associates just didn’t like me.

For example, when the Associate overheard me talking to someone else, at times he would interrupt and say “I don’t believe you”. During my interview, he thought that I was BSing on my past work and he would question everything that I told him.

When I approached him to ask if I could do any work for him, he would always reply with “no” then proceed to give work to the other intern who was there. Everyone else was very supportive of me, other Associates, Vice Presidents, Managing Directors, and Analysts. It was just that one Associate who didn’t seem to like me. It got me scared that I declined their full time offer.

The Money is What Matters Though.. Is it?

Others can argue that one Associate shouldn’t tip the scale whether I should accept a full time job or not. It’s obviously very well-paying, there were definitely exit opportunities, and there were support networks in place.

However, it’s a very small group (15 professionals in total at the city) and any one of them could leave. If so,  I would be left with a person with extra influence over whether I have career success or not. That wasn’t where I wanted to be.

My Current Job

Even though my salary is lower, I’m confident that I made the right choice. Everyone I talked to at my current company was more than helpful. The program I’m currently in is a rotational program and my current boss offered to recommend me to a department I wanted to go to. I didn’t take her offer but it’s not often where I get offered help, instead of me asking.

Furthermore, I talked to an Executive Vice President in the department I wanted to go to and in a 10 minute phone conversation, he offered to talk to someone to have me rotate in that department. Last week, I was informed that that I’m moving across the country (again) back to the good old state of Texas to work in the department I wanted to go to.

It isn’t just that. I had conversations with the Vice Chairman of the company, another Executive Vice President in a different group, and my boss gives me work to add value to the team. Every one of them have been more than willing to give me advice on navigating my career and they have been so helpful.

The environment is there to position myself for success, which is the most important ingredient to guiding my career forward. 


I’m confident that the environment that I’m in will help my career more so than accepting the higher paying job. I may kick myself later on or be happy that I was right but I believe that positioning myself was the best move. The environment matters more than anything to success. For example, I’m living the United States and not South Korea, where I’m from.

While South Korea is a fantastic country, the academic competition is fierce, and academics determine which college I would get into. It’s so fierce that students will cheat (and they are absolutely fantastic at it) in school. I would be gobbled up by my surroundings if I was in this environment. I’m glad that I got lucky to live in the United States and have the country be my environment.

Readers, do you feel that I sacrificed too much money for potential career success? Do you think that I made the right decision? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Finance Solver

I grew my net worth to $40,000 as a college student through hard work, discipline, and a little bit of luck. I graduated college in 2016 and will be starting to plan for my retirement once I start working.I am planning on reaching financial independence by my early 30's and I will document my moments of inspiration all the way to desperation here.

My goal is to enable your success in personal finance so that you can realize the American dream. The first step is starting today!

Read more about me here.

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12 thoughts on “Environment Matters Most to Career Success

  1. I think you made a right decision. Environment is very important for success, especially when you are starting out as a new college graduate. You want to go to a place that is going to be supportive and helps you grow in your career.

    However, you also don’t want to put yourself at a disadvantage either solely because someone gives you a hard time or doesn’t make you feel welcomed at the work place for no reason. There are laws and HR policies to deal with such people as some of the negative/bullying behavior could be construed as harassment or discrimination at work place.

    I hope you did tell them why you didn’t take their offer.

    • Finance Solver says:

      Thank you MrATM! I hope I made the right decision. As a new college graduate, I wanted to go somewhere where I wasn’t at a disadvantage. I wanted to start a career at least in the scratch and I certainly didn’t want to start one in the bad side of things.

      That’s true. I’m willing to work with difficult peers or bosses at my current job. I think the culture of my current company is set well so I can really communicate my way through working with such a person. It’s a large organization as well so one person’s opinion wouldn’t have a significant weight as the prior company I got an offer for.

      I didn’t end up telling them why I didn’t take their offer. I didn’t want to be on bad terms with them by saying negative things or give them helpful feedback. What I went through I don’t think had a whole lot of credibility either because he treated the other intern very well and nicely.

  2. No you made the right choice. There is an old almost clichéd saying that people don’t leave companies they leave managers. It sounds like yours in a way is an example of that. An issue with someone as a manager or in a position of power over you can not only cost you down the road but it can also demotivate you. Been there done that, and had you taken the job my advice upon hearing how you were treated would likely be its time to find another company. It’s better to have not joined in the first place then bail due to it sucking after 6 months.

    • Finance Solver says:

      That’s a great perspective. The company is on the smaller side so I don’t think it would have even been easy to switch jobs after working 6 months. They were growing but didn’t have a lot of brand value. One Associate’s opinion can have a lot of weight in how I will be able to advance my career so that’s why I didn’t take it. Maybe I overreacted because it’s only one associate but I sure don’t want to be at a disadvantage if I’m in my new career!

  3. I definitely think that you made the right decision. Being able to enjoy what you do at work is definitely way more important than a couple of dollars. In the future, if the environment sets you up to learn more and eventually get more responsibility you may come to think you made the wise choice. Good luck to you!!!

    • Finance Solver says:

      Thank you MSM!! I hope I made the right decision. It’s a significant amount of money that I gave up, which is why I contemplate it here and there at times. But I’m not the one to dwell on the past so all I can do is look to the future. I think the support that I’m getting in my present company is definitely worth the dollars that I gave up!

  4. Having worked with toxic people in the past, I commend you for recognizing and getting out of the situation. Particularly in a smaller company. You never know when someone might poison the well or back you into an uncomfortable position, no matter how good a job you do.

    • Finance Solver says:

      The things that really irks me the most is when people are dishonest and untrustworthy. If he would have even directly told me “I hate you” that even would have been fine because then I would be able to have a conversation why, was it something I did, etc. But the fact that we never had the conversation made me realize that I might be starting my brand new career at a disadvantage, which isn’t something I want!

  5. Your surroundings and the people you are around with daily make a huge impact on your life. You definitely made the right move and its a really good idea to only surround yourself around the kinds of people that will help you grow and achieve success.

    Good luck with the new job bud!

    • Finance Solver says:

      Thanks Alex! Appreciate it a lot! I’ve realized that environment is the most important thing to success. I’m heavily influenced by Malcolm Gladwell and I am very convinced that Bill Gates or any other successful people weren’t alone in their successes. They definitely had to have the right characteristics, but if they had those characteristics in say, North Korea, I don’t know how successful they could have been. Environment matters!

  6. It’s really interesting how career success, advancement and compensation can vary based on situations. I switched to another part of the business a couple years and got a promotion out of the move. Then I got another promotion. I could just as easily still be doing the same old work, but being proactive and identifying opportunities paid off.

    • Finance Solver says:

      That’s cool! If you don’t mind me asking from which area of the business did you move from? Did you know that it would lead with a promotion? I’ve heard of people getting raises just by moving jobs (not by getting promoted) and I’ve been curious about the topic ever since. Have to know how to get raises!

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