A CEO in the wrong bucket is still in the wrong bucket

Ramit Sethi

Corporations use all kinds of big phrases to obfuscate what they’re saying. Things like “that’s a good kludge” and “let’s grab the low-hanging fruit” are common around offices everywhere.

But surely one of the worst words ever created–and I do mean created–is “bucketize.” Companies and employees often say things like “What bucket do we put that in?” or “Let’s bucketize these 4 options.”

Usually I laugh behind their backs, but today I decided to use it in a little example. If you read the chat I posted about my friend, you’ll remember that she talked about an administrative job that paid relatively well but was still an administrative job.

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Friend: i wouldve jumped at this fucking easy ass job
Friend: but i thought
Friend: no where will this get me after a year or two
Friend: nowhere
Friend: i will have learned nothing new

I think this is a pretty important point: If you’re in the wrong bucket–even if you’re the head honcho–you’re still in the wrong bucket.

When I was doing recruiting a couple of years ago, I got an offer to work at a hedge fund. The people were great (that’s the only reason I escalated the interview), the position was cool with lots of responsibility, and the money was good. But you know what?

Even if I was the best at it, or even if I made tons of money, I’d still be limited to the financial world. And that’s not what I wanted. Even if I were CEO, it would be the entirely wrong domain for me.

So I think that when making a decision, my friend’s point about looking ahead is pretty important. What will happen in 2 years or 5 years? Even if your career has been stratospherically successful, will it be the right bucket?

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  1. redchurch

    This is like the old saying; “I’d rather be at the bottom of a ladder I want to climb than be at the top of a ladder I care nothing about.”

    Paraphrased… I’ve probably butchered it but you get the basic idea.

  2. Scott


    Love the blog. Learned a lot. Keep up the good work.

    I was surprised that your friend was so proud of herself for turning down a 40k per year job. From her description of the job, it didn’t sound too bad. There didn’t seem to be anything degrading, violent, or unsanitary about it. It sounded like office work. I was really surprised by her attitude.

    Perhaps she has a B.S. degree in Start-at-the-top-er’-fugitaboutit. Perhaps she should submit an application for CEO of Microsoft…you know Bill makes some pretty sweet jack. I also hear that there has been some trouble over at Disney. Maybe she could run that company. She saw Nemo, right?…no sweat.

    After all she does have a COLLEGE EDUCATION. Boy, and the way she can string together those swear words (fucking easy ass job)….wow! It’s practically Shakespeare.

    Yup, this little cupcake is headed straight for the top of the ladder. Wait, scratch that…”ladder” implies climbing, and starting at the bottom, and working toward acheiving something. Maybe she should just declare herself fucking ass queen of the easy ass fucking world. I’m sure that would suit her much better. Although the pay for such a position isn’t all that great. It might make 40k per year look pretty good.

    Memo to cupcake:
    1) Be angry with your parents. They raised you poorly.
    2) Have Ramit come over to your apt. and wash your mouth out with soap.
    3) Take the next 40k per year job you come across.
    4) Be the best employee you can be and start your own business on the side.
    5) This country is literally full to the brim with oppotunity. There is something great out there for you. But it likely means starting at the bottom somewhere and working towards a goal…ask any successful person.
    6) There is hope for you.

  3. Gregory

    What is wrong with starting at the bottom? Please don’t tell me that is why she (or anyone else) worked for their degree, so you can start a couple rungs higher and not lower yourselves to the level of others desperate enough to work for 40K/year?

    I have to side with Scott on this and add on a bit.

    It isn’t a degree that is going to set anyone apart OR how unwilling you are to sell yourself for any fucking easy ass job for that matter. It’s your ability to rise to the challenges life presents you and make lemonade from your lemons, adapt and overcome.

    7 years ago I started in a company as a customer service rep (bottom rung & a FEAJ). I now hold an ERP application developer position (still a FEAJ) in the same company. I am still exploring “buckets” and at 35 I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do and how I want to do it.

    My point… Well, let’s just say that my idea of what is success has changed since my early 20’s and I can look back at many good life experiences (some of which came from FEAJ’s) and look forward to success ahead with a solid understanding of myself and what it takes to be what I want to be. I had not a clue of this at 20 something, but at least I wasn’t ignorant enough to think that I’m too good to start at the bottom and LEARN something that isn’t out of a textbook.

  4. Ramit Sethi

    Great points. But I am going to side with my friend on this one.

    First of all, understand that this was an IM chat, so she was throwing around curse words and calling it an “easy ass job.”

    But more importantly, I think she was right on in saying that she didn’t want to work there. Just because you can get a $40k job doesn’t mean you should take it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with starting at the bottom, but I absolutely think the job should be somewhere that takes you closer to your goals.

    Her point was that, before we talked, she would have jumped at any job that someone offered her. But now she is waiting to find a challenging job in the right domain that will take her to where she ultimately wants to be. I’m with her.

  5. Ye

    I think the way she expressed the job has affected Scott’s and Gregory’s opinions. Although she has an unpleasant way of communicating, she made the right decision – not to take a job that doesn’t help her in any way even though it pays well. And I believe that’s the point Ramit is trying to get across. It has nothing to do with starting from the bottom or otherwise.

    Both Scott and Gregory are right about everyone has to start from the bottom. But for her, a secretarial job is not the bottom of the branch she wants to climb on. Like she said, “i will have learned nothing new”.

    Ramit’s friend is fortunate to know what she wants to do at an early age. I don’t know what her field is. But if she is in the, say, programming field, she can start as a junior programmer and move up the ladder until she decides to start her own company. But taking a job that pays her $100k to sweep the floors will not make her a better programmer.

  6. Michael Bell


    Your advice on this point is dead on. Early in my career I accepted a job as a paralegal. I was not interested in the work but I got a lead on the job from a friend and the money seemed good at the time.

    As I expected, I did not enjoy the work. Yet it took me years to transition out of that into the marketing career I really wanted.

    The paralegal job caused me two problems: 1) Over time, my income increased, which I got used to. Starting over on a new path got more and more painful because of the lower entry level income. 2) Even when I did decide it was time to transition, I found that employers were less interested in me, with my “not-applicable” career background.

    I finally took a 100% commission phone sales job, just to get into the right organization. Eventually, I was able to work my way over from sales into marketing. The jump to a full-commission job was scary, but years later I’m still glad I did it.

    However, I could have avoided a lot of pain and difficult years by sticking to my guns at the outset.

  7. Demian Farnworth

    She made the right decision. I believe that.

    I was recently in a position where I thought I was in the right bucket, Executive/Marketing Manager.

    I started as a copywriter, but I also have strong conceptual and strategy skills, so the company elevated me.

    But after about nine months, I started to feel the pain. I wasn’t writing nearly as much, which I love. In fact, it was like I was pushing a bicycle uphill. It was extremely difficult for me to do the management thing and to be honest, I wasn’t really that good at it.

    I eventually took some time off, and it became clear that I loved being in the executive role, planning, making decision about the future of the company, and so put up with the management BS. But it was pulling me so far from where I wanted to go. I knew I loved to write, and even though it was a huge sacrifice of responsibility and pride, I stepped down.

    That was 2 months ago, and I’ve been writing like a mad man ever since. I’m in my element. And it’s like I’m pedaling downhill (instead of uphill).

  8. D

    Ramit, I understand that you need to be kind to your readers, but those points by Scott and Gregory were far from “great.”

    They seem to think that she was refusing the job solely because it wasn’t high up enough in the company or because it didn’t pay enough or something like that.

    But she pretty clearly says that she doesn’t want the job because it won’t get her anywhere and she won’t learn anything. This suggests that if she WOULD have learned something or if, in time, it would have led to something better, she would have considered it. Unless you really need that paycheck, it is absolutely idiotic to settle for a job that offers you NOTHING except that paycheck.

    So Scott and Gregory, ditch the attitudes, you pretentious, holier-than-thou pricks.

  9. K

    As the master industry hopper,
    I’m probably not the best person to weigh in.
    I feel that becoming industry centric hurts marketability.
    If the industry takes a turn for the worse, you’re stuck.
    I’d rather gain broad skills like project management, hop industries every so often and always be in demand.
    Plus using successful techniques from other industries and adapting it to a current industry is the easiest short cut.

  10. Tyler Emerson

    “Corporations use all kinds of big phrases to obfuscate what they’re saying.”

    On preventing the decadence of language, see Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language: