With the Great Resignation and widespread reports of people increasing their compensation by absurd amounts, it’s easy to feel unsettled. Should I be looking for a new role? Should I ask for more in my current role? Am I a chump for not job-hopping like it seems like everyone else is?
It reminds me of whenever there’s stock market activity — the hustle and bustle of activity makes me wonder, wait, should I be doing something?
To feel settled in this unsettling time, it’s more critical than ever to get clear about what’s important to you about your work, and the role it plays in your life.
In this post, I’ll share a bit about my own journey to my current role as VP of Engineering at Range, and share some exercises you can use to feel confident about any changes you choose to make or not make in your lives.
Figure out what’s important to you
Mid-2020, I was starting to think about finding a new role, and my pandemic situation really forced me to figure out what was important to me. I had two young kids at home half of the week with no childcare, so I didn’t have a lot of extra time to mess around and figure out what I wanted.
Given my very limited capacity, I quickly was able to identify that I wanted to enjoy the process of working somewhere. In the tech industry, there are many tales of years of personal sacrifice, low salaries, and long hours — all for the possibility of long-term monetary payout. It became clear to me that I was not willing to do that, really, at all.
So what was actually important to me? I landed on:
- Work with people I trust and respect, on a product I believe in
- Optimizing for the journey, not the destination (or promise of later success)
- Not compromising how I show up as a parent and partner at home
- A role that felt like a progression in my career, where my unique mix of engineering leadership and coaching would be valued
- Work and life flexibility
From there, it was easy to feel good about joining my current company in a VP of Engineering role. I had worked with the founders before and had always wanted to work with them again. The role was one that was a perfect fit for me, where I felt like I could do all the things I love, and that would also challenge me. And because it was indefinitely remote with windowed work baked into its culture, it provided me with the flexibility I wanted.
What’s important to you may look totally different. Write down a list of what’s important to you. Once you have a list, mark what things are non-negotiable, and what are nice-to-have. This will provide clarity as you explore different options (including the one of staying at your current role).
Identify your limiting beliefs
When I first started exploring this role, I realized that I had so many pre-pandemic limiting beliefs about returning to work at a tech company (I had been previously running my own leadership development company). Among those limiting beliefs were thinking that if I took a full-time role at a tech company:
- I’d have to commute 2 hours a day from East Bay into SF
- I wouldn’t have the flexibility I wanted as a parent with two young kids
- I’d have to deal with a lot of dysfunctional bullsh*t
As I started to talk to Dan, Range’s CEO (and my former manager at Medium), I quickly realized that my beliefs were somewhat outdated and not very relevant in a pandemic and post-pandemic (if we ever get there) world. Remote work was here to stay, and I could work from the comfort of my own home without a commute. I didn’t need the flexibility to take a ton of time off, just the flexibility to pick my kids up after school a little earlier on occasion, and travel to visit family and friends a few weeks out of the year. And I already knew I collaborated well with the co-founders.
Some limiting beliefs are grounded in truths, or half-truths, but we often don’t think to question them. For example, many engineers plan to spend months brushing up on technical interviewing skills — but some companies (including Range) have moved away from on-the-spot whiteboard coding interviews to interviews that feel more realistic in how we might work together.
Take a moment to write down all your limiting beliefs about your current job, and what you think it’ll be like to switch roles. How can you get the information you need to figure out if these beliefs are true?
Let go of your should’s
With a lot of transitions happening around you, even the most grounded people may notice a lot of should’s popping up.
This voice can be useful, as a reminder that you have options, but at the end of the day, it’s your choice. Don’t act on should’s. Instead, for each should that comes up, practice swapping out your should’s for I-want-to’s and ask yourself how it feels. For me, this looks like:
- Should I do a more comprehensive job search? Do I want to do a more comprehensive job search? Not really, if it’s a good fit and checks all my important boxes, I don’t feel like I need to confirm that it’s a good option by interviewing at many places.
- Should I get on that rocketship? Do I want to get on that rocketship? From anecdotes from friends, it sounds like a rocketship that looks much nicer from the outside than it is on the inside, and I don’t think it’ll fulfill my priority of enjoying the journey, not optimizing for a big financial payout.
- With kids and a mortgage, should I find a larger, more stable company? Do I want to find a larger and more stable company? In the past, when I’ve worked at larger companies, I haven’t enjoyed it nearly as much as earlier-stage startups. While early-stage startups are not necessarily as stable as larger companies, I feel that my career is stable, and that I could easily find another job quickly if I needed to.
- Should I be getting paid as much as the randos on reddit who just switched jobs? Do I want to be getting paid that much? All things remaining equal, sure, why not? But when it comes to what’s important, a comfortable salary and the other things in my list are what I’m optimizing for, and I’m not willing to sacrifice those things.
- Should I get clarity on what my equity in this offer is worth? Do I want to get clarity? Yes, if I’m joining an early-stage startup, I do want to know what the different paths are for this equity, so I’ll schedule some additional time to get the information I need.
Rather than ignoring should’s altogether, they can create clarity around what you do want.
Write down a list of things that pop up for you that you think you should do. It can be things in your personal life, things at work, family obligations — anything that you’ve thought “I should do that”. For each item, ask yourself what’s behind that should. Do you actually want to do it? Or is there something else at play? Just this shift away from carrying the burden of so many should’s can be powerful to clarify what you want, so that you can make your decisions from an intentional place.
These tools have been super helpful for me in staying grounded in what I want, even in the midst of a global pandemic, with an unprecedented hiring market. They’ve helped me get clear with myself on what’s important to me, so that I can check in with my values and priorities, and make changes and decisions intentionally.