Feeling settled in an unsettling timeFeatured

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.

Great advice. And also, I love the Range crew. Lucky you—and lucky them :) Say hi to Dan and Jen for me 👋🏻
Excellent advice and appreciate the insight! April Vande Beek, a close friend of mine, wrote a post about this on Linkedin, but coined it 'The Great Restoration'. I can't seem to see/hear it for anything but that now (restoration). Her and I serendipitously met during a group interview abroad MANY years ago, neither of us got the job (ha!) but we went for coffee afterward and solidified a friendship that has tested multiple-international moves. The term "resignation" has such a negative connotation, when the workforce has needed (specifically, the USA) a full-bore rejuvenation. Work-life-balance, while adopted by other parts of the world, has never been embraced (let alone demanded!) here on US soil. Putting the REstart back into the Restoration, I can only dream of the mandated benefits that will be required to maintain talent (here's looking at PAID parental leave for ALL, flexibility, PTO beyond two weeks, PTO not including sick time, contribution to education, sabbaticals, emphasis on mental well-being, 401k that is fully invested at the start, benefits that start immediately).****The following written by April Vande Beek:I’d like to kick off a new conversation, and I’d like to dub it The Great Restoration. With so many people talking about The Great Resignation these days, I feel like it’s time to step back and start with the why. According to Fast Company, the underlying force (the why) of The Great Resignation is an existential awakening, inspiring many to rethink how they spend their limited time on Earth. As someone who used to live a backpacking life abroad, I’ve had the privilege of poking into other cultures and lifestyles and learned that the world doesn't universally respect the grind. I learned that you have to work to live, not live to work. For the last 5 years, I’ve dabbled in and out of walking that talk. I am privileged enough to work for a purpose-driven company, and I get to sign in every day knowing that my work not only pays my bills, it makes the world a better place. I must also admit, the above also means that over the last two years while we’ve been largely stuck at home, it’s made it easy to justify doing a lot more living from home to work than working from home to live. I love my career. I love my team. I love how much I get to learn, contribute, catalyze goodness, play, innovate, create and autonomate. (Yes, I made up a new word.) I love Benevity, I just need a break. I need to restore my balance, my adrenals, and my time spent with loved ones now that we’re kind-of-maybe-slowly inching out of isolation. Rather than resignation, I asked for some time off for restoration.And Benevity said yes. I have deep gratitude to have been granted time off. I suppose I’ve shown that I’m willing to work hard and do what’s right for Benevity, so Benevity wants to do what’s right for me.All good things don’t have to come to an end, but sometimes they do need an intermission, and perhaps that’s something that many of us would be better off exploring so that we can come back better than ever after time to refresh and eat orange popsicles on the sidelines.
I love the re-branding to Great Restoration or as you mentioned, Great Rejuvenation! Thanks for sharing!
This is such a helpful (and timely) post! If anyone is struggling to gain clarity on your next career transition, I just created a resource (it's free) that aligns perfectly with the wisdom shared here. It's a self-paced mini-course called The Resignation Revolution and it's designed for anyone who is thinking of quitting (especially if you're unsure where to start). It will help you uncover:- the passions that will point you to the work that was meant for you- the valuable skills hidden in your current resume- your zone of genius (and how to steer clear of what's keeping you tapping into it)- the limiting beliefs and imposter syndrome that might be holding you back