Making A Career Mistake

I’ve been at my new job for six weeks now and I am starting to get the hang of things. My boss has me working with a big, important, and innovative client. My team likes working with me. I have already made some impactful changes that is improving the way things are done. To top it all off, the company is doing very well financially and, should it make the right changes, could very well make its way to success.

In spite of all this, I think I made a mistake taking this job.

I was right to quit my old job. The organization had a lot of problems that, over the years, had led to a lot of emotional baggage. Morale was low, infrastructure was breaking, and the long term trajectory of the industry was iffy.

But there were good things at that job too. Friends whose company I enjoyed, interesting and moderate workload, lots of variety, and by the time I left some sense of expertise.

At my new job, I have… none of these things. Some of my coworkers are fine but none seem open to new friends. The work is much easier than my last job, but there’s so much more of it and my clients, somehow, are 10x more demanding than any I’ve ever had to deal with before. And every time I ask a question to technical contributors not on my primary team, they look at me like I’m an idiot to be endured at best.

If it were just that list, though, I wouldn’t feel as I do now. In fact, I worried for a while that I was just dealing with the new job blues. But I’ve realized that there are big issues that I hadn’t considered before at this place, the kind I wouldn’t have been able to gauge in an interview. My boss (contrary to the “let me know if I can help”) doesn’t have time to mentor me in any meaningful way (or if they do it just adds more work I’m super not interested in doing on my plate), there are significant process issues that senior leadership has failed to make, and frankly I find the client management part of my job to be tedious rather than invigorating (turns out, quality of client matters a lot!).

I also feel like the career change element was probably not what I wanted either. Like, what I am doing now is way easier than the work at my old job. That said, I feel so much less satisfied with the type of work I am doing. Far less technical and therefore in my brain less cache.

So now I’m here six weeks in wondering… well… what next? I could wait it out at this job for a couple years until my non-compete runs out and go back to my old industry, opening up my own shop. Or I could just bite the bullet and become a developer already. It’s still probably too early to quit, right? Sigh. Maybe this is all there is?

Anyway, that’s what’s up with my life, work-wise lately.

Have you ever made a bad career decision? Do you feel like you ever recovered? If so, how?

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What Is Casual Dress Code Even

It looks like I’ve been getting a lot of traffic on my “Should I Think Less About FIRE?” post. It seems like it came from someone’s email newsletter, but I can’t tell from whom? In any case, thanks internet stranger! And welcome new readers!

I know I’m on break, but I had a couple quick things I wanted to talk about with regard to my new company’s casual dress code.

First of all, “casual” pretends it is not a dress code, but it totally is. It mirrors what I think a lot of us had as school dress codes. As far as I can tell, casual means that one can wear jeans and T shirts, but that things that are more skin-revealing (even tank tops or off-the-shoulder looks which are trendy right now) or bodycon are really out of place.

Even within the realm of T shirts and jeans, some tees are normal and others are out of place. Lightly patterned tees (stripes, dots, little dog prints, etc.) are fine, but emblazoned words and three wolf moon-esque shirts are not. Also, fit is extremely important. Especially if one is literally wearing tees and sweats, the right fit is the one thing keeping wearers from being seen as truly unkempt.

Second of all, my business casual-leaning wardrobe is really close to feeling out of place at my current work place. I’ve been defaulting to my silk shirts and jeans and I’m worried it’s causing people to see me as too dressy to be technical? Like sometimes people don’t bother telling me things I can completely understand because they are “subtle”, but like I would really appreciate people to just tell me in order to perform my job thank you very much. Maybe this is just in my head? A projection of imposter syndrome, perhaps?

In any case, I think I’d be well-served to add a couple more pairs of jeans to my rotation and some non-silk shirts. I don’t really want to just wear tees, personally. Feels too informal. Some minimalist cotton or linen blouses, I reckon, but no button-ups because even as a bust size B, those tend to pucker like whoa. Recommendations welcome!

Third of all, I have a $50 credit to Saks through a new Amex partnership via my Platinum card. I can burn the credit between now and the end of the calendar year. It’s enough to buy maybe a third of a garment? Not really sure how and whether I’ll end up using this.

Alright, back to my exponentially increasing to do list!

Does your workplace have a “casual” dress code? What does that even mean? Any minimalist cotton or linen tops you’d recommend?

First Thoughts On The New Job

A mishmosh of thoughts in no particular order:

My commute is so much shorter than at my last job and it is amazing. That extra 40 minutes a day makes a huge difference in my energy levels.

There’s a lot for me to do here. Which on the one hand is okay since I have a pretty good idea of the steps I need to take to make a real impact. On the other hand, I’m still feeling lazy and like I just want to continue to read books, idly amble about the neighborhood, eat at all the nice lunch buffets nobody else goes to because they’re busy working, and watch GLOW all day. Is that too much to ask? (Yes, obvs.)

I feel like I’m ramping up on our systems very quickly. It probably helps that I spent a ton of time in my funemployment researching the company, interviewing the team for pre-job input, and reading MBA-esque books to prepare.

I don’t understand people who get “bored” in retirement. Were it not for money and all that, I could have readily extended my month of funemployment for years without a problem.

How am I so freaking tired from sitting!?

My anxiety is being super mellow right now and I’m kind of concerned? This is the first time I’ve majorly switched contexts and have felt basically nothing. Like, super blasé. No anxious flutters, no desperately wanting to impress or please. No excitement either, even though I felt really pumped about this transition only a month ago. Is this normal? Am I depressed right now?

Everybody seems nice, inoffensive, and not cynical here. It makes me feel weirdly uncomfortable… what does that say about me as a person?

I think part of the reason I feel so emotionally uninvested right now is probably because fiancé and I have decided, unless there’s a significant turn in the political tides, that we need to seriously consider moving next year. I feel ambivalently like I am both overreacting and underreacting. It’s been taking up a lot of brain space. Ugh. I don’t even know how to live life as if everything’s “normal” anymore.

I’m so unused to talking to new people. So many times new colleagues came up to me with, “Hi!” and I responded, “Good! I mean, hi!” Facepalm.

Have you ever felt “meh” during the first week at a new job? Any tips for making the transition back to work?

 

Job Offer Negotiation Was A Success

It’s official: I took the new job!

I’m glad to finally have this out of the way so my brain space can be consumed less by anticipating work and instead truly embrace this brief period of funemployment.

Before I accepted my job offer I, of course, negotiated. It helps that I have a lot of very aggressive friends and mentors that have taught me to be relentlessly entitled. You won’t get what you don’t ask for and all that jazz.

In my negotiations, I asked for an extra $20k in salary and an extra week of vacation my first year of employment. In return, my future employer gave me a $10k bump in salary, title promotion, and a promise of flexibility when it came to the vacation, though one they wanted to handle off the books (i.e. we’ll see if they live up to those promises). My new salary is still a pay cut relative to what I’d been making before but is in line with industry standards for the size of the company. The vacation policy is pretty iffy, but I’ll live.

While I’m a little disheartened that I didn’t get quite the salary bump or vacation commitments I wanted, the title promotion by itself is a big plus in my book. One of the things I have been worried about as part of this career change has been moving far back in terms of seniority. My thought is, even if this job doesn’t work out for the long haul, having that “Senior” by my job title will help add legitimacy to my experience and make it easier for me to apply for bigger roles or justify to big companies to bring me on board down the line.

In negotiating my job offer, I did three things:

One, I established a high anchor for compensation early. A lot of folks new to fields try to be wishy washy and force the other party to name a number first. But then, if an employer low balls, you have a much harder time edging them up drastically. With enough data– I use Glassdoor and Paysa for tech roles– you can generally figure out the range which a company is likely to offer and pick a number above it as an anchor point. For me, my anchor point was my previous pay since I was coming from a more highly compensated role and other job offers I had received for that sort of work.

Two, I dug into and negotiated multiple areas of my offer. While compensation was most important to me, through the negotiation process the company was able to “clarify” (i.e. I think they figured this out for the first time) their quite generous maternity leave policy. I also think being flexible on compensation got me a little flexibility in terms of vacation time on their end, which they had started pretty hard-nosed about (for reasons I don’t entirely understand).

Three, and most importantly, I remained consistently open and respectful, even when there was tension between me and the company and when I did not receive exactly what I wanted. In game theory, one’s optimal strategy will differ if they are engaged in a single or repeated game. Salary negotiation is a repeated game. Establishing early that I am willing to assert my worth but also do it in a respectful way will pay dividends down the line, I think, when pushing for raises, promotions, and for being seen as someone who is willing to be “tough” and represent the company as aggressively as I do my own interests. This negotiation may have ended, but the next one is always waiting around the corner.

Have you ever negotiated a job offer? Do you do so by default? What strategies do you use to determine your market value and negotiate?

What I Am Looking For In My Next Job

Friday I have an interview at a company I am really excited about joining. So far, my calls with the hiring manager and senior person above them have gone really well. Now it’s time for the four hour marathon on-site interview session. #tech #do other industries make people do this?

Looking at the role, it hits so many of my criteria in what I want for a “good job” that it feels like the standard bearer for the type of position I’d like. I lucked into an interview thanks to a referral from an academic I work with. Something something don’t just work for your network, make your network for you, yada yada yada. #maxims by yapfb

Even if I don’t get this job, though, as I’ve been applying to places, I’ve gotten a pretty good sense of what is / isn’t important to me in my next job. Here’s what I want:

Opportunity for a career switch

I have a non-compete that my employer would enforce, so in a sense I kind of have to make a career switch anyway. But there’s a particular type of tech role that I really want. Since I’m not looking to be a developer, those jobs are aplenty, it’s a bit more competitive to get my foot in the door, especially at a good place.

Nice, smart colleagues

I’m still mourning leaving all my wonderful colleagues at my current job. While I don’t know if I’ll find a group as actively funny and willing to be friends at my next position, I do know I want to be in a place where those I work with are reasonably nice– though can be direct about constructive criticism/getting things done–, intelligent, and competent. Speaking of…

Competent management

For better or worse, company life is affected by the decisions of senior and middle managers. Their decisions can make day-to-day easy or really, really hard. I feel like having a well-connected senior management is more likely at a smaller company. However, I am fine working in a big company, so long as their processes seem to make sense and don’t leave workers in weird bureaucratic limbos trying to secure basic things necessary to do their jobs.

Intellectual stimulation

I will take a “boring” product with interesting technical problems over a flashy product that’s super straightforward to implement any day of the week. I also refuse to take a job where my main responsibility is to run and analyze A/B tests all day. Just, no.

Good work-life balance

There are many aspects to this I’m looking for, but mainly I’m focusing on finding a good vacation policy, people putting in an average 40 hour week, colleagues with kids (especially women who’ve gone on maternity leave) that are able to make it work, and proximity to my house for a minimal commute.

Not too much of a pay cut

If I’m being honest with myself, I am 99% likely to experience a pay cut if I’m switching roles. Frankly, I don’t have experience in this new type of position and the 25-75% range for pay is much lower than in my current role (though there’s a long tail on pay, especially as you get into senior versions of this new position). So I’m setting my bar a little low here. In an ideal world I’d lose no more than 10% total cash compensation. Up to 20% still feels “acceptable” especially if I hit all my other criteria. Max I am willing to go down is 30% (that’s near-ish the median pay for this position) and that’s if I’m really desperate to get my foot in the door.

Things I don’t care about / actively do not want

I do not want to join a small, young start-up. Even though I myself am 26, the thought of joining a company composed only of other twenty-somethings, with a few thirty-somethings as founders sprinkled in, makes me deeply uneasy. I’d really like some company stability and older colleagues with experience I can learn from. Also, all the small start-ups I’ve talked to have given me a very Silicon Valley vibe. They hit all the common stereotypes: ping pong tables, craft beer on site, twenty-something coders sitting on couches instead of desks, bro-y hiring manager, everyone’s tired and overworked. Not my jam.

I do not care about equity. Unless a company is already publicly traded, it is as good as Monopoly money to me. Even then, vesting periods are long and I don’t want to be tied to a company that may not be a good fit for the promise of future stock.

Also, free food is nice and all, but more often than not will not fit my dietary criteria and/or is representative of a company culture that overly values hours on campus. Ditto all the other big company luxuries (gym, laundry, whatever).

What are your requirements vs. nice to have’s for a job? What couldn’t you stand or is unimportant? How much of a pay cut would you be willing to take for switching into a new type of role that you think better fits your interests? Do you have to endure marathon on-site interviews for your industry?

 

 

The Ever Increasing Commute

Over the years, my commute time has steadily grown.

When I first came to the city, I could make it between my apartment and office 20 minutes, door-to-door.

Then our company moved across the river and my commute increased to 30 minutes.

Then I bought my condo in a slightly less central suburb further from transit and it catapulted to 45 minutes.

That is, of course, assuming it isn’t raining or snowing, which confuses our subway system. On those days my commute can be as long as an hour and a half. These instances haven’t really become more common over time, but they have certainly been a more grating. I’ve not infrequently the past few months left my office right at 5 to catch a 6:15 exercise class near my house (<5 minutes) only to be fifteen minutes to late.

One of the things I’m prioritizing for my next job is to work somewhere closer to where I live. 30 minutes on normal days by subway on my side of the river so I have an easy (< 3 mile / 1 hour) walk when the subway is rolling over playing possum.

Before you suggest it: yes, I listen to podcasts and audiobooks and music, etc. Sometimes, though, I just want to get home on time.

How long is your commute? What’s the longest commute you are willing to endure?

Networking While Introverted

With less than a month to go, I’ve started by job search process in earnest.

First, I updated my resume, LinkedIn, etc. per the recommendations of my career coach. Then I started messaging what feels like every recruiter in the metro area, even though I know it’s been more targeted than that. I’ve hit up both internal recruiters at companies I want to join and external recruiters (i.e. headhunters). I tailor my message for internal recruiters for the positions I’m interested in and external recruiters based on their areas of specialty. No dice. I’m switching roles, so I don’t think I’m the safe bet they’re looking for. Sigh.

So, given my lack of success using the arm’s-length methods, as of last week I started working my network hard. There are four leads in the picture right now:

  • internal referral by former coworker at Big N company, where there’s an opening on team I’d love to work for even if it’s probably way more work than I do now for roughly the same pay,
  • referral by current coworker/mentor for niche position at another Big N where he knows the hiring manager and also turned down the position himself,
  • coffee interview for mid-sized startup based on recommendation from a professor I work with who knows the founder, and
  • lunch date with a college acquaintance who works at big company doing the kind of work I want and that has contacts at some of the big firms hiring in town.

Who knows if any of these will end up panning out, but just the process of networking has really engrained in me two things: (1) people have been supremely generous toward me for which I am eternally grateful and hope to return the favor someday and (2) oh my goodness, my anxiety from so much online and meatspace social contact is off the charts.

I find it really difficult to ask favors of people with whom I am friendly but aren’t my close friends. It feels slimy and disingenuous, especially if I haven’t talked to them in years. I’ve tamped down some of these feelings by making the interactions as quid pro quo as possible– “Hey, would you like to meet for lunch to catch up? (my treat!)”– but still. Ugh. Humans. Talking. Introversion. Blech.

If this round of “shaking the tree” doesn’t yield anything, I’ll be taking the route of all the meet-ups, all the time. Then poking my close friends for job leads which feels less self-serving but higher stakes in terms of killing it at interviews (so as to live up to friend’s recommendation).

That’s the rub, I guess. Always paying for these things one way or another: with your time, your spoons, your social capital.

But if I want to find a job, I gotta hustle, hustle, hustle.

How do you feel about networking? Do you find it easier to ask favors of close friends, loose acquaintances, or total strangers? What helps you with your social anxiety?