Are Career Coaches Worth It?

Over the course of job searching, my confidence has gone through many ebbs and flows.

Some days I feel super confident, like when I felt good enough to turn down an offer. Other days I feel like the only thing I’m qualified to get paid for is donating my plasma.

In either case, my feelings are volatile and highly subjective. In hopes of anchoring my expectations to “reality”, I sought out an external sounding board: I hired a career coach.

I’ve hired a career coach in the past, to mediocre effect. My previous career coach didn’t have specific experience in tech and gave some generic resume advice, nothing I felt like I couldn’t get off of self-help articles I found online.

This round, though, I found a career coach with specific knowledge in tech recruiting and, let me tell you, the difference was like night and day. She gave me very targeted information about how to restructure my resume and LinkedIn for making a career change, which job boards are used for which section of the market, which recruiting firms and Meetups to target in my area, and what to ask and expect for compensation down to the company level which is a big f’ing deal and worth her advice for that point alone.

One major downside though is that career coaching is not cheap. I paid ~$200 for each session of coaching (about an hour each), though it also included some amount of prep time and follow up from my coaches. If they help me secure a job or avoid making a multi-thousand dollar mistake, though, the price seems incredibly worth it in comparison.

If ever I’m in this situation again in the future, or for others who might be, I would say career coaches are only worth it if they:

  • have experience recruiting in your specific industry of interest,
  • have knowledge of your regional job market,
  • have reviews and testimonials which indicate they can give specific and actionable advice, and
  • are of roughly the same generation / target demographic or otherwise have insight into career development for your cohort for things like, e.g. what can I expect for maternity?

Have you ever used a career coach? Did you feel it was worth the money?

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Lowest Common Denominator

Anxiety has started to set in as I begin to approach my leave date. It’s still three months away, but that’s basically tomorrow in anxious-brain time.

As I get closer I’m working through some worst-case scenario plans to hopefully put my mind at ease. For instance, if my projections are correct, I should be able to make it seven months (until the end of 2018) just on my cash earnings between now and my leave date. Which means, assuming I don’t make one red cent after I quit, I shouldn’t be moving “backwards” but just stuck in my March 2018 net worth. That feels like a nicer way of framing the situation than saying I’m drawing down my cash reserves.

Ideally, though, it’d be good to have some small stream of incomes coming in to buffer myself. For whatever reason, though, I never think of doing anything tech-y or managerial (my highest ROI skill areas). If I consulted at the market rate for my current work, for instance, I could probably live off of doing 10 hours/week indefinitely. No, when I think of generating small side streams, I think of: donating my body to science, participating in psychology studies, tutoring. All relatively low-ROI but easy things to do, like I’m a college student again strapped for cash.

The better way to approach this, obviously, is to figure out how to do high-pay work part time.

The first stop, I think, is to see if my employer would be willing to hire me as a contractor to finish up some of my ongoing work. This would let me build up a fat cash cushion and walk away from some of the internal dynamics that are making me unhappy, but may or may not pan out due to various state regulations. I have enough contacts that I’m sure I could dredge up clients on my own, but unfortunately, I can’t consult in my field outside my company for at least two years due to my non-compete.

The second stop, then, would be to retrain for a closely related but not identical area of consulting that I can probably get certified to do in a month.

The third stop would be, I guess, to find part time jobs that play to my skills (assuming I can’t get a full time job that plays to my skills?). This is where I start drawing a blank. Maybe if it gets really bad I could do some freelance coding, but it’s difficult for me to imagine scoring freelance coding gigs and not just signing up for a FT position at a start-up since the job market here is pretty favorable to employees. In any case, it’s an option and probably a better one than selling my eggs.

Do you have a list of Plan B jobs? Do they adequately utilize your high ROI skills?

Making The Decision To Leave

I’ve hinted in some other posts that I’m not feeling entirely fulfilled at my current job. But it wasn’t until this week that I decided it was time to move on.

The decision was a hard one to make. I’ve been at my employer for over five years. This was my first job out of college and the only offer I received at the time and since. I worry that once I quit this job, I won’t be able to find another. That, as has happened time and time again, I’ll put myself out there to be judged by hiring committees only to be rejected again and again and again. And with fiancé unemployed as well, the stakes feel even higher.

I don’t have an offer yet, but the reality is I can’t stay here. Staying means I only half-heartedly look for other positions. Staying means I keep coming home day after day feeling depressed, despondent, and useless. This Reddit thread comes as close to mirroring my feelings without actually being me. As much as my FI plans mean to me, and as much as quitting will put those plans on ice, I can’t use delayed satisfaction as an excuse to keep wishing years of my life away.

So, here’s the plan: annual bonuses in my company get distributed mid-March. After those are sent out, I will inform my manager of my intention to leave the company. I will stay at my company until June 1st unless I get another offer before then. That gives me four months to job search and squirrel away some cash. In the “worst case” scenario, I take the summer off in the city, which is the best time to be idle around these parts.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll go into the financial preparations I’ll be taking for this potential self-funded sabbatical. Also, you’ll get to see me try to spin up some side hustles that will (hopefully) help tide me over should I remain unemployed for a while.

In any case, wish me luck.

Have you left a job without an offer lined up? Am I foolish to quit a stable, well-paid position? 

Burnout

My manager and I had one of our monthly check-ins. Apparently I’m not putting in enough hours at the company each week. They expect X hours of productive work time per week (a reasonable number, to be fair) and I’ve been doing X-7.5.

Which means I have to some combination of:

  1. Leave for work earlier than I normally do (adding extra to go through rush hour).
  2. Finish work later than I normally do, pushing my dinner deeper into the evening.
  3. Cut my lunch break down.

When I think of how many hours a day I dedicate to my work, I get bummed out. There’s the work itself, the hour and a half commute round trip, the time I spend wallowing about my job in the after hours (unpaid, clearly). Often lately I’ll bring my computer home weekends to try and catch up but even if I don’t open my laptop once, I can feel in the back of my head the stress mounting.

Even putting in X-7.5 hours a week, I’m not capable of being productive the whole time. I’d say I have about 4 hours of productive work time in me per day, max. Especially since I’m constantly interrupted at the office, breaking my flow.

What keeps me here is the pay. Also feelings of: who else would want to hire me? and would I really like any other job better than I like this one? If I’m being honest with myself, the hours are still pretty good. Almost any start-up environment would expect way more time from me than my current employer, the big tech companies probably around the same amount. And in order to switch jobs I would need to spend probably 100+ hours skill-building and putting up portfolio projects on github. I guess I’m choosing the known sub-optimal versus and unknown sub-optimal scenario+high initial cost.

One of the reasons I pursue FI is because I can’t imagine staying in this industry until 65. I’ve met very few people over 55 in this line of work, and even fewer women over 35. I feel I need to squirrel away money while I still have the opportunity.

I used to have a clear sense of what I wanted to do after semi-retirement. Write short stories, go after my PhD, start anew in an entirely different vocation, etc. Right now, though, those ideas feel very hazy and effortful. I’m reaching the stages of burnout where all I really want to do is nothing. Which is entirely unhelpful in digging myself out of my inertia.

For now, I’m hoping my upcoming two week holiday vacation will help me reset. But in a way, I know I’m just biding time. The “right” course of action is probably to figure out what type of work I want to do and resign myself to the associated pay cut. Then again, the numbers say FI is only eight years away…

Working On The Weekend

I planned to write a “real” post (insofar as this blog is ever more than slightly curated stream of consciousness) but then my entire weekend got eaten up by work, procrastinating on work, and this stupidly addictive paperclip factory game. So I’m going to keep it short.

The past few weeks I’ve been falling behind at my job. In part due to factors out of my control, but also partly because I’m in a bit of a funk. I’m not sure what to label it– is it imposter syndrome or anxiety or just I think I’m generally just done with this job. Regardless, it’s meant that my time management has been wanting. That, on top of a busy month, means I’ve been bringing work home on the weekends more than I’d like just to meet deadlines.

On the bright side, I often derive a weird pleasure from working on the weekends. The office is quiet and empty. I have more room to focus and actually get things done. I can even work from the comfort of my own bed if I want.

But on the other hand, working in the off-time also means I can’t recoup after a difficult week. It makes it harder for me to feel refreshed the next Monday. And my poor CSA delivery, which I usually cook Friday evenings, still wallows in its crate, the kale leaves yellowing as we speak!

For now I just need to push about two weeks longer before I get a much-needed break. Here’s hoping I make it through.

Do you ever have to work weekends? How do you keep up during difficult times at your job?