Expensive career mistakes
Shreyas Doshi has been one of my favorite people on Twitter for more than one reason. While browsing through his tweets and replies, I bumped into this fascinating answer. The question was “What's the most expensive mistake you've made in your career, and what did you learn from it?”
How do you know when it's time for a change?
Apoorva Govind, CEO & Founder of Bestever has this amazing framework.
Determining when it's time to change can be challenging. If you're not paying attention, you lose precious years stagnating and being unhappy. Use this framework to evaluate if it's time for a change. Take stock of your answers after every quarter and you’ll know when the writing is on the wall.
Accomplishment: Have I done anything noteworthy these last three months?
Impact: Would I write a line in my resume about the work I have done over these three months? Would I value this specific work experience if I was hiring for my own company?
Growth/Future alignment: Have I acquired valuable insights or skills? Are these skills aligned with my future goals?
Challenge: Have there been days when I was thinking about a work problem in the shower so profoundly that I forgot if I used the soap or not?
Community: Am I excited and happy to go to work every morning and see my teammates. Do I believe in the mission, vision, and leadership of this team or company?
Let’s do some math to understand the opportunity cost of over-staying at a job that you dislike.
If you are an average 30 yr old engineer, let's say you want to retire reasonably by the time you are 60. You have at best 120 quarters left to make something of yourself. A year wasted at a poor job or role is equivalent to you throwing away 3.3% of your career. The older you get, the steeper your loss is.
Here are some other pointers to keep in mind:
Complacency is Cancer
People who pigeonhole themselves into a specialty and do the exact same job for years tend to grow complacent. The problem is that stability is an innate human instinct. So you need to deliberately counterbalance this tendency. Taking risks and being uncomfortable is a muscle you have to train. If you are ambitious and want to build a good reputation for yourself in the valley, if you don't want your talent to go to waste - treat complacency like cancer.
Misplaced sense of loyalty
Here is a story I read on LinkedIn -
”I'm lucky I live in San Francisco. I have some incredibly smart and talented friends who are engineers in the valley. One such talented friend of mine was an early employee at a transportation startup. She had grown tired of her role and was burnt out. She told me she wasn't leaving her company because it would be like abandoning her people. A few months after, during her perf, she received feedback that she seemed slow and disengaged. Yikes! By staying for loyalty, she was hurting her brand.
Staying in a job for loyalty or money's sake is like staying in a bad marriage for the sake of kids. It's not healthy for anyone involved. Companies only want your loyalty if you are engaged and have fun doing your job — true loyalty means leaving when your heart isn't in it anymore.
My friend, the talented engineer, got laid off from her startup at the beginning of COVID. When push comes to shove, companies do what's best for their business, and you should not feel bad for doing the same.”
Finally, change doesn’t always mean quit
Change doesn't always mean having to quit your job. It could be something as simple as changing the project you are working on or switching teams. People often ask how long should they stick around in a job that's not working out. In my opinion, time is the wrong metric here. Three months can be too long if you know this job isn't for you. Ten years could be too short if your objectives are being met.
If you are ambitious about your career and want to achieve specific goals, you can't get there by random accident. You need to be deliberate and keep your objectives in mind every step of the way. Product jobs are plentiful in the current tech era (yes, despite COVID), PMs are in high demand. There are only wrong reasons to stay in a role for too long and grow complacent. Quoting tagline of one of my favorite brands, Nike - "JUST DO IT."