“Tomorrow I’m gonna wake up and I’ll be 50. And I’ll still be doing this shit.”- Good Will Hunting
Here’s a phrase we can stop using right now: “It’s a startup.” As if simply being a new business allows the place that hired you to do, essentially, whatever it wants. How many manner of sins does this broom of a phrase sweep up into a corner of acceptability?
Things are constantly changing. It’s a startup.
I have like four different jobs with no growth path. It’s a startup.
There’s no real role clarity. It’s a startup.
I have no idea if I’m being compensated adequately. It’s a startup.
Things feel really disorganized. It’s a startup.
How about, it’s a business, it’s a place where people entrust their careers, and it needs to behave as such. It’s 2018, everything is a startup, and so it’s time to acknowledge that not everything’s okay.
I’ve worked in the startup world for the last ten years, and that part about constant change is true. Modern business is far more nimble and open to pivot than the titan corporations of the sitcom generation. And that’s great–it’s exciting and optimistic to work in a place that can adapt to fit the needs of a market. My question is, can it also fit the needs of its employees?
Burning out shouldn’t be a thing. Leaving a company because there are no opportunities for high performers to advance shouldn’t happen. And spending ten hours of every day unhappy is absolutely insane.
I do not linger long. If my role presents more problems than potential, and avenues to address those problems are ineffective, cursory, or simply nonexistent, I find a new job. In ten years, I’ve found six.
Historical wisdom advises against this, and trains us to be employees who stick out bad situations for…I’m honestly not clear on the reasoning. Maybe there’s a school of thought that finds value in toughness, in overcoming. I think the concern is that potential new employers won’t like to see someone who has “moved around” a lot. I’m not a fan of planning my outfit, much less my future, around what someone might think of me. I’ve worked very hard to develop myself and my career into items of value, irrespective of timeframe.
By changing jobs, I’ve grown in compensation, title, and opportunity. I’ve acquired direct reports, full teams, and responsibilities that have expanded my skill sets that were unavailable to me in prior roles. I’ve advance my career much faster than had I stayed in one place for the last decade–and that’s all wonderful.
I really just did it to be happy. While I hate to boil it down to a YOLO reduction, this is my life. This is what I’m living every day, this is what I assign my purpose to every day, and I assure you neither my happiness or zeal for contributing to a greater good show up in a quarterly board presentation. I am the only person who can truly look out for me, and who can control whether or not I dread leaving home in the morning. We really will wake up in a moment with our entire careers behind us. I refuse to dread leaving home in the morning.
I have to care about what I do every day. I have to know that there is value to it. And I have to be surrounded by people who see me as a welcome part of a team, people who need me. Everyone is essentially replaceable, and I accept that. I just prefer to be someplace where replacing me would suck. When I’m in a role void of what matters to me, I leave, and I would encourage anyone else to do the same.
As a woman, I believe I have been less societally encouraged to make real changes, to ask for if not demand what I want and need, and to simply leave a job when I want to, than your average startup culture man. There’s that gratefulness thing to being a woman, that we should consider ourselves lucky to have what we have, and that there’s implied greed and wrongness in wanting more.
I want more. I want a better situation. I go get more. I go get better. And I don’t stay in jobs that aren’t showing me I should.
Today is my last day at my current job. While I’m leaving it, I acknowledge it wasn’t a situation without gain. Every situation I’ve left in the last ten years has offered tremendous gain by way of education. I’ve learned that nothing works as well as working hard. I’ve learned there’s nothing more valuable than information. I’ve learned leading people means supporting them. And I’ve learned that sometimes the best way to move forward, is to move on.