With 36.5 Million Americans having filed for unemployment, it is hard not to take the impact of COVID-19 personally. If you are someone who pre-coronavirus had some past in the area of careers: i.e. you have a history of moving from one company to another or you somehow keep finding yourself unhappy and working for a company or a manager that is not invested in you – you might be wondering at this point if this is just a string of bad luck. Maybe it is. Maybe not.
About a year ago I was having dinner with a friend who had been tragically single for the longest time. This baffled me because this person was smart, funny, attractive – all the right things! As I dug in with them, I discovered that they had gone to one of our mutual friends for relationship advice. I was shocked. First of all, the person they went to get advice from was also single. Secondly, each person our mutual friend had dated since I’ve known them had broken up with them within a year.
Why would you get coaching or advice from someone who doesn’t have a clear track record themselves?!?!?!
Most career advice on the internet is from people who had some sort of meteoric success. People who have struggled in certain areas and go on to read all the books turn into self-proclaimed experts and attempt to monetize it. Most of what you will find out there will only draw grand, sweeping narratives and typically fail to sufficiently factor in luck.
I’ve spent thousands of hours working with career professionals as well as personally coaching people across the country in a range of situations and industries. My background extends into communications strategies, relationship building, individual and team development, organizational optimization, and more. Instead of giving you example after example, let’s just cut to the chase and give you some straight forward advice you can take to the bank.
Below is a quick distillation of wisdom I can offer:
Your Company Is Already Struggling:
- If you get a retention offer, take it, and start looking immediately. DO NOT act like you’ve already earned the money. Those 6-12 months will destroy your soul.
- The company is not your family. Some of the people in the company are your friends in the current context. It’s kind of like your freshman dorm in college. You want some of them to still be your friends later down the road. But don’t stay because just because you’re comfortable or because you feel obligated.
- Don’t think that there won’t be politics because there wasn’t politics before. Politics emerge when the players believe the game is zero-sum. In a recession, the players are more likely to believe the game is over. You’ve got to be smart about making your move.
- Maybe the turnaround will work. Maybe it won’t. You have to decide whether it’s worth waiting for.
You’re Not Sure of How Much Risk You Are Willing to Take:
- It’s okay to go for a “safe” job. Sure, Airbnb was founded during a recession. But it’s only a 50% chance that you will survive the charge across no-man’s-land and reach the enemy trench. If you or your company are already struggling, it is likely that it isn’t going to get much better anytime soon. Even if you don’t jump ship now, you can start preparing and seeing what opportunities are out there and available for you.
- It’s okay to take risks. Staying at a company that’s slowly dying has its costs. Stick around too long and you’ll lose your belief that you can build something great or that change is possible. Most of the time in these situations we can learn some valuable wisdom, however, make sure you are not learning the wrong habits.
You’re Already Looking for a New Job:
“When a management team with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact.” – Warren Buffett
- When targeting a role, yes, management matters. But if you have an amazing manager at a crap company you’ll still have a crap time. In some ways, it’ll actually be worse. If they’re good at their job (including retaining you), they’ll keep you at a bad company for too long. And then they’ll leave because they’re smart and competent. Maybe they’ll take you with them but maybe not. Then what are you going to do?
- Your equity package is a lottery ticket with an expected value of zero.
- VCs are salespeople for a living. They are constantly talking their own book, and only have to be right 1/10 of the time. Even the ones you trust to have your best interests at heart are often wrong. Don’t ever join a company solely on the recommendation of a VC.
- “Take any role, at any pay, on a rocketship and everything will work out” is only sort of true. It’s the Hollywood model…”do it for the exposure and it might be great!” Or my favorite, “Just get your foot in the door and you can work your way up the ladder.” We have all watched the movie and heard lore of this happening, but this doesn’t always work. You have to pay attention to all variables that will impact you on the job front.
- Form your own opinion. Every time I’ve outsourced my thinking for a job change, I’ve missed wasted my time and theirs. Sometimes when we are job hunting we can become desperate idiots and forget who we are – badasses with a lot to offer!
Here is the last thing I want to leave you with…in life, there are always going to be circumstances.
Right now it is a pandemic, a few months from now (hopefully) it will be the babysitter canceled or they ran out of your favorite almond milk at Whole Foods.
You get to choose what kind of life you are going to live and how you are going to live it. Things will be ok because on average, everything usually balances itself out in the end.