Think about leaving your job, before you've even started
I know it's hard to believe, but I wasn't always a middle-aged engineering manager . At one point in the distant past, I was a fresh-faced college graduate with ambition, and a new Computer Science degree, and a no clue about how the real world worked.
I've had many good bosses and managers in my career; far more than the average (as far as I can tell from my discussions with others) and far more than I deserve. During the second year of my career, as I was beginning to understand how professional opportunities developed and presented themselves, I received a little nugget of advice from an excellent project leader named Rupert. What Rupert told me was this:
When starting a new job, enter with an exit strategy.
At the time, I didn't realize it was a unique riff on "Begin with the End in Mind"; one of the habits from Stephen R. Covey's popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Rupert was well-respected in the company, several levels above me in the organization, and a generally nice guy. I began to follow his example, and his advice.
So what does it mean to enter a new job with an exit strategy?
When beginning your new job, don't enter with a mindset of "This job is forever", instead think "This role is one step on a path I'm walking. Today, I don't know the ultimate destination, but I do know it's going to be great!".
This mindset takes several forms:
- Ask yourself, what does success look like in this new job? What would it take to leave and feel satisfied that I've accomplished my mission?
- Early on, identify your replacement (preferably two potential candidates) so when another opportunity arises, you can jump on it and leave without creating a disruptive vacuum.
- Finally, after approximately 3 years in a role, your “effectiveness per hour” typically starts to diminish. You can still be effective, but you will be less so. Personally, I think this is a side-effect of growing comfortable in your role, losing your fresh perspective, and becoming a defender of the status quo (since actually, you've become the status quo).
Some of the hunger and passion begins to fade. And as Steve Jobs famously spoke to the 2005 graduating class of Stanford : "Stay hungry. Stay Foolish."
Remember, inertia is a powerful force working against you.
Artificially force yourself to move on from a comfortable job after you've achieved your success criteria. It may feel a little unconformable in the beginning, but that's actually a good thing. It will rekindle the hunger.
Take care, and I'll talk to you next time.
- : Technically, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, I'm actually not middle-aged, despite the fact that my back often tries to convince me otherwise.