Some of you don’t believe me that it’s better to retire in a bear market, when all is in shambles, than in a bull market. I, for one, found it very hard to quit the money when times were good. I was always suffering from the “one more year syndrome.”
Seriously, as soon as my year-end bonus hit my bank account in mid-February, I would tell myself why not stick around for another 10 months to at least hear how much I would get. During the period when I was told (mid-December) and when I got paid, I had the option of just taking it easy if I wanted to do something else.
But after bonuses dried up during the financial crisis and main street really started hating anybody who worked in finance, I found it so much easier to walk away. When you had nothing to do with someone welching on their mortgage, yet still got blamed for the crisis while you continued to pay your own, working in finance started to get real old.
Then there was the issue of getting micromanaged by an insecure and uninspiring colleague out of NYC. Finally, a large part of my compensation was being paid in company stock that was also plunging. Why stick around? It’s not like I was doing something meaningful like helping disabled children with abusive parents find safe homes and loving caretakers.
The Exodus In Technology
The same conflict is going on now with many big tech workers, especially those who work at Facebook. I sat down with an old acquaintance who works as a Product Manager at Facebook for a beer the other day.
“Roger” went to Phillips Exeter, U Penn, then Harvard for his MBA. He’s basically every parent’s dream child who landed what he thought was a dream job after building a stellar educational resume.
Who wouldn’t want to work at a company that figures out how to track your every move online, to then sell your habits to the most pertinent advertisers?
Who wouldn’t want to help enrich their leader so he can buy 700 acres of land in Kauai and then sue locals to give up their ancestral land rights?
But after just 15 months at Facebook, he wants to quit. He lists the following reasons:
* A growing perception that Facebook and Instagram simply make people sad and lonely because everything is BS and curated.
* Enabling the Russians to meddle with our elections.
* The Cambridge Analytica data breach.
* The NY Times highlighting how the CEO and COO withheld information about the data breach.
* An article by ex-employee Mark Luckie saying “there’s a Black person problem at Facebook,” which punctuates an overall diversity problem at FB.
* Uninspiring senior management who talk like robots.
* Allowing Netflix and Spotify to read user’s private messages
* An emptiness upon realization that all his education and smarts aren’t doing the world much good.
Make no mistake about it. These problems have been around for a while. But something changed starting in July 2018. Facebook’s stock no longer went up. Instead, it started to tank.
When Facebook’s stock was going up, my friend was more than happy to ignore all the bullet points that were bugging him. After all, the pay was great and firm was consistently ranked as one of the top employers to work for. But now, with his equity worth much less, he wants to do something that makes him feel good. He’s 34 years old, coincidentally the same age when I decided to leave finance behind.
The desire for money and prestige may be ruining your life. Yes, it’s good to get a taste of making big bucks and working at a firm with a low acceptance rate. But if you don’t like it after a year or two, get the hell out. The longer you stay, the more empty you will feel. You may actually start feeling dirty because you’re accepting money from an institution you don’t believe in.
Contrast this bad feeling to a guy I know named Nate, who works as a child counselor at the Edgewood Center in SF. The center is primarily there to help neglected, abused, or mentally ill children. At 38, he makes 1/5th of what my Facebook pal makes, but he loves going to work every day to help the kids work out their problems.
He told me the joy he gets from helping others is more than any amount of money some tech company that promotes fake news could ever pay him. When a child gets placed at a foster home after months at Edgewood, each time he feels like he has won the lottery.
Do Something That Makes You Feel Great
Roger has no doubt most of his colleagues love Facebook and enjoy what they do for a living. Facebook just isn’t for him any longer, so he has to move on. It’s natural for all of us to become bored and try to find something new.
In the beginning, most of us will need to accept working at jobs that might not be ideal in order to survive. Some of us like Roger, might accept a job offer that sounds ideal but turns out not to be the case. After you’ve built up enough of a financial cushion to be more selective, don’t stick around if you don’t truly enjoy what you do.
The good times may very well be coming to an end. If and when it does, the lean years might be the best thing that will have ever happened to you. When the financial incentives go away, you’re left focusing on what truly matters: family, friends, purpose.
Recommendation If You Want To Move On
I recommend everybody negotiate a severance if you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training. Since you got laid off, you’re also eligible for up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.
Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance. I first published the book in 2012 and have since expanded it to 180 pages from 100 pages in the 3rd edition thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.