Bouncing back in careers

It’s been a gut-wrenching last few days for us to witness several friends get impacted by Google’s RIF. My wife is a tenured Googler so naturally, we have built some outstanding relationships there & got so much value out of its community. This makes it even harder to see close friends & collaborators come to terms with this abrupt life change.

Folks who have built successful BigTech careers are typically pros at the job-hunting process, so I don’t think I can share any particularly new insights there. However, there is one idea I believe could be relevant in navigating this phase, & that I have been sharing with some friends over the last week. It’s the value of being “radically open-minded” while searching for your next adventure.

As we progress through our careers, especially beyond the first decade, we tend to build a certain self-image in our heads. It mostly reflects where we have seen the most external success in the past (titles, money, fame, influence etc.). But the reality is that the market is an ever-evolving beast that doesn’t really care about this self-image.

So while we might believe that we fit best into specific roles, or deserve certain compensation, the market may disagree. And this isn’t necessarily a negative reflection of one’s skillsets or experiences – in rapidly-changing industries like tech, the definition of talent-job-fit for the same role keeps shifting across eras, especially when the macros are hard. We don’t get exposed to this change while at a stable job until we start job hunting under pressure, which is when this reality hits us in the face.

So how can one effectively deal with this challenge while job-hunting? The key is having a radically open-minded approach to this process. Borrowing from a beautiful piece of advice one of my mentors gave me when I was trying to bounce back post my startup – try & approach this phase the same way a founder tries to find product-market-fit:

  • Talk to many different types of customer segments
  • Deeply understand their pain points
  • Talk about your unique value proposition & how it can potentially solve these pain points
  • Observe where your value prop is resonating the most
  • Follow the highest-fidelity customer signals
  • Have an overall vision as a guiding North Star, to keep this process aligned with your internal compass

This approach is much more “discovery-based” (where does the market believe I can uniquely solve a problem), rather than “search-based” (this is what I want OR this is where I think I fit in the best). Similar to how market-pull takes startups in directions that the founders never originally expected, it’s worth being open to all kinds of re-framings & new opportunities that the market sees for you as a professional.

The curse of being an achiever is believing that you know exactly what’s best for you next. I call this a local maxima. But often, the market is giving you signals that can potentially take you to a global maxima in the long run, allowing you to become the best version of yourself. You just need to a) listen to the market & b) be brave to move in new directions. That’s what being radically open-minded is.

Humbly sharing these 2 cents from my own life experience, with the hope that it can give you a new tool to emerge stronger from this uncertainty. If I can help you in any way (listen/ brainstorm/ give intros), please don’t hesitate to DM me on Twitter. More power to you!

PS: in case you are interested in startup roles, especially in the US-India corridor, feel free to check out my portfolio. Happy to make intros.


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Author: Soumitra Sharma

Operator-Angel I Product Leader I US-India corridor I Believer in Power Laws I Love building & learning

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