Early on a Monday in February of this year, as usual, I called into the meeting that I ran every morning with my team members and managers. I'm a software engineer, and typically we used that time to go over any tech issues that arose over the last 24 hours and how to best address them.
But this morning was different: This morning, I was being screamed at by a supervisor over Zoom in a meeting full of my colleagues for an issue that wasn't a part of my job description.
Part of the problem was that I was working on a male-dominated team and I was afraid to say "no" to additional projects and longer hours. In my experience, in this industry, if you don't take every "opportunity" offered to you — even if it means you are working nights and weekends — you can run the risk of being given administrative, less technical work that can hinder your career trajectory.
I had been working remotely for a year by that stage of the pandemic, too. Tech is stressful under normal circumstances, and with everyone struggling to pull out all the stops to meet expectations, nerves had understandably started to fray.
In short, I realized, it had become a struggle to establish a clear line between my professional and home life.
I didn't want to lose my job, especially amid a pandemic, but I was concerned about the possible detrimental longer term effects on my work if I was penalized or swept aside by management as a result of trying to assert those boundaries.
As the months wore on, the burnout and irritation my team members and I felt became palpable and exhausting. I liked and respected my colleagues, and I didn't hate my work by any means. But I felt that the way things were going was unsustainable.
Like so many Americans over the last 18 months, I started thinking about the kind of work I really wanted to do, and I decided to leave my job. Before I could make the leap, though, I had to make a plan.
I didn't only update my resume with my most recent job information, I decided to overhaul it completely. Then I went through each of my past job positions to see where I could show concrete results that I accomplished in those roles. I made sure to be as specific and detail oriented as possible, so I could readily bring up those examples in a job interview setting.
I updated my resume that was open to flexible and remote work. And I added my website I Like to Dabble and side hustle brand to my resume to show my entrepreneurial spirit and creativity. Including this experience highlighted soft skills like communication and organization while pointing out the technical skills I used to build and maintain the site and systems.
Video by Courtney Stith
My side hustle and small business had already been approved by my employer in the earlier stages of that old role, but I never put it on my LinkedIn for fear of the way it could affect my standing at my 9-to-5. I wanted the hiring managers to be aware of it and see how it played to the strengths I had for the new roles I was interviewing for.
I recommend keeping the template of your resume fairly simple, because I learned that resumes with heavy design elements run the risk of being rejected by resume bots when they are sifting through applications on job sites.
Before I started visiting job boards to look for new positions, I took stock by asking myself four key questions:
- What do I want to do?
- What kind of companies do I want to work for?
- How much do I want to get paid?
- What benefits do I need?
One of the resources that was very helpful to me in my job search was Glassdoor, because of the site's employee reviews and salary data. You can look at different job titles to see how the salary averages may fluctuate to gauge the kind of pay that you can expect. That helped me figure out my salary range, so I had it ready for when it came time to negotiate.
Coming off of my past experience, company culture was a really important factor for me. I actually turned down a job because the Glassdoor reviews were so bad that I didn't want to risk it.
Don't be afraid to use what you learn from employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor to help formulate your questions for the hiring manager ahead of an interview.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
In my experience, the interview process, and even the job listings themselves, are good indications of whether something will be the right fit. The top red flags in my experience are any job listings that describe the potential hire they are looking for as a "ninja," "guru," or "rock star."
To me, these are words that signal that the company or hiring manager generally isn't sure of what or who they want or need, and you may have to do a ton of additional unpaid labor to meet these unclear expectations.
I've found that another red flag is if a company asks you about salary expectations or past pay. My best advice is don't give them any hard numbers, because you want to give yourself the most runway you can going into a salary and benefit negotiation. Instead, give them a response along the lines of, "I would expect market rate in alignment with the full scope of the job. What is your budget?"
Video by Mariam Abdallah
Networking doesn't have to be cringe-inducing, fake, or transactional. You need a network of people who get you as a person and worker, and who will be in your corner whether you are actively looking for a new job, or just open to new opportunities.
To me the quality of my network is more important than the quantity of connections I have. Having just a few individuals from past and current jobs has always helped me move in the right direction.
Once I realized I couldn't go on any longer in my current team at my job, I started networking internally. Even though I wanted out of that position, I liked the company and wanted to see what else was available. At first there didn't seem to be anything available that really clicked and I started to get frustrated.
While I was doing this, I made sure to communicate with folks in other teams that I enjoyed working with. I thought if something were to come up, it was important that they knew I was open to new roles.
Video by Helen Zhao
Thanks to some luck and timing, in May 2021, after a little over a month of searching for remote work elsewhere, and for internal positions at my current job, one of my contacts connected me to a new organization that was being set up at our company.
She heard about it because they first reached out to her for the position, but she was already taking a managerial position within her team. So she referred me, I interviewed, and I got the job. I am still working at this job today.
This role is a much better fit for me. It is less reactive and not customer-facing. And being able to be a part of driving cultural change in my organization has made a major difference in how I feel about my work.
My wife and I have our main emergency fund that we have been adding to ever since we moved across the country at the end of last year. But I didn't want to dip into that if the job became untenable and I had to leave all together for the benefit of my mental health. So I started what I called my "F.U. Fund."
In the F.U. Fund, I wanted to make sure I had enough to cover both basic living expenses like rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, cellphone bill, any loan payments, groceries, projected medical expenses, and occasional fun splurges like going out, for a minimum of three months.
The savings in the fund came from both my 9-to-5 salary and my side hustle income. I wanted to be strategic about our finances, but I didn't want to feel deprived while I was looking for a job that would be a better fit.
I upped my retirement contributions to max out my 401(k) and increased contributions to my other accounts like my brokerage and IRA. While I did that in order to take advantage of the benefits available to me in the event I needed to leave, it actually had an unexpected affect on my future finances.
Because of my focus on retirement investing, I reached what's known in the FIRE world as CoastFI in 2021. It means if I never invest another dime, I will still have enough to retire by the age of 65.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
I have my side hustles such as my website and the income streams associated with that like my blog, freelance writing clients, coaching clients, and digital products. My side hustle was all a part of a plan to protect us now and in the future, regardless if I had to leave my current job or not. Either way, I knew we would have a safety net.
You can combine your emergency fund and F.U. Fund or have them be separate, it is up to you. What's important is that you have some sort of savings that lets you make choices about your next steps from a position of strength.
I wasn't the only one who changed my approach to work over the last several months. This year, my mom walked away from the job she had for over 20 years to retire early. She and my dad have emergency savings, but she was contributing the maximum to her retirement for a long time, up until the point she quit for the benefit of her mental health.
When she realized that she had reached her 401(k) goal at 59 and a half, she turned in her resignation. When people at her job asked her, "Did you win the lottery?" She responded, "No, I saved it."
If your job offers any sort of 401(k) match that is fully vested or other benefits like health insurance, my best advice is to take full advantage of it before making the leap. Opt for at least the match or any amount that you can afford and start scheduling doctor appointments before you might lose those benefits.
Everyone has been affected by the last two years. In response, many of us have been taking stock about what is important to us, how to prioritize our health and well-being, what we'll accept, and how to demand more. No matter what decision you make about the future, a plan can help you feel confident that you've got this.
Daniella Flores is a software engineer, serial side hustler, and creator of the blog I Like to Dabble. Daniella has grown I Like to Dabble on the side of her full-time job to 100,000 monthly users between the website and social media and is a two-time Plutus Awards finalist who has been featured on Business Insider, Huffington Post, CNBC, Refinery29, LA Times, and more.
More from Grow: