Posts tagged Life Happens
How I Left My Job & Negotiated My Exit

Jennie here.

From day 1 at my (now former) company, I knew that I was going to leave. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my job or that I didn’t always give 110% of my effort. I just knew what I wanted:

Ivan and I wanted to travel the world (and work simultaneously) starting in September 2018.

So, Ivan and I have had this planned out for more than two and a half years. At the end of July, I finally informed my manager of my intentions.

Given my current manager-employee relationship, I decided not to disclose that I was traveling the world. That’s my personal life, and it was really none of their business.

However, I did share the reasons why I was planning to leave. I stated that I’d changed managers three times in the last year and my relationship with my direct manager always seemed out of sync. I felt like she never really trusted me - her only team member. I also shared that I was exhausted by the constant need for political maneuvering. This is a problem with “careerists” in any industry - everyone’s just angling for the next seat. Whether that’s on a rocket ship or the Titanic hardly matters because nobody has skin in the game.  

I was just tired of it. It all seemed so pointless.


Here was my ask to my direct manager:

  1. I was willing to finish out all of my projects over the next month and help train/transition any new hires.

  2. During my last month of employment, I wanted to work remotely from New Mexico to spend time with my family.

  3. If they wanted to keep me on to tie up loose ends through August, I wanted an extension on my benefits and be on payroll through the end of September.

Truth is, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. Ivan and I were prepared for any one of  three scenarios:

  1. They would let me go on the spot (very likely).

  2. They would let me finish out my work over the next month (not so likely).

  3. They would attempt to persuade me to stay (not so likely).
     


The Results Of My Negotiations - What I Got Paid To Leave:


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In the end, it didn’t turn out 100% the way I wanted. Maybe just 75%. But that was more than enough, considering that Ivan and I would’ve been perfectly happy walking away with nothing:

  1. My manager gave me a one week to “finish up my tasks/projects.” There had been a lot of tension for some time so this worked out well because I got time back in my life.

  2. I coordinated with our HR department and managed to get one month’s pay without the work.

  3. They did not choose to extend my benefits into September (this was always a stretch goal and not a completely necessary one. Our international health care plan begins coverage starting September 1st).

I knew that it was highly unlikely that they’d accept all of my terms and I was right. Ivan and I had anticipated that my manager would be inflexible and might respond negatively to my resignation so we actually pre-emptively cancelled the lease to our apartment at the end of July.


Lessons Learned and What I Would’ve Done Differently In Leaving My Job:


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Here are some of my lessons learned from my first tech startup:

  • Lesson #1: I wish I had better negotiated my employment contract from the very beginning. My former company (like most tech startups) aspired to the “hire fast, fire fast” philosophy. And here’s the thing - those companies will always exist within the startup world, but there are consequences to this type of mentality. In theory, it’s a great idea to cut your B and C players quickly. But this assumes that management is competent and has the ability to distinguish between A and B players - and not be caught up by their own biases and prejudices. Sometimes objectivity and rationality is just a cloak for arrogance and a poor understanding of your own limitations.

    Had I known what I know now...I would have demanded a severance package and better sign-on bonus (relocation package) from the beginning because I was accepting a job across the country. In my next opportunity as a director level or higher, I will definitely negotiate terms that are more favorable to me.
     

  • Lesson #2: I should’ve done better due diligence. I joined the company because I was desperate to leave Boston at the time - my job was going nowhere and my managerial relationship was hostile (Ivan: misogynistic) to say the least. And in this new opportunity, I jumped without thinking too hard about it - I didn’t even negotiate my salary - which I should have.


8 Steps to Negotiate & Execute Your Job Exit Strategy


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Everything in business is negotiable. Trust me, you have more power than you can imagine - no matter what your situation.

Here are a few steps that I’ve gathered to help you negotiate your exit when you decide to leave your job.
 

Step 1: Decide on what you want and make your plan.

For me, I wanted to leave and travel the world by September 2018. You don’t have to wait as long as I did but I felt grateful to have two and half years to do good work, queue up the “next thing” in 2018, and mentally prepare to leave my job. Because I’m a planner, I needed this sort of thing. And I knew that if I didn’t have a “deadline,” I would never leave.
 

Step 2: Always lay the groundwork.

One of the most important things that’s always relevant - whether or not you leave a job or want to negotiate a raise - is you should always do your job well and document everything. Make sure to always document the following:

  • Schedule quarterly reviews with your manager.  
  • How well have you performed in the last 6 to 12 months? What are your metrics?

  • Have a presentation that covers your accomplishments and accolades, with testimonials from other team members across the organization.

  • Send a follow up email of what you discussed and shared with your manager. It’s critical to have a paper/digital trail of your good work.
     

Step 3: Prepare for your “next” thing.

Are you looking to get a new job? Traveling? Give yourself at least 3 to 6 months of interviews, informational coffee dates, or start doing some freelancing. Start early because it’ll only give you more options down the road.
 

Step 4: Assess your relationships.

In any organization or team, you should know who you can  depend on to advocate for your work and accomplishments (before and after you leave). Also, it’s good to have relationships with your executives if you work for a small tech startup. This makes it easier for them to accommodate to your asks when you finally decide to leave.
 

Step 5: Understand your leverage.

Understanding what your advantages are in any given situation. For example, was a lot of your team’s work dependent on you? Are there key company events/milestones during the year where your presence is essential? That’s leverage. And with proper timing, you can use it.
 

Step 6: Decide what you want.

Do you want a more flexible work environment (e.g. working remote 100%)? Are you leaving because you don’t agree with the direction of the company or management? Regardless of the reason, think about what you’re willing to do to help the company transition - and what you want to ask for in return. For example, if you’re a star employee - you can offer to help train the new replacement over the course of x months. And for your troubles, you could asked to be paid x extra for the additional months you’re putting in. If you’ve got a family, always ask for an extension of your benefits. In my case, my healthcare was 100% paid by my company so it would have saved me over $1,500 a month.
 

Step 7: Understand and accept the fact that the exit meeting may not go the way you want.

That’s just life - it’s not always going to work out the way you had intended. The moment you say, “I’ve been thinking about leaving the company…” it’s up to external forces and how they respond. I don’t want to downplay luck in all of this. On the other hand, they also say that luck is preparation + opportunity.
 

Step 8: Control your own narrative - remember the future and leave on positive terms.

Sure, it’s important to negotiate the best terms in your separation agreement but keep in mind that this goes beyond money – what you agree to and how you go about it can affect your career long term. When I left, I did an informal “exit interview” with every single one of the co-founders and executives at my company. I wanted to express gratitude to them, share why I was leaving, and make sure that I controlled my own narrative even after I’m gone.
 


The Bottom Line: Everything Is Negotiable; Ask For What You Want


If there’s only one takeaway that you have from this post, it’s that the world is malleable and you have more power than you think. And you owe it to yourself to ask for everything that you want because who knows - you just might get it. 

Early on, Ivan and I both realized that the “where” you end up isn’t nearly as important as the “how.” The journey over the destination applies to pretty much everything in our lives. And even when things don’t work out the way we want, you can still be confident in the fact that you played your hand the best you could. And that’s all anyone can ask for.

If there’s only one takeaway that you have from this post, it’s that the world is malleable and you have more power than you think. And you owe it to yourself to ask for everything that you want because who knows? You just might get it. 



5 Things We Do When We're Feeling Unmotivated

Ivan here.

Having spent all of my life in a big city, I never pictured myself moving to some remote village in the countryside to raise kids and grow a vegetable garden. In this fantasy, Jennie and I would adopt a pair of cats - one black and one white. We’d name the white one Tofu, and the black one Mu, the Chinese character for nothing, or nonexistence.

 
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Mu, said the cat.

Mu, said the cat.

 

That way, when the white cat jumps on the black cat, they'd essentially be canceling each other out. A block of tofu plunging into the abyss.

This desire to “escape” pretty much sums up Jennie’s and my mood over the past few weeks, and is the reason why we haven’t published anything. Don’t get me wrong - we tried. We must’ve written 3,000-4,000 words between the two of us, each word as fucking meaningless as the next. Words tinged with cynicism and frustration with nameless “people” and you know, “society,” and claims about “the world” not backed by any sort of data. 

But I guess readers are looking for a more concrete explanation. I wish I could put my finger on one thing, but I think there are multiple factors at play.

In no particular order:

1. Immigration: Detainment and Bureaucracy

Following my detainment at the border, I scheduled an appointment at the LA immigration office to sort out my expired green card. This was when I learned that the "normal processing time" for new green cards had doubled to 24 months (from 12 months). This means Jennie and I are guaranteed to be interrupted on our RTW trip, and will be forced to fly back to the U.S. for (yet another) round of interviews.

2. Complacency: We Are Ready To Embark On Our Next Adventure...

We just hit our two year mark in Los Angeles. For readers that have been with us since our first post, 24 months is pretty much our limit for how long we like to stay in one place. These days, we’re restless, irritable, and frankly, a little too safe and comfortable.

3. "Meritocracy": BULLSHIT and EGO As A Substitute for the Work and Ability

You don’t need a Pulitzer Prize to know that the tech industry can be a pretty inhospitable place for women. Even so, we sorely underestimated how clique-ish and fucked up Silicon Valley could be.  To quote the iconic monologue from the movie Bladerunner: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”


5 Things We Do When We’re Feeling Unmotivated


1. Step away and listen to music:

Music is a reminder that no matter where you are in the world and how you’re feeling about humanity at the moment, there are people who exist “out there” who have the ability to create beautiful things, and if you’re able to appreciate and be moved by that beauty, then maybe, just maybe, that ability to create something beautiful exists inside of you too.

Then, all of a sudden, you’re not just some mindless cog in the machine, slaving away at a 9 to 5 when you should be on your RTW trip already. You’re a human being who can still feel something that transcends your current surroundings. And this is a wonderful thing.
 

2. Break from your everyday routine:

After my appointment at the immigration office, where I learned that the normal processing time had doubled, and that some beaten-down public servant in Nebraska was still processing applications submitted under a different President, while the portrait of the sitting one leered at her from a gray and hopeless wall, I decided that instead of retreating back to my apartment and stewing over it, I needed a beer. Now.

That’s how I ended up eating mediocre Chinese food at Grand Central Market and knocking back watered down Budweisers at 11 in the morning. The Brazilian brewer who now owns this iconic American brand had cut so many corners that it was now impossible to get drunk off of this beverage. But it didn’t matter. I was drunk on rebellion.
 

3. Exercise (strenuously):

I haven’t done this yet, but I will have by the time this post is published. The best way to get rid of frustration and/or complacency is to find a track or open field somewhere, and just sprint until your lungs give out and your legs are so sore you just want to curl up into a fetal position on the field because you don’t have the energy to make your way home.

This is also a reminder that there are people out there who actually have to physically work for a living, and that whatever perceived injustices you think may have befallen you is not only insignificant, but borderline imaginary.
 

4. Let go of aNY expectations

One of the main things I learned after spending a month writing in the Taiwanese countryside is that it’s absolutely possible to work and produce without motivation. It’s actually one of the hallmarks of being a professional. First, you just have to let go of any hope or expectation that the work will be any good, or that you have any semblance of an image or reputation to protect, and the words will gush out of you like groundwater.

Just remember to filter out the raw sewage after it’s all said and done.  
 

5. Remind yourself that everything is temporary

Here are some photos I took from my antique iPhone 4 during my month-long stay in Chishang Township in Taitung county, a sparsely populated region on the southeastern seaboard of Taiwan.

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I plan on writing a detailed post on the things I did there (in Tatung), but I can say with certainty that I’ve never felt more creatively rejuvenated by an experience. So rejuvenated in fact, that I thought I could carry that feeling of lightness and productivity with me when I returned to Los Angeles.

But of course, the exact opposite happened: I completed my backlog of client work with excruciating difficulty, I missed two blog post deadlines, and wrote zero more words of fiction. The time I spent in rural Taiwan seemed like a whole lifetime ago. How could I ever have been so relaxed, productive and spontaneous? To use the military slang, Jennie and I now find ourselves firmly “in the shit.”

But then again, won’t this moment be temporary too? In the grand scheme of things, won’t this final stretch be something that quickly fades in memory?  If so, then what’s the use of complaining and acting as if things will never change?

It’s better to remind ourselves that all the good or bad things that have happened to us, as well everything that has yet to happen, is all temporary. The most important thing is to stay focused on our long term plans and goals and to navigate this rough patch with at least some semblance of patience and dignity.


All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
— Roy Batty, Bladerunner


4 Lessons I Learned From My Trip To The Emergency Room
Hospitals

Jennie here.

As Ivan vaguely alluded to in our March money diary, I had the unfortunate experience of testing out our nation’s healthcare system when I visited the ER last month.

A very real photo of my very sad hand. :(

A very real photo of my very sad hand. :(

Here’s what happened:

I was washing a large glass bowl and accidentally dropped it in the sink. As the bowl shattered, a glass shard flew backward and cut my wrist open. Luckily, it missed the vein but it did leave me with a giant gash on my wrist. Needless to say, I freaked out.

Since my company had just switched to a new healthcare provider, Ivan had to look up the nearest in-network hospital, order a Lyft (fun fact: Ivan can’t drive), and locate my health card and photo ID (in various jacket pockets).  When we made it to the ER, I ended up getting an X-ray and a couple of stitches.

Now that I’m able to type freely again, I thought I would share my experience with our “free market” healthcare system. Because “free market” means better, right? More competition and better care, right?

  • Bureaucratic redundancy. When we arrived at the waiting room, the receptionist asked  for my healthcare card, driver’s license, and social security number. I produced all of this information and watched her type this into the computer. Then she handed me a paper form...so that I could write down all the information I had just given her. Apparently, the fact that I was holding a paper towel against my bleeding right wrist was completely irrelevant.
     

  • Nobody cared. Look, I wasn’t expecting VIP treatment but some level of concern and attention would’ve been nice. I understand the ER is filled with far more serious cases than mine - not to mention overworked doctors, PAs and nurses on 10-12 hour shifts - but the ER nurse who was on duty barely glanced at my cut before concluding that I didn’t need to be there. In fact, she offered me a band-aid to go on my merry way. Lady, my wrist is grinning at me. I think I’m going to need more than a fucking band-aid.  
     

  • The admin/reception staff seemed lost and ill-prepared. According to the CMS, about half of all emergency services go uncompensated; the typical ER treats 1 in 5 patients without insurance or a clear method for reimbursement. I actually think that this is part of the reason why ERs go bankrupt: garden-variety incompetence. For example, when Ivan and I went to pay our insurance co-pay (which is $100 USD), here’s what happened:

The Receptionist (to her co-worker): I don’t know the link to the payment portal. Do you know it? Is it www.xyz.com?

Co-worker shrugs as if nobody has ever paid an invoice here since the new millennium.
Fifteen minutes of aimless clicking later... 

Receptionist: Uh...can we just mail you the invoice?

Ivan: I’d prefer to pay by credit card (subtext: let’s get this shit over with now)

Receptionist: Okay.

Fifteen minutes later.

Receptionist: Uh...yeah...I don’t want to keep you guys waiting. We’re going to have to mail you the invoice.

Me: Okay, but can we pay electronically when we receive the physical bill? (subtext: it’s 2017 and I’d prefer not to pay my bills like it’s 1954).

Receptionist sighs as if we’re being a huge inconvenience (btw, the waiting room was empty): Uh...I’m not sure. Sorry.

It’s been two weeks and we still haven’t received that invoice. This isn’t the first time a hospital/doctor’s office hasn’t billed us for services rendered. So are we supposed to assume the free market system is so efficient that it no longer requires my money? Stay tuned.


4 Lessons I Learned From My Trip to the Emergency Room


So, what are the takeaways from this experience?

  1. I don’t know enough about my own healthcare benefits. It was only after this experience that I actually checked the estimates for costs and alternatives to the ER visit. I found out that I could have gone to a nearby urgent care center, which would have been faster, cheaper, and easier overall. If I could re-do the experience again, I would have set aside a go-to urgent care center and gone there instead.
     

  2. In a city like LA, it’s easier to just catch a ride via a taxi/Uber/Lyft to the hospital. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but catching a Lyft in Los Angeles is way easier and less dangerous than driving (especially for a non life-threatening emergency). By the time Ivan had located my health card and photo ID and walked me downstairs, the car was already waiting for us in the driveway. No need to worry about parking or distracted driving.
     

  3. We need to have our future PCP on speed dial for future incidents. It would have been so much easier to speak with a doctor that knew me well and could calm me down in a situation like this. This is also a great lesson for when we go abroad. No matter where we are in the world, always have an idea of where to go and have emergency medical attention on speed-dial.
     

  4. Don’t expect too much out of hospital staff. I hate to say it but my entire ER experience only reinforced my skepticism and distaste for the American healthcare system. The staff are often overworked (e.g. 10-12 hour shifts) and have a lot of shit to deal with so naturally, they become more apathetic and careless. I think this has less to do with incompetence but a broken hospital culture.

So that was my emergency room experience. Now that my wrist is 80% functional, expect Ivan and I to get back to a more regular posting schedule.


Appendix

Total Cost of the Emergency Care Visit


I feel really grateful that my company pays the premiums for my healthcare coverage in full, which is definitely a privileged position to be in. As you can see from the table below, if I didn’t have any coverage, my trip to the ER would likely have cost around $600 for a simple laceration:

 
The estimate costs are based on multiple resources online and in the Los Angeles area.  Sources:  CostHelper  (for the cost of an emergency room visit);  Drugs.com  (for the cost of the antibiotic);  New Choice Health  (for an estimated cost of a wrist x-ray)

The estimate costs are based on multiple resources online and in the Los Angeles area.

Sources: CostHelper (for the cost of an emergency room visit); Drugs.com (for the cost of the antibiotic); New Choice Health (for an estimated cost of a wrist x-ray)