Today's Reading

Feel free to jump around among the chapters and go right to the topics that are most urgent for you. At the same time, I also encourage you to read the sections that might seem least relevant to your own situation—sometimes that's where you'll gain the most creative ideas. I see this happen more than you might imagine: the strategies of an Uber driver inspire a business development idea in a corporate lawyer, the bravery of a college student changing majors galvanizes a decision by an entrepreneur, or the habits of a retiree motivate a frustrated job seeker.

When you embrace the art of recalculating, you accept the knowledge that your career path will not be a clear, straight line forward. You seek out change and challenge and discomfort, rather than avoiding it. This may sound scary, but it's a good thing! The sooner you learn how to handle false starts, detours, and disappointments—and even plan for them in advance—the smoother and more satisfying and more successful your journey will be. And sometimes you'll find that winding paths can take you in unexpected directions that are even better than you imagined.

Let's get started.


I hereby welcome you as a member of the Recalculator Club. Here are our rules of the road, which I'll refer to throughout the book:

1. Embrace Creativity.

A successful recalculation requires you to try new things and break out of your comfort zone. You'll have to consider working in industries you may have disregarded (or had never heard of) before. You'll need to use your imagination to brainstorm new ways to describe your skills and qualifications. You'll be required to embrace new technologies and experiment with different methods of communication. You'll be asked to expand your network to include people who think, look, and work differently from you. You might even try TikTok!

If we've learned anything from the upheaval of 2020, it's that anything can happen and the world can change on a dime. Think of the doctors who found creative strategies to comfort and treat patients during the early days of the pandemic when they knew so little about the virus. Be inspired by the teachers who found creative ways to keep their students engaged when learning remotely. Now is not the time to be rigid. Be a little scrappy and relentlessly creative.

2. Prioritize Action.

Recalculation cannot take place only in your brain. You must, must, must take action. When you're in doubt, send an email. When you're frustrated, call a friend or networking contact. When you're on the fence, apply for a job. Overthinking is an impediment to your success as a recalculator. In the words of Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get

3. Control What You Can.

I wish I could tell you how many résumés you'll need to send to land your dream job. I would love to tell you the exact date when job market conditions will be ideal for a career change. I dream about giving you the single salary negotiation tip that will guarantee you the highest income possible. Of course, all these wishes are impossible, because so much in life is out of our control.

The only sensible strategy is to put your energy into controlling what you can. You can control the amount of time you spend improving your résumé. You can control the number of people you connect and follow up with during your career change. You can control the amount of research you do about the appropriate salary range for your desired job, and you can control how much you rehearse your answer as to why you deserve even more. Control what you can and do your best to let the rest go.

4. Know Your Nonnegotiables.

Being creative or action-oriented, or letting some things go does not mean disregarding your values or morals or material needs. However, there is a possibility you'll have to make some trade-offs as part of your recalculation. You might take a step back in seniority, or stop making income for a few months, or work in an industry you never imagined, or move back in with your parents or a roommate. None of this is inherently "bad" or "good," "wrong" or "right." But it is your job to decide what compromises are okay to achieve your goals. (We'll spend more time on how to do this in Chapter Five.) Some younger workers, for example, are most interested in paying back their student loans quickly and are willing to work long hours and sacrifice some social time to do so. Some caregivers will not accept a job that does not allow them to pick their child up at school or day care at the end of the day. Some people with medical conditions prioritize health insurance benefits above all else. Know your absolute musts and never waver.

5. Ask for Help.

You are never, ever alone in your current recalculation or at any point in your career journey. There are always people, organizations, websites, social media feeds, books, and articles that are here to help and support you (example: me!). All you have to do is ask. Don't know what salary request is appropriate in a particular industry? Ask. Don't know how to tie a tie for your job interview? Ask. Don't know what Slack is? Ask. You know when people say, "Don't hesitate to ask?" Don't. Ask early, ask often, ask forever.

This excerpt ends on page 17 of the paperback edition.

Monday we begin the book Work That Counts: Breaking Down the Barriers to Extraordinary Results by Richard Lee.

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