I felt stuck.
I was living in the same city my parents chose when I was 5 years old. I was in an industry with lots of consolidation and at a company with little room for growth. I had a great boss and a great job, but didn’t see any path to promotion. I was happy in Denver, but had never tried anything else. I decided it was time to make a change. A big change.
The Career Path to Stuck
My first job out of college that stuck was at a big telecom company with a big office in my hometown. I was a rare success story that got the job by applying online, but I am glad I did.
When I started that job, I was brought on as a financial analyst. I spent about half of my time doing accounting related tasks and the remainder working on financial analysis and systems development projects. It was a great learning experience and I had a great set of managers, both of whom I am still in touch with.
Over time, the 50% accounting became 60%, then 70%, and slowly more. I was kicking ass in that job. I inherited many processes and procedures from someone who had moved internally to a new role, and found many great ways to automate and cut the time spent on these monthly recurring tasks. I did so great I kept getting more and more responsibilities.
Eventually, that Financial Analyst role turned into a Senior General Accountant role, and it came with a raise of about 20%. The jump up the pay scale was a great raise, and I kept pushing forward, but I realized that accounting wasn’t for me.
During that time, I was able to both work full time and go to school full time in the evening for an MBA in finance. In the long-run, this has turned out to be a great decision.
From Accounting to Finance
Now, about two years in with the company, I was ready for something different. I didn’t like spending all of my time looking in the rear view mirror and wanted to move into a position where I would be an influencer. I had spent some time working with the treasury department and saw that the small team had many long-time members who were happy there.
So when a Senior Treasury Analyst position was listed on the job board, I jumped for it. My accounting team encouraged me to stay and was sad to see me go, but I knew it was the right career move for me. Then, only a few months later, the company was bought by a competitor and I saw the writing on the wall. I was going to be laid off. It was just a matter of time.
Networking Pays Off
About four months after the merger was announced, I got a message on LinkedIn from a friend I met during my MBA program. We took a class together that included a week in New York and had a great time exploring the city and discussing our careers together.
Subject: Job Interest?
I hope you’re having a good summer.
I wanted to reach out to you see if you have any interest in possibly interviewing in our FP&A group here at New Company? I don’t know if you have an idea of how things are shaking out at Old Company, but there is an opening here that they are looking to fill with someone with some telecom/finance background and you immediately came to mind. Please let me know if you have any interest.
Well, I did have interest. After a few back and forth notes and a phone call, I was setup for an interview. I ended up going in twice to interview for three positions. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that I locked in and landed a job at my next company.
The Job to Nowhere
When I was interviewing, one of the topics that came up was future growth prospects. I made it clear that I was excited to be an up-and-comer and wanted to see my career grow. When I came into the company, it was with a raise over 10%, and it came at a perfect time, but I did think I was worth more than what I was getting.
So I worked there for three years. My team changed a lot over that time, but one thing that didn’t change was my career path. I was given more responsibilities, survived a round of lay-offs, but didn’t see a chance to grow. I didn’t see a lot of promoting in my group. So I decided to move on.
Patience and Success
During my entire time in the three years at my last job, I received regular calls from recruiters about opportunities in my city. I did have some conversations about what I was looking for, which did lead to some meaningful potential opportunities, but nothing stuck.
One recruiter in particularly was pressing me to do what I knew was underselling myself. She said that I couldn’t expect a raise more than about 5% or so, and would be lucky to get 10%. I shouldn’t worry about the title of the position. I should just take something because moving is how I would move up.
But I was patient.
Just because I didn’t see any promotions on the horizon didn’t mean I was unhappy. I had a great job at a great company. I had a great boss. Lots of time off. Great benefits. No reason to rush just to take a new job. So I didn’t rush.
Deciding to Take Control of My Life
As you can see in this story so far, I did make some decisions, but it was often a path upward of least resistance. I applied for lots of jobs before landing the Financial Analyst role at Company One. The chose to make me an accountant. The job at Company Two was because someone contacted me, not the other way around.
Around the same time, I realized that life was happening to me, I wasn’t in control.
Again, it wasn’t that I was unhappy. I had a wonderful life for myself in Denver. My parents were close by. I had great friends, some since high school, that lived close by. I was involved in several rewarding non-profit organizations and was respected in the community. I had a good job, could travel and afford almost anything reasonable I wanted.
But I felt stuck.
I considered moving many places up to that point in my life. I had spent a lot of time in Jerusalem and loved living in a country where everyone was like me (Jewish) and I could eat at almost any restaurant (Kosher). But I never jumped and took the move. I was too comfortable where I was.
Then I considered New York. As the Jewish capital of the United States, I wouldn’t have had to move half way around the world to find a community (and the complementary restaurants) where I could feel comfortable.
Then I met an amazing woman. One who has certainly changed my life and will continue to be one of the most important people ever in my life. That person is my fiancé. Once we moved in and I realized she was going to be my future wife, I knew I couldn’t just pick up and go anywhere I wanted anymore. This is a two person decision.
I explained to my beautiful and understanding fiancé that I felt stuck in Denver and wanted to leave. In fact, when I started saving my Liberty Fund, in my mind it was to cover the cost of moving to New York and finding a new job there. (I called it a Liberty Fund because New York City is called Liberty City in the Grand Theft Auto games and I thought it was both secretive and clever. I didn’t want to publicly share my plans to move at that time.)
J was on board with moving, but not to New York. So we discussed other options. One option was to look at an internal transfer at Company Two. I applied for an internal transfer to the London office, in the heart of one of my favorite cities in the world. If I had gotten the job, we were ready to pack up and move. But I didn’t get the job.
So we explored some more. Last summer, we took weekend trips to several places. Included in the list were two potential hometowns: Seattle and Portland.
When we visited Seattle, I was sure that was going to be my new home city. I loved the idea of the Pacific Northwest and had a great time in Seattle. Then when we visited Portland, we went with the expressed purpose of deciding if we could live there.
On the way home, we discussed it and decided Portland probably wasn’t right for a few reasons. But then a few days later we were still talking about Portland. Then a few weeks later we were still talking about Portland. Then it dawned on us, we actually loved Portland.
Making it Happen
As a responsible finance blogger, I have to take my own advice. I wasn’t just going to quit my job and move to Portland. I needed a plan. The core of that was having a way to support myself (and my fiancé while she job hunts).
But as you already know, I wasn’t in a rush to just take a job. It had to be the right job. With the right company. And now, in the right city. Which was 1,200 miles away.
Networking and Applying
So I did what any logical person would do. I blasted my resume to lots of jobs in Portland. Of course, that method rarely works and takes hundreds of attempts before it usually works these days. But it had worked for me once before, and I didn’t know anyone in finance in Portland, so I gave it a go.
It turned out that I was networking and didn’t even realize it. One of the positions I applied for was through a recruiter. A day after applying, we spoke on the phone. She told me that I wasn’t going to get the job I had applied for, but she had another in mind that would work.
So I began the interview process. Once we began talking, everything moved incredibly quickly. From the first conversation to the time I knew I would be moving to Portland was four days, and would be moving three weeks later.
In that four days, I took a few important steps to ensure everything would work great for me. Part of that was a blunt discussion of salary requirements with the recruiter and applying an important interview lesson I learned on my path to this point.
How I Actually Got Hired
The key to a successful interview, in my experience, is primarily about selling your direct value to the requirements of the position. You can do that by memorizing the requirements and speaking to them point by point in an interview (which is dull and boring), you can demonstrate it with Ramit Sethi’s “Briefcase Technique,” or you can do what I do, which does take practice and a certain level of conversation skill and confidence: turn everything the interview asked into a short anecdote or example of how you can deal with that problem or requirement.
Once I realized that interviews were not about selling how awesome I am, but were actually about how I could solve a problem or make the company more money, I began practicing answering those types of questions in cover letters and interviews.
Often times the interviewer does not know he (or she) asked you a question that can give you a big insight into what the hiring manager is really looking for. Pulling out those problems and requirements, and answering them in an interesting way while showing how you can solve that problem is the key to nailing an interview.
Being in finance, I presented myself professionally, answered questions quickly with concise answers, and proved that I was worth my salary requirements.
Not only did I get the job, but I also got the salary I wanted and knew I deserved. My idea wasn’t just something I pulled out of thin air. It wasn’t some Millennial generation self-centered thing. It was based on research, education, and experience.
Here I Am
So, here I am. In Portland, Oregon. The City of Roses. Stumptown. PDX.
Whatever you call it, I am super excited to be here. I’ve had a few fun adventures in my short time here so far, but know that I am just barely hitting the tip of the iceberg. I have bikes to ride, beers to drink, restaurants to try, neighborhoods to explore, and so much ahead of me.
Here I am. I made a decision and took every step in my power to make it happen the right way. I found the city. I found the job. And I have someone wonderful to share the experience with.
I am not sharing this to brag, though I can see how it might come off that way. I am sharing this to encourage and excite you. I am not special. Anyone can do this. You just have to work hard to make it happen.
Whether your dream is to live where you do, across the city, across the country, or across the world, it is possible. People live their dreams every day. I am so excited to be living one of mine! It doesn’t just have to be “them” that can do incredible things. We can all make decisions and take action to do what we want and mark items off of our life lists.
So, what’s next? Well, I just got here, so I have not figured out the entire plan just yet. I know I am living in a rental in an awesome neighborhood for at least a year. I know I am hiring a manger to rent out my old condo. I know I have a great new job and want to work hard to impress my new mangers and co-workers.
I know I still want to travel and make awesome memories. I know I am getting married in May. I know I will keep this blog and other possible side projects going outside of work.
But that still leaves a big open canvas in front of me.
Now a question for you. Do you have any big life change stories to share? I would love to read them in the comments. And do you have any awesome places around Portland or the Pacific Northwest I need to check out? Share those too!