Going for Distance

Sometimes you need take the long, difficult way on purpose.

Whether you’re just starting out as a professional, or building an already established career, you often have to make hard choices. Maybe you’re currently unemployed, or stuck in a job you loath. Perhaps you’ve plateaued in your current role, title, or salary. Or it could be that you just need a big, hairy challenge to reinvigorate your passion. In any case, you will likely have to choose between the short-term and long-term gains whenever accepting a particular position with a new company.

My last job search, for example, was a peculiar case. I’d gained a lot of experience working across many different industries over the years. I could have sought out a fledgling start-up destined for an IPO. I could have focused instead of building on my strengths and maximizing my salary. Or I could have looked for a stable, safe company that provided more security. Instead, I chose a position I had never held, at a small company in another country no one’s heard of, to do something I had never done before.

So far, it’s been an intense journey, fraught with complex challenges. The product team I was hired to build has grown from 1 person to 12, while the company grew from 39 people to over 110. We’ve updated our core products while releasing a new one. Our company structure and processes have changed dramatically. We even changed the locations of both our offices. Meanwhile, my wife and I moved to Germany to be closer to the action.

Throughout it all, I’ve felt deep frustration, uncertainty, or excitement (occasionally simultaneously), and have experienced so much change in such a short period of time that it already feels like a lifetime. I’ve watched some folks evolve into superstars, while others continuously struggle. I’ve seen our efforts to improve our products receive both praise and immense criticism. I’ve witnessed (or contributed to) both huge wins and epic failures. As a result, the company I started at two years ago is almost unrecognizable. Some days I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Yet it also feels like I’m just getting started.

Who knows if the company will continue to thrive 10 years from now? Who knows if the blood, sweat, and tears will translate into substantially more happy users? Who knows if all my success and failures will add up to better futures for everyone on my team? I certainly don’t. Earlier on in my career, I may have been tempted to jump ship, skip pay levels, and do something far less risky. After all, two years is good run at any company in this industry (or in this economy). But I don’t care about the short term uncertainty and pain. I’m in it for the long-term reward. It’s the most exciting time of my entire career, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

For the first time ever, it’s hard to imagine myself anywhere else and be just as happy.

So, if you’re deciding between new opportunities in your own career, I encourage you to consider the long road… The difficult road… The road that can lead to many different, unexpected destinations.

It may be worth the extra trouble.