Keep your circuits open without burning down the house
👋 Good morning from Los Angeles! I'm Nate Kadlac, and this is Plan Your Next—a Sunday newsletter that connects design, creativity, and how you prepare for your next thing. If you joined recently, I’m thankful for you being one of the 2,500+ here!
And Happy Mother’s Day to all the incredible moms! A special shout-out to my wife Alie, who is probably reading this from bed with a well-deserved brownie and coffee in hand. You’re amazing, and I might even get you two brownies. Enjoy your day. ❤️
Keep your circuits open without burning down the house
I always considered myself a bad employee.
Early in my career, I made the decision to never stay employed at a company for more than two years.
I did this partly because I knew changing jobs easily beat the incumbent’s 4%. I bounced around quickly between the first three roles, quickly increasing my pay by 55% by the time I signed on with my third role.
This wasn't because I thought the companies I worked for were bad places to work, but because I was self-taught, eager to learn more, and wanted to expand my network.
More importantly, I didn't find that climbing the corporate ladder was something I found value in.
In a one and one with a former boss, I was asked what I wanted in five years. With the amount of enthusiasm of a turtle, I spit out, "Creative Director." Coincidentally that was his role, and I just wanted to leave the room with an answer that he liked.
Like a poorly wired home, I didn't want to fully commit to their network.
The limitations of a closed circuit
A closed circuit is like having everything working together in concert. The current flows around consistently, using just the right amount of energy from each resistor and capacitor, moving swiftly around in a loop.
Closed circuits are essential for things like your iPhone to function properly. Or the lights in your home.
In business, it's the same thing.
A successful business depends on its closed circuits. This is what makes hiring people so difficult. By nature, we're unpredictable and could disrupt a closed circuit. The current doesn't flow smoothly unless we're all working together.
It's why some of the most successful companies do a great job at keeping their circuits closed. They do this by offering free lunches, gym memberships, predictable career org charts, office equipment stipends, and anything else to keep the electrical energy produced by humans flowing in harmony. Understanding the needs of the network, upgrading components—I mean people—at just the right times, and keeping them satisfied.
I have a number of friends who have had one foot out the door but then that upgrade of $10-20k and a new title came at just the right time. It's the perfect bridge so a company doesn't burn down with a short circuit.
But, it comes at the cost of our own electrical networks. The energy we give someone else to protect their network makes it difficult to maintain—or upgrade—our own.
Ten years can fly by in a closed circuit.
How to open up your network and prevent a short circuit
How well do you know what your employed friends are doing in their roles? Besides my wife, I could not tell you how well or poorly or what impact my friends have.
There's very little evidence of their role outside of the walls of the business.
It's why LinkedIn for almost two decades was a feed of barely legible closed-circuit lingo, where employees and business leaders were trying to communicate what was happening inside their organization, to people outside of their network.
But in doing so, it comes off as cringe or manipulative to people who aren't speaking the same language, even if it was done in earnest.
Open a loop to your personal circuit
While there's an opportunity to upgrade your professional network, it's much slower and predictable, because you're fighting the network effects already put in place. And not getting what you want means potential years of sacrifice being wasted.
What you should be doing opening up a small bridge between your professional and personal circuit. Not too large so it causes a fire, but just enough you can relay information between the two.
Here are a few ways you can do this:
1. Save your wins
Too many people wait until looking for their next job to document their wins and losses. Instead, sit down every quarter and put together any screenshots, internal wins, team contributions, and anything else that proves you participated in something that can upgrade your own network.
David Hoang, leading Research + Design at Replit calls this a Hype Doc. A living document that recognizes the organic wins that happen internally.
2. Recognize your worth
A small trick in getting organic customer testimonials is by saving the emails, calls, and threads of customer feedback. Then when you want to use it, just go ask for permission with the saved quote. This is much easier than trying to cold call someone for testimonials from 3-6 months ago.
If you're halfway decent at your job, tune in when people highlight you for the work you're doing. Much of the time it's organic and undocumented. So try your best to capture these moments and save them for later when you need to validate your experience for a new role or if you ever go and build your next thing.
3. Keep a list of the things that get you excited about your job
What do you love about your job? What are the areas of work that keep you in the role that you have, outside of a paycheck?
Listen carefully to your interests and make sure you lean into these areas more. These are the components that open up different opportunity circuits.
Keep a document filled with these ideas, because they might lead to a new side hustle, a business, or a bridge into a new focused role.
4. Create and share
The final piece is to start connecting the dots between what you're doing in your role, and what might benefit others.
You might be compelled to act selfishly here, and think that people care about your latest promotion, how much money you're making, or some internal win that benefits you solely.
But, we don't.
While that's great cringe content for 2016 LinkedIn, this is about something deeper. This is about how your recent project impacted a certain type of customer you now empathize with because you worked so closely with them over the last six months.
Maybe a story turns into a blog post that's not about your company, but about how you approached this personally, and how it changed you.
Or you might see an opportunity gap that won't be fixed internally due to a lack of resources, but you want to try and hypothetically solve for it through a video or some writing.
Start a newsletter. Build a product. It all starts with a simple disruption to your closed circuit.
The opportunity of an open circuit
I broke my two-year rule once in my career. It lasted seven years until 2021.
Being at a startup, I was operating in fear for a lot of the time. You're constantly thinking about whether the company is going to make it, and we were very close to failing a couple of times.
Out of fear, I recognized the limits of that closed circuit. So I spent the last 24 months of that role maintaining and upgrading my own personal network.
Once I did that, I had more options. Options give me flexibility. Flexibility gave me confidence. And confidence gave me a nudge in a new direction.
And now, you're reading it.