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How to decide whether to make a career change, according to ex-Googler

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Lexi ReeseOther experts use the same approach. Lexi Reese pictured.Colin Price Photography

  • Making a career change can be intimidating.
  • Gusto COO and ex-Googler Lexi Reese uses the same approach every time she switches jobs: Am I doing what I love, what I’m good at, and where I see a big need?
  • Reese said it can be tough to decide, but ultimately you have to listen to your gut.

Talk about a non-linear career path.

Lexi Reese started out making documentary films, then worked in the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan district attorney’s office, before moving on to management positions at American Express and Google.

Today, Reese is the COO of human-resources software company Gusto.

Each time Reese thought about making a career move, she used the same framework to reach a decision.

“The most fulfilling journeys are ones where people are really honest with what they love, what they’re good at, and where they see a big need,” she said.

Reese said she loved both working on documentary films and being a legal advocate for victims of sex crimes. But “I wasn’t particularly expert and I didn’t see myself being able to be the best person or the most talented person in those fields, just based on my skill set.” She added, “That’s a tough thing to navigate.”

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Reese’s three-pronged approach to career changes sounds strikingly similar to Patty McCord’s. McCord is the former chief talent officer at Netflix, and she previously shared with Business Insider a method for figuring out if your job is a good fit: You’re doing what you love to do, what you’re good at, and what the company needs.

(McCord said a manager can use the same method to figure out if they should keep an employee.)

Meanwhile, Facebook teamed up with Wharton psychologist Adam Grant to figure out why their employees quit. As they write in the Harvard Business Review, they learned that employees who stayed found their work enjoyable 31% more often and used their strengths 33% more often than those who left within the next six months.

It’s not always easy to listen to your gut when it’s telling you to move on

As for Reese’s decision to leave Google after eight years, she said, “I loved the purpose of doing [work] to create a world where everybody had access to information.” But “I saw myself doing more of the management of the business, as opposed to the building of the business.” She asked herself: “How do I get back to serving a segment of the world that needs the service?”

Read more: Everyone wants to work at Google — but we found out how 15 ex-Googlers knew it was time to quit

At Gusto, Reese said, she’s helping small to medium-sized businesses give their employees competitive benefits and allow those employees to thrive.

Reese cited “that internal voice that says, ‘OK, I’ve done what I needed to do in this space and I feel like it’s time for me to grow and do something different. And that is a real internal journey.”

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