What’s the job you want after this one?
If you’ve never been asked this question in an interview or answered it with your current manager then I feel sorry for you. I’m fond of both asking and answering this question because no matter where you are in your career it will force you to deal with an absolute truth — there are things that you should be doing right now to help you land your next job and you’re probably not doing any of them.
In the 90s there was a comedy show called In Living Color that featured a sketch about a West Indian Family by the name of the Headleys. Every member of the Headley Family had at least five jobs. They were known as the hardest working family in America. Whenever watching their latest misadventures the audience would wait for that episode’s payoff: the family matriarch would learn that someone only had one job and would freak out and run around hysterically in disbelief. Who has just one job?
The thought of only having one job didn’t make sense to the Headleys and it doesn’t make sense to me! No one has just one job and if you’ve read this far already I’d argue that you have at least two.
Your second job is learning new skills and gaining relevant experience so that you can land the job you’d like to have after this one.
So this requires being honest and asking yourself what is the job that you want after this one? This is a little bit different than asking yourself what you’d like to do in five or ten years. That’s higher level strategic thinking and by asking this particular question we are trying to be tactical and focus on the here and now. Don’t think about what’d you like to be doing eventually think about what you want to be doing tomorrow.
If you already have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to land that next job then honestly — what the fuck are you still doing at your current job? Your career trajectory should always be up! Your employer better be challenging you and giving you more responsibility.
If you don’t have those skills or knowledge then do a gap analysis and figure out what you’re missing. Come up with a plan as to how to start filling in those gaps immediately and most importantly start executing. It really does not matter where you start as long as you start. On that note I’d actually recommend discussing this with your current manager.
Part of your current manager’s job is to help you advance in your career and to grow. Most people will not stay with their current employer for life. Your employer gets a certain amount of value out of you and you should get a certain amount of value from your employer (in addition to your paycheck).
It doesn’t mean that you’re planning to walk out of the door tomorrow. Keeping this in mind your manager should be more than happy to help you out. If they aren’t then you probably have bigger problems to worry about.
So, get to work. Second work.