When you’re looking to make a career move, it can feel incredibly overwhelming.
For those of us in junior-to-intermediate positions, it can feel like we don’t have a lot of agency over what comes next. Sometimes we feel stuck because of finances, job stability, health or childcare benefits, commute / location, or something else entirely. Sometimes we’re just scared. Sometimes we don’t feel confident enough that we can go somewhere else.
We’re often told to be thankful for the jobs we have, or to take the first “good offer” that comes our way. Thinking about your career just for yourself can feel like a privilege, but for those of us thinking about what comes next, it’s a necessary and empowering exercise.
Having frank conversations with yourself is not the most comfortable exercise. Under the guidance of Raw Signal Group, I spent a day with 79 other people learning how to ask myself the tough questions about what I want out of my career. It felt like single-handedly undoing every crappy internal dialogue that makes us feel selfish for wanting more out of our careers than just a paycheque.
So how do we start this conversation?
First, let’s remember that no one cares about your career more than you do. So while you have people around you that genuinely want to help, you have to guide those champions to something you actually want and need.
How do we do this? We make a cheat sheet that helps us — and others — determine what we want next. Knowing that what comes next isn’t just about the money or the title means shifting your mind to those much harder to answer questions. Those questions about self-worth, satisfaction, and value.
The Nightingale’s asked us to answer three important questions, and I challenge those of you reading this to do the same:
What do you value?
Separating what makes work great or awful for you can answer a lot about what you value, and what you value can guide the kind of work you want to be doing.
We were asked to pick a time at work where we felt great, and list 10 things that contributed to it. The top three things indicate the kind of things you value in your work. Having this on hand to refer to when looking at future employers will help you know if someone’s even worth your time and effort. Is it important for you to feel listened to? To be mentored? To be independent? Only you know these answers.
What fits your life?
It’s not always about money, and that’s an important start to this lesson. Our work is so rarely just about what we do in those 40 hours. It’s about the commute, the benefits, the workspace — whatever that is, know that it isn’t arbitrary. Work makes up a huge part of our lives, so ask yourself: what’s something that would make you turn down a salary or title bump if it was missing?
Again, no one knows those answers other than you. But whatever it is — it isn’t silly. At the end of this session, I felt like Liz Lemon’s Dealbreaker! Character from 30 Rock — I am feeling ready to support anyone in my life to get what they want — figure out that thing that points you to more evergreen happiness at work, and tell yourself it’s okay not to budge.
Where are you going?
Many people in tech refer to their jobs as “tours of duty”, and we were asked what our next one might look like. We were asked to imagine what the next 18–36 months; what is it? What sounds exciting? What’s your ideal job, and how would we find it?
Throughout the day we got to participate in some really excellent activities that helped us think about how we present ourselves, and how we were going to shape that next “tour of duty”. From mentoring and coaching strangers, to looking through each other’s LinkedIn profiles like we were personalized recruiters, we spent the day thinking about the stories we tell about ourselves, the ways we share our knowledge, and about the story we want to be telling.
Although the day didn’t specifically centre on negotiation, I came away with some key learnings that I know I’ll be taking into my upcoming job search:
- You aren’t selfish for wanting more out of your career;
- Align your work so that it serves you, your employer, and both of you together;
- Think about your next tour of duty as a finite period, because what you want now might change, and that’s okay;
- No one cares about your career more than you do — it’s up to you to arm those who want to help with the best guidebook on what you’re looking for;
- And on that note: ask for help. It’s never wasted.
If you’re a junior or intermediate software developer or designer who identifies as a woman, non-binary of agender person, and you’re thinking about what your next tour of duty could look like, follow us on Twitter. We’d love to help you get there through our free, hands-on programs.