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First, You Need To Decide What You Want From Your Career

You need to know and communicate what you want

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

I met a former work colleague for coffee recently.

He is now a partner in a small but prestigious venture capital firm. He’s been there for over 10 years and always told me it is his dream job.

This time, as we were catching up, he told me about how his company keeps changing. Its getting bigger. They are now working on company culture. One of his peers was promoted to a newly created position. The position involves more internal management and operations. He wasn’t sure if he wanted that position. But, he was surprised that no one had mentioned the opportunity to him in advance.

Do you want to do that kind of job? I asked.

He told me that he didn’t know. He was not sure what other options might come up, and how can he decide unless he knows what the options are?

What do the other partners think you enjoy doing at the firm? I asked.

He told me that he had never told them. He assumed he’d keep doing the same thing, but the firm keeps changing in ways he didn’t expect.

And therein lies the problem.

The fact is, change is always going to happen in every career and every company, big and small. It might happen at different speeds, but it will happen.

In my experience, the best jobs are not posted. It happened to me the other day. I got a text from a friend saying they were thinking about adding someone to their team. They hadn’t figured out the exact parameters of the job yet. But it sounded like it would be something I would enjoy doing. Would I come in to chat?

So, how can you get in the flow of knowing what jobs are out there, either within your company or outside of it?

Of course networking and getting to know people is helpful.

But beyond that, there is a critical step to moving forward.

YOU have to decide — what do you want?

Determine What You Enjoy

In our minds, we often focus on the parts of our jobs or careers that drive us crazy. I can’t stand doing these TPS reports. Why does Bob have to chew so loudly in the cubicle next to mine?

When we do think about our career trajectory, perhaps we think in vague terms of Ambition. We want to be promoted. We want to make it to the next level.

It’s more important to figure out which parts of the job you love. And which ones you want to do more. Do you love spreadsheets and want to spend all day immersed in data? Do you love leading meetings and want to get in front of teams more often?

Take the time to make a list of pros and cons. Or spend 10 minutes per week thinking about the things you enjoyed at work this week. You only have to pick a few per week. Over time, they will add up, or show you the clear trends. It might sound like an overwhelming task but spend a little time to it each week and the results will add up.

For example, I know that I love doing a deep dive into data. And I prefer working with smaller teams.

Then, COMMUNICATE

Change is going to happen, whether you hear about it in advance or not. The key is to decide what you want from your career, regardless of the changes around you.

Then, make your desires clear.

I am not talking about telling everyone that you should be CEO someday. That is vague and talks down to the people around you.

Have a conversation with your boss or the appropriate person. A discussion that states, I enjoy doing these parts of my job. I would love to do more of them. If you ever hear of an opportunity for me to contribute to our firm more in this way, please let me know. I would love to be a part of it.

Do you hear the difference?

With this conversation, you have accomplished two objectives:

  1. Stated that you want to contribute to the growth/future of your company. In a specific way. The way that you enjoy the most.
  2. Put you in your boss’ mind when the right kind of promotion comes up. She knows what you want to focus on. Six months or a year down the line, when the newly created position of Head of Spreadsheet Analytics comes up, your boss already knows that you’d love to do it.

Do this when there are no promotions, no changes, no options on the table. Because those changes, they are a comin’. And then when they happen, your boss will know what you want and don’t.

Bosses and colleagues “should” do the right thing. They should put you into the mix for promotion opportunities if you do a good job and keep your head down. And that is part of it.

But no one is as invested in your career as you are. And if you don’t know what you want to do next, who else will spend the time to figure it out?

Again, the solution won’t happen tomorrow. But show your boss or colleagues that you are a problem solver, not a complainer. That you know what you want, and will contribute to the team. That will make a completely different impact.

In the case of my former colleague, he had never really taken the time to figure out what kinds of roles or parts of his job are most compelling to him. He had never mentioned to anyone what he enjoys about his role and what he’d like to do more of. So they didn’t know that he would want to be considered for the internal management role once it came up.

He is doing the work to figure this out now. Because it’s never too late to plan ahead.

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