About the Episode
Knowing what we want to do is one of the hardest questions to answer.
“What do I want to do for a living?”
“What am I passionate about?”
“Where do I want my career to go?”
These are all common questions we ask when trying to figure out what to do, especially when we feel compelled to continually advance our careers year after year. And, we often get stuck in perpetuity trying to answer these questions.
Get stuck no more! In this episode, we’re going to share some tried and true guidance to start answering the question of where we want our careers to go.
Now here’s something that we don’t hear all that often. If we want to stay where we are, because we’re really happy with it, that’s okay too. Part of asking this question of where do I want my career to go is also asking, am I really happy with where I’m at? Do I want to stay? Do I have this burning urge to move on? Because if I don’t, that’s okay too. But we never hear that, we’re not told that enough. If you are really happy with where you are, you love your job, you don’t want to get into management from being an individual contributor, you love being say, a senior engineer, and you don’t want to move up to that principal engineer level, and be a team lead and have responsibilities of that nature, that is okay. First and foremost, whatever you want, it’s okay, because it’s right for you. We don’t hear that enough. Especially when we talk about career advancement.
One of the reasons is that we are so driven, as I said today, to advance the career. Because we want instant advancement, we want to move on every year… Every two years, every three… Whether it’s upwards mobility, every single year in a company, or moving on from a company, every two to three years. There are a lot of common trends that exist… Part of what can help not feel great about ourselves is viewing others. It is natural for social comparison to happen. We tend to look at other people and say, well, they advanced their careers, I’m behind. All my classmates are at a L2, Level 2 in Google, let’s say… And I’m still at the first level of John Schneider and Associates, let’s say, my company, so obviously, I’m not doing something right, and I feel behind.
We look at other people and we compare ourselves to them and we can make ourselves feel bad about ourselves because we’re not where, say, other people are. And I want to remove that for a second, because what’s truly right for us? Our organization would say, “May not advance people every year.” Some may, some may not. Maybe I took six months off, so I started six months later. Perhaps I came in on an off-cycle, maybe it takes me a year and a half to get promoted. There’s a lot of things that can play into that feeling like I haven’t gone quick enough, I haven’t advanced my career. I’m failing because other people have gone ahead of me… Whatever plays into our thought around advancing our career can either serve us or not serve us.
So when we talk about where I want my career to go, let’s first talk about, what are those serving thoughts and serving things that impact that question, and what are the non-serving things… That social comparison is in that non-serving category. Can we put that aside? Remove that from the thought process. Not focus on others, not focus on where they’re headed, not focused on maybe where they expect us to head, as well, because that can be non-serving. Hey, “They want me to get into management, they want me to advance my career, I don’t want to go in that direction.” That’s what’s important, us.
So in terms of this topic about, where do I want my career to go? Let’s remove everybody else from the picture and let’s focus on us first. What do I want? Where do I want to go… I’m going to share three buckets that I use to help clients address this question. This is also the same three buckets I’ll use when saying, “Where do I go next, in terms of companies and jobs?” It’s very similar, right? Often we’re looking for somewhere new to go to advance our careers. So here are the three buckets… What are the roles and responsibilities that I want to have? Maybe as a senior engineer, I’ve really enjoyed that time, but you know what, I do want to get into management, I want to start leading people, I want to take that next step. That’s good to know. So what is the role that I’m looking for and what responsibilities within that role do I also want to have?
Maybe I’m done doing calculations and individual design and I would much rather do the management side of that project and assign the work. Creatively decide, where is this team headed? What are the projects we want to work on? But also have other people to do all the technical design and build-out of it. That can help us understand, what are those right jobs that we’re looking for. So that’s bucket number one. Bucket number two is culture. What culture do I want to be a part of? It’s very important because people quit people. There’s a lot of truth to that saying. And so culture is hugely important in terms of knowing, what type of culture do I want within an organization that I’m working for? And then more importantly, what type of culture do I want within my team?
Organizations as a whole, do have an overall culture, but every business unit and team, even, have subcultures. So it’s not only about the culture of the organization, it’s about the culture of the business unit and the team that I’m going to as well. What do I value? What do I want from others? Do I want a high-stakes, cutthroat, competition, environment? Like a typical sales, if you will… Not saying all sales organizations are like that, just one’s stereotype that has existed in the past of that kind of culture. So forgive me, if you are a sales folk listening to this, do not mean to say that’s how all sales organizations are. But maybe that’s the environment that we feel like we thrive in and we want. That’s good to know because that can help us understand, where do I go in my career? Do I stay in my current organization? Do I go somewhere else? Maybe I want a very familial, hands-on, collaborative, engaging, type of organization, and team. And I value that collaboration, I value throwing ideas off of each other and working together, that’s okay too.
The point is knowing what kind of culture you want to be in within an organization, and a team can also help us understand where we want to go in our career. And then the third bucket is finances. Today, unless you know something different than I do, I don’t foresee that constraint ever going away, for all of us to have to earn a living to support ourselves. So money is important from that regard. So part of understanding where we want to go in our career is knowing the finances that we wish to have, and that we need to have. There’s varying levels. I may have a absolute bare minimum of this is what allows me to live at my current lifestyle or the lifestyle that I want. It’s a base dollar figure. Maybe this is just purely, I’m able to pay my bills and that’s it. What is that very base level that allows you to maintain your lifestyle? That number’s going to look different for each of us. On top of that, what is perhaps, what I would like to earn? Because that’s going to be different.
I may have a base level and then have a desired level, say $10,000 more. And there can even be a third level too, of what would be just an absolute dream? This level would allow me to save, it would allow me to start a 529 account for my kid, and maybe allow me to max out my 401k… Have some extra cash on the side as well… Whatever that looks like, there may even be a third level. Knowing what we need, the bare minimum financially, what we want to come in at, and what would be an absolute dream, can really help us also evaluate where we want to go in our career. A lot of people don’t want to work, they want to retire early. What’s going to allow me to do that? That can play a role in knowing where we want to go.
Maybe that means, “You know, although I really don’t necessarily enjoy managing people as much as just being an individual contributor, I don’t mind it, I can certainly do it, and the money from taking that leap into management perhaps gives me that dream level.” Or it gives me what I want in that mid-level, and then with a couple of years will get me to that dream level, so that I can save much more fruitfully over the next, say 10 years. It can have a real determining factor in where we go in our careers. So those are the three typical buckets that I like to share in terms of helping evaluate where we want to go. What roles and responsibilities do we want to have? What kind of culture do we want to be a part of? And what are the financial levels that will allow me to help evaluate where I’m at and where I want to go?
And then one additional thing that I’ll share with you is, know the impact, know the impact that we want to have. Getting to that dream finance level, it may allow you to save for that 529 account, it may allow you to put more money into retirement. So ultimately I may be able to retire earlier. That can be a huge impact on me. Maybe I am literally living paycheck to paycheck, and taking that kind of position can help alleviate that… What impact is it going to create on you? What impact will it create for others? I absolutely love coaching and developing people. Let’s say, that’s part of what you want in your roles and responsibilities. Maybe taking that manager position is going to allow you to do that and create that impact for others, and then ultimately that impact for you as well.
Perhaps you’re big about the environment, so maybe there’s a factor of going to a company that’s very green. Going to a company that perhaps, uses recyclable materials to create their products… What impact do we want to create? That can also help us understand where we go in our careers… It’s a very common question, it can seemingly be a tough one to answer, but addressing these buckets, knowing the impact and that it’s okay to be where we are if we are truly happy with it… Can help us really understand, where do we want to go in our careers. So until the next time, remember, if we never ask, we’ll never know, if we never try, we never will. Be the movement in your life.
Listen to all of our episodes here.
Learn More About How We Help You Harness Your Resilience Through G.R.I.T. – Give, Recognize, Implement, Time®& Find More Actions You Can Take Right NOW!
To learn more about our signature coaching approach which DOES help people all over the world stay focused, overcome, and achieve, please click here.