This past week has been a “week off” for me. I’ve finished work with all of my clients, and have been interviewing and looking for new gigs. Being who I am, I’ve also been reflecting a great deal on my career and where it’s taking me. I have had a ton of anxiety around what the next gig/gigs should be, which ones are “right”, and how to make a decision between them. This is, of course, a great place to be for an independent, and I am grateful for the options. There has been some key advice given to me in the past and present that has helped me to calm my anxieties and think clearly, and I’d love to share this advice here. The main point? Know where your endzone is. More specifically, know where you want to end up, the steps you’ll need to take to get there, and what success looks like when you are done.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a ton of “mentors” in my life. One in particular has been with me since my days at UCONN and is the person I always turn to for career advice. One exercise he suggested I go through was a career mapping exercise. The idea is to write down in one column the core competencies for career growth overall as well as specific to my field (examples of these core competencies include: UX knowledge, Leadership ability, Financial knowledge, etc). Then, create a time line across the top that moves out every 3 years. For each time period, I would rate on a scale from 1 to 5 my knowledge of each capability (either where my knowledge is present day or where I wanted it to be 3, 6, 9 years from now). I would also dictate, by year, the stage of my career I wanted to be in (i.e consultant with steady client list), and the steps I took to get there (i.e. networking in nyc). Some years I would grow in certain areas, some I would remain consistent. I tried to project out every 3 years until I retired which was harder than it sounds. This is a document that I look at often and try to keep up to date as my interests and abilities change.
What this exercise helped me to do was create an endzone. Every step I take in my career should somehow contribute to this endzone. Having a clear end point enables me to make decisions about career confidently. I can ask myself, does this strengthen me in the ways I’m looking to grow? Does this gig enable me to do the things I’m looking to do or at least set me up for them? Looking at the document I set up for myself and asking these questions has removed 99% of the anxiety in decision making that I’ve been facing. I know I am better prepared to drive my career and take the decision making time to focus on more important things, like concentrating on my next basketball game :-).