Don’t we all hate when someone asks us: where do you see yourself in 10 years? like.. dude… I don’t even know where I’ll be in two hours… To be honest, some years ago, this question used to cause me anxiety because I had no idea… well, I kind of had but not really, and I felt like I was just going with the flow, waiting for things to happen. have you ever feel this way? to be clear, I’m talking about my professional life, not personal (•‿•)
Back in the day, I used to be a developer but I knew I wasn’t fulfilling my professional-self and feeling somehow frustrated because I didn’t love what I was doing, don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for developers and the work they do, without them, no project would be ever created. But I wasn’t passionate about developing and, in consequence, caused that I wasn’t the best at it. I was surrounded by great developers who were very generous with me and tried to guide me and helped me to get better but it felt out of place for me.
Around that time, I watched a movie, which I don’t remember the name, but in a scene, there was a character (manager of an office), who asks an employee something like: you have a great career here, why would you even think of looking for another opportunity? and the employee replies: I don’t have a career, I have a job, I do as I’m told. That scene wasn’t even really important in the movie, however, it caused a huge impact on me, I wouldn’t say that I felt completely identified with the character, but a little bit, yeah…. It was clear to me that I had to pause for a bit and rethink what I was doing in my professional life and where I wanted to go.
But what exactly does it mean to have a career? moreover, what does it take to build a career?
Having a career is having a professional journey, having plans and goals, it is not a static concept, it evolves as you grow and acquire experience and it also requires adapting to the industry you are in. 5 years ago, IT careers were different from what we have now, then, as a professional, we must adjust our plans and goals. Now, building a career is not an easy journey, first of all, be aware that it’s a long life path and sacrifices must be made (personal time, money…). The first step, according to the experts, is to identify your career options or goals… Now, this may sound easy for some people who know since they were kids what they wanted to do in life, but it’s not that easy for everyone. In my case, I didn’t know what my career path was until I was in my second job, back to my developer years, I knew I didn’t see myself doing code for years and years, I had no goals as a developer, no motivation and no passion for the profession. Then, I met a Project Manager who was one of the best at it, and seeing him doing his job every day, interacting with other teams, building plans, being on top of every need we had, made me realized that’s what I wanted to do and since that time, I started pursuing and building a career as a Project Manager. I’m telling you this story just so you know that is OK if you feel lost or not quite sure about your career path even if you already graduated from college and you’re supposed to know what you want to become. You can make a career switch almost at any point in life and be successful at it, obviously, if you start late in life, you’ll need to work harder than others to be successful.
Once you identify your career, make a self-assessment, but an honest one, OK? make a list of your skills, values, interests, and priorities, very important…. as we all know, some hard and soft skills can be trained, but others, can not, but those shouldn’t be a blocker for you to build a career. This is probably one of the most important steps in building a career…. if you don’t know what are your weaknesses, how can you overcome them?
Ok, so what’s next? Well, you have defined a career and you have your self-assessment, now, set a goal and build a plan for it. Some experts recommend defining multiple goals for several years ahead, yet again, I know this could be complicated for some of us. If you can do it, go ahead, if not, then set a goal for the next year… don’t stress yourself at the beginning, believe me, if you plan 2 or 3 times per year, next time you’ll be able to plan for 5 years in advance. Goals need to be clear, very important, not vague things like I want a better role or more money…. If you want a better role, which role is this? if you want more money, how much? Ideally, you can seek help from the company you work in, the majority of companies have career paths documented, or reach out for a mentor, your boss, or someone in Human development areas… If you don’t get the help you need (Oh, I’ve been there…), just Google it! there are plenty of blogs and forums for each career under the sun, see how other companies are organized, what roles do they have, what do they do, how much do they pay?
It’s important to understand that even when companies are improving career paths management and giving more and more priority to employees growth and success, at the end of the day, your career is yours and you need to accomplish your goals and be successful and these concepts might be different from what the company conceives as success.
This is a large topic and I didn’t cover all the important points about building a career, I know, but my main goal is to reinforce the importance of building a career and not just doing the job… Would you agree?