I've always been a startup guy, so especially early in my career, I never knew such a thing a career paths, plans or guides. I had to make up my own mind about what my next steps would be and how to get there.
A few years, I got into a heated discussion with a colleague who demanded (the audacity!) a career guide to tell them what their next steps would be. I tried reasoning with them, explaining how their career is – and should be – in their own hands, that nobody else would be better suited to determine their path, that nobody else would know what made them happy.
“But it’s not about happiness! It’s about my career!”
That stopped me in my tracks. For me the two were one and the same but for this colleague, they seemed to be fundamentally disconnected, to the point where they would abdicate control over one of them to a completely different person.
So I gave in, worked something out with my head of engineering and, lo and behold, even more people appreciated what we created and I learned that a lot of people around me were uncomfortable being left alone with such big decisions.
To make sure, this wouldn’t happen again, I started learning a lot about different career models and how to find your way through them. It’s completely reasonable to ask for guidance or people to tell you the next steps. However there are a few things that everybody needs to answer for themselves, if they want to pick a career that will make them lastingly happy.
Motivation: What gets you out of bed and all excited to work in the morning?
Impact: What difference do you want to make in the lives of others by acting on this motivation?
Calling: What do you see as your “right” way to contribute to this impact?
Passion: What skill or activity are you most passionate about when following your calling?
Practice: What practice do you plan to follow to improve your craft?
Task decisions: How much freedom do you look for in how to execute your tasks?
Priority decisions: How much freedom do you look for in setting your priorities?
Strategy decisions: How much freedom do you look for in determining project/company strategy?
Learning decisions: How much freedom do you look for in defining your own learning path?
Project allocation decision: How much freedom do you look for in picking and choosing what projects to work on?