Career Growth comes down to these two things

When I was deciding on a career as a college senior, I took the advice of those around me and chose to optimize for learning — That is, to select a job with a steep learning curve. The hypothesis was that if you find a job that by taking on a difficult job, you’ll learn how to handle challenging assignments and build a greater range of skills which which will propel you forward in your career.

While I still think this is great advice, I want to update that to include a new element: speed, and specifically, speed of feedback and teaching.

Sarah Tavel talks about this in her post about fast learning cycles. The idea here is you want a job that can teach and provide you feedback so you can execute, learn, fail, and scale faster. Her example:

“At a fast growing startup, your learning cycle is incredibly fast. For example, at Pinterest, particularly early on, if I had a hypothesis I wanted to test, I could ship an experiment fast, and because we already had an incredibly engaged user base, learn from the results within a week or two. Basically, my learning cycle was as fast as you could ask for, which meant I was able to cram an incredible amount of learning into a very short period of time.

On the other hand, I’d often interview product manager candidates who worked at big companies like Microsoft. I’d always be amazed at how little product management they actually got to do over their many years of experience. It’d take them years (literally!) to ship a feature, despite many promotions along the way.”

In many ways, the concept of slope and speed is similar to agile methodology, where instead of building everything all at once, you build and launch a much smaller set of features and functionality in a much shorter period of time. Once it’s launched, you obtain feedback, find what works and what doesn’t, and use that to build your next iteration.

As it turns out, it’s not just about finding a steep learning curve, but also an environment that allows you to get feedback and iterate quickly. It’s not just about a brand name company, or getting to work on a lot of projects, but having a continuous cycle of learning, testing, getting real-time feedback and iterating.

If you want Career Success, learn how to do this

What are the skills you need to be successful in your career? It’s a common question I hear, whether it’s at recruiting events, working with clients, or simply talking with friends. While there are skills that most would agree are important such as hard work, subject matter knowledge, leadership and communication, one that is overlooked but important is a diverse set of skills and experiences attained throughout your professional career.

Last year, LinkedIn released research after analyzing it’s database of members on what where common characteristics of people who made it to the C-Suite. One of their conclusions was that the people who made it to the C-suite demonstrated a broad and diverse range of skills and experiences as opposed to a narrow and focused view:

“To get a job as a top executive, new evidence shows, it helps greatly to have experience in as many of a business’s functional areas as possible. A person who burrows down for years in, say, the finance department stands less of a chance of reaching a top executive job than a corporate finance specialist who has also spent time in, say, marketing. Or engineering. Or both of those, plus others.’

The pace of change and innovation is moving at a breakneck speed. To keep up or stay ahead, you need to identify opportunities, learn new skills, and take action before you get left behind. While it seems overwhelming, there’s a path forward, and by using a career pivot, you can do all these things.

This idea of the Pivot comes from Jenny Blake, author of the book Pivot: The Only Move that Matters is your next one. According to Jenny, a Pivot is “a methodical shift in a new, related direction based on a foundation of your strengths and what is already working.”

Here’s a quick rundown of the Pivot Framework:

Stage 1: Plant — Double-down on existing strengths, interests, and experiences What are you currently enjoying most? What is working best? What is success one year from now?

Stage 2: Scan — Find new opportunities and identify skills to develop without falling prey to analysis-paralysis and compare-and-despair Who do you admire? Who can you talk to? What new skills interest you?

Stage 3: Pilot — Run small experiments to determine next steps — What experiments could you run in the next month? What about next 6 months?

Stage 4: Launch — Take smart risks to launch with confidence in a new direction

As business and society continues to evolve, one thing that is becoming clear is that the only constant will be change itself. Jenny’s Pivot strategy is a great asset for helping people get comfortable with the idea of constantly changing and evolving and provides a framework for how to think through a change and then get started.

While some of our pivots will mean moving from one job to another, or from one function to another, not all will. In my career I’ve already made a number of pivots and I’ve only worked for one company throughout my entire 20’s. Even if you are progressing at a healthy pace and content with your job the Pivot Framework is important as it can help you identify and vet potential opportunities that can lead to additional growth and development. As the pace of change in business and society evolves and accelerates, pivots will ensure you have the learning, skills and experiences to keep up or even be one step ahead.

For many of us, we don’t know what we’ll be doing in 5–10 years, and given how different the Future of Work could look it’s probably tough to predict what we will be doing. However, utilizing the Pivot Framework can help us make the decisions along the way to identify and move into new opportunities that use our strengths, help us develop new skills, and find meaning and opportunities in the work we do.

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Not Sure What Job You Want Next? Try These Techniques

Finding the next job can be a challenging process, and what often holds people up is not knowing what they want to do. As a career coach, I work through these issues with clients all the time, and rely on a number of techniques to help them identify the right job paths. Here are some of the most popular ones I use with my clients.

LinkedIn Mapping

My friend Jeremy has a great technique which I’ll call LinkedIn mapping. Basically, start with your college, find people you are interested in, and look at what they are doing and the path they took to get there. If it is appealing to you, then perhaps you can learn something from it if you want to take that path. Furthermore, since you share a commonality (your school) it is also a great reason to reach out to them for an informational interview.

Lookalike Mapping

Another way to figure out your options is to see what people who are similar to you have gone on to do after leaving your company, or a company similar to yours.

  • Someone in the exact same role as you
  • Someone in a similar role at a different company
  • Someone who has the same background as you (ex: education, work experience)

I suggest using your connections or LinkedIn to find map these out. If you can, talk to them to understand what motivated them to find the new role and company they have, what other options or alternatives they considered, and what challenges or roadblocks they encountered.

Recommended Jobs

Another way to do this is to look at Jobs You May Be INterested in On LinkedIn. LinkedIn uses some machine learning and AI techniques to recommend you jobs based on your experience as well as jobs you tend to browse and view. To do this

While you are at it, create a jobs notification to send to your email address so you can be notified about future job postings that are relevant. Also consider doing the same when you set up profiles on Indeed and Glassdoor.

Let The Jobs Come to You

One way to figure out what you are worth and what value you bring is to see who wants to talk to you. You can do this by working with a headhunter/recruiting firm who can help place you into roles. Additionally, you can also use LinkedIn’s I’m looking feature, which when turned on, makes it known to recruiters that you are open to being contacted for a role. Pro Tip:Before you do this I would make sure to check the privacy settings.

A quick note

Everyone’s career is truly unique, and while looking at the paths of people who have gone before you is a really great technique you should make sure that you are trying to find a path that aligns to your own goals and objectives, and not someone else’s. My advice is to use this to help give you a spectrum of what is out there, and to use it as a guide to help you identify your unique path. Some if it may overlap with others, but some of it will be unique to you, and I do believe that you’ll be happiest and most fulfilled when you’re doing what is best for you.


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