I’ve always been terrible at setting long-term career goals. To start, I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up (outside of maybe a veterinarian, because I loved animals). That felt like a profound shortcoming to my 10-year old and 20-year-old selves.
Partially this was because the list of “grown up jobs” that I’d heard of was absurdly short: teacher, doctor, lawyer, fireman, policeman, musician…maybe architect on a good day.
But the real problem was the half-baked notion that this process works from the outside in.
Done properly, it’s the other way around.
I know I’m in the right job if I’m thriving and learning, if I’m creating things of substance that I believe in, and if I’m working with great people. That’s the whole enchilada.
If you’re finding it hard to find all those things at once, that’s OK. Start with great people and find a way to work with them. The rest will follow.
And, if you’re wondering what I mean by “thriving and learning:”
Thriving is doing your best work. Work that makes you stand out, work you get lost in because you’re in the zone when you’re doing it, work that people keep noticing—whether in how you show up or what you delivered. Pay attention to this praise, especially if it’s for things that come easily to you. That is the kernel of you at your best.
And learning? It’s self-explanatory, and it should be non-negotiable. It is, and always will be, the only path to growth.