Tune in every Wednesday for a weekly "small dose" of advice, an explanation, or an interview with a web veteran. Lauren Bacon has mentored and coached many web professionals as they were starting out and loves sharing all that she's learned from her 15-year career as a designer, front-end developer, and agency principal.
Skill Level Beginner
- [Instructor] Hello and welcome to this week's edition of the Web Career Clinic, where I explore how to build a career you love making good stuff on the web. In addition to my many years designing and coding web projects and managing teams, I've also been a mentor and coach to many people through career transitions. I know that many of you watching this series are thinking about where you want to go next and, with so many options available to you, it can be hard to stay focused on your path and to figure out what a fulfilling career might look like for you.
So, as I wrap up this series, I wanted to leave you with a few observations and questions for you to consider as you map out your next steps. After reading lots of books and attending workshops galore and working with many clients, I've come to see that there are a few different angles from which to look at career satisfaction. And you might prioritize them differently at different points in your life. So, as I lay these out for you, don't feel like you need to have answers to all of the questions.
Just tune into the ones that get to the heart of what matters to you right now. How do you want your day-to-day work life to look? What kind of schedule works best for you? Where do you like to work? What type of team do you gravitate towards? If you want some help answering that question, you can check out the segment in this course called Remote vs. on-site: What suits you best? In that video, I compare the pros and cons of freelancing, agency work, and in-house teams.
What else matters to you about your work environment? If you can get clear on the answers to these questions, you can start to refine your career options in really concrete ways and even renegotiate your current position to check more boxes for you. It's amazing what something like a tweak to your schedule or adjusting your time in the office versus remote work can do for your job satisfaction and your overall happiness. What problem do you want to solve? Is there something that you like to rant about? What keeps you awake at night? What issues do you catch yourself posting about on social media or talking about with your friends and colleagues? Now, I love this particular angle, because it takes something that's often painted as a negative, complaining, or worrying, or being outraged, and turns it into a positive that is something you want to work towards.
Often, our irritation is a symptom of caring deeply about something. So, what irritates you, and what kind of future do you envision when you think about relieving that irritation? What would happen if the thing that bothers you to no end were alleviated, and what can you work on that would help alleviate it? Note that this doesn't need to be a world peace level of problem. Maybe you're a grammar freak and copy editing calls your name. Maybe you want your government to work more efficiently and civic technology projects would be a great fit for you.
Take note of what you find yourself complaining about and then ask yourself, how could I help improve this? What do you love to create? Some of us are less drawn to problem-solving and more interested in bringing something new into being, whether it's a business, a community, a product, or a process. If this sounds like you, take stock of the ways that you like to create and some of the creative projects that you've gravitated towards in the past.
What feels like fun creative work? What feels most meaningful to create? What kinds of things do you find yourself creating without being asked? The answers to these questions might reveal some themes, which you can draw on to envision the creative career you want. What do you love to learn? What books are piling up on your nightstand? Which blogs, YouTube channels, or podcasts do you follow? What courses have you taken lately? In other words, what learning opportunities do you gravitate towards? Observe your patterns and take note of what draws you in.
It's a clue to your interests and the ways that you're excited to grow. What legacy do you want to leave? Sometimes it can be helpful to imagine your future self looking back and ask yourself from that standpoint, what will you consider to be a life well lived? Or, in this case, what professional achievements or milestones will matter most to you? Some people have really specific answers to this question. They'll say, well, I need to be able to say that I published at least one best-selling book, or I want to be able to say that I was able to be my own boss.
And other people will have more abstract answers. For example, Tim O'Reilly once said that his original business goal was "interesting work for interesting people." In my experience, this particular question can take some time and it often benefits from conversation with trusted friends or advisors. So, take it into your next discussion with a mentor or a buddy and consider taking turns asking each other to answer it. Don't be surprised if you don't have an answer right away, but do keep asking yourself the question, it's an important one.
What tasks do you love and want to do more of or what tasks do you hate and want to do less of? Last question, and I'm going back to a really concrete place. Sometimes the most effective career adjustment you can make is to adjust your job description to better suit your strengths. I like Marcus Buckingham's definition of strength, which is something that gives you energy and makes you feel strong. So, one prescription for increasing your happiness at work is to keep a journal where you jot down every day the various things you worked on and then take note of your energy level and how it made you feel.
Did it energize you or deplete you? Just that, the task and your energy level for a week or two. Then, after that time, you can go back through your journal and consider what patterns you notice. Are you consistently depleted by certain types of activities or are there certain projects that you feel like you could do all day? Once you've kept your strengths journal for a while, you can start to see how you might adjust your role at work to align better with what's actually fun and interesting for you.
You'll also get clear on what kinds of stuff you'd rather offload. You may not be able to rid yourself of every single task that you don't enjoy, but you can definitely improve the ratio of what feels like good work versus the work that leaves you drained and dissatisfied. And that's pretty much the definition of fulfillment. Let's look at those questions all together one last time. Like I said, you don't need to answer them all, but I hope there are two or three in there that spark some helpful self-reflection and fresh ideas for your career.
As I wrap up, I want to thank a few people whose intriguing questions have sparked my thinking. I want to thank Pace Smith, Sarah Bray, Tim O'Reilly, and Marcus Buckingham. And I also want to thank you for watching. I wish you every success in your web career and I hope you'll keep in touch with me on Twitter. Bye for now.