Career Growth: Who is going to do it?

I found this essay by Nicola Ballotta quite interesting. A retrospective of his 25 years professional life, and how he could improve it, if he was set to start it today. There are many similar articles out there, though the main appealing aspect of this one to me, is that I can relate to it quite easily. Apart from the main goal of the article, I started to think about career growth in general. Given my current position at work, I find myself mentoring my colleagues quite often. Career growth I assume is also quite a norm in professional world. Everyone wants to grow and attract a better position and salary.

However, I don’t think “want” always translates to “happens”. I’m not even sure if “everyone” knows what it takes to realize that goal. The social norm seems to be like, you enter your career, and the growth happens naturally if you are part of the machine. And “the machine” could be your company, your industry, or the whole economy.

xkcd: Career

Being a good “part of the machine” also varies per individuals, of course. It depends on one’s capacity of risk. Job hopping and resume hunting is one approach, and quite a trend these days. Some even recommend it (like Gergely Orosz in The Software Engineer’s Guidebook). Of course, it might be a good approach.

What I’m wondering about is, if a “better position” or higher “salary”, translates to growth? I’m sure it’s a shared experience among people active in my industry (software in general), to see high ranking people, with close to no efficiency in their position. Winning the position, due to lack of knowledge of HR, or interest of a non-technical manager, or even pure luck.

For me, the growth boils down to how Naval describes himself in his famous 2018 Twitter thread: How to Get Rich without getting lucky, and it’s related Podcast episode. On the importance of knowledge, he says if one takes all his status, and his money today, and leaves him in an English-speaking country, where no one knows him. Armed with his knowledge, he can regain his money and position, and this time he’ll do it faster than the first time he did.

This is interesting, because with this mindset, growth is not translated into a position, a salary, or a certificate. They’ll come along eventually, but they are not the main goal, it’s the knowledge and taking action based on that which matters. That helps me to map out where I can find the growth, and who to expect it from. It’s me, who should provide myself with answers to “why?, where? And how?”.

Most sources, like the book from Gergely, and the essay from Nicola, try to communicate the same message. However, for some reason, we (as community), miss the point. During my career, I’ve met a lot of people, who don’t know what’s their next step (I get it, it’s hard, and I’ve been there too). Or expect their company, help them to grow, without them having any focused and SMART goal of their own (I’ve been there too).

The crack between, who we are today, and where we want to find ourselves in is caused by this lack of clear target. If the crack is too big, it means we need to take charge, and draw our own path of growth. Hoping for others to help us to get there, is why we’ve ended up here.

Shahin 🧑‍🍳 Cooking data as a chef de partie at by day! 🪄 Avid coder inventing magic by night!

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