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Career Decisions: The Tough Choices


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Normally, for this column, I would write a technical article or something on leadership. However, recently, I have been dealing with some career choices and I thought it might be interesting to write about my decision-making process.  Most of us have had at least one job change. What do you do when you are trying to figure it out? Do you talk to others? Do you think it to death? Is it just a flip of a coin? Below I’m going to highlight my process.

Reflection

Before I made any decision, I needed to understand who I am now. What are my priorities and what are my values? What am I interested in and, more importantly, what am I not interested in?

It’s a high priority to keep my family in the area in which we are currently living so that I can attend as many of my daughter’s high school activities as possible. Once she graduates, staying where we live now will become much less critical. Salary is a significant consideration to maintain my current lifestyle but not as meaningful as a work/life balance. Financially, I’m in a good enough position that I can take some risk. Over the past 10 years, I’ve been interested in many technologies and different types of positions. What I didn’t realize, until I thought about this, was that they all related to my love for working with and developing people. That may be through teaching, presenting, mentoring, leading a group, or volunteering.

Discussions 

I like to talk to other people—not for their advice—but to understand their journey. I was interested in learning what have they gone through and why they made the choices they did. What did they gain and what would they have changed? Even bad choices can make us better in the end.

But where do you find people on a journey similar to your own? Well, I found my circle at user groups and conferences. These are people in the same field who are being faced with similar considerations, and they could relate to what I was talking about. These people don’t walk around with a sign saying “Talk to me.” You will run into them at social events, after conference sessions when everyone is standing around talking, or even at those awkward, find-a-random-seat-to-eat lunches. What I mean is: When you go to an event, just don’t go to a session and then back to your room. Be sure to talk to people.

Planning

I have had to consider what my life would look like over the next weeks, months, years. What things could go wrong and what things could go right? What would I be willing to accept in defeat? What would success look like so I would know when I hit it?

I thought of everything from what would be a great job to the idea of working at a fast food place. One scenario even had something about the moon crashing into the Earth and another had me begging for my old job back. I did research on contract jobs, work-from-home situations, and other companies. I thought about taking jobs that paid less money doing the same thing. There were a lot of options and I had to prune it back to what I thought was in the realm of reality.

I think the most important part of planning was considering the route to the end goal. Many people are always looking at the next step up, but the right path for you might not even be on the same ladder. It could be a change in career or a change in company. These are all things to consider, which makes reflection so important.

Decision?

I’ve reflected on who I am and what I want. I’ve talked to my friends and I know about the good and bad experiences they have been through. I’ve run some hypothetical scenarios and I have an idea of what I’m going up against. The big question is: Have I decided? The simple answer is, yes. But, if you want the actual answer, you will have to grab a drink with me and tell me about your journey. Maybe we’ll get that chance at COLLABORATE 18, which is coming to Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, April 22–26, 2018. I hope to see you there.      


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