Over the past ten days, a recurring question has emerged: what's next? Some speculate my next venture will be a return to entrepreneurship, while others suspect a full-time non-profit role (#pifo) or even retirement 🤪 Beyond the curiosity about immediate next steps, the core question is: How to make these career decisions? Is there a predefined path? Is there a framework? Is there a correct approach to career planning? etc.
I can truly empathise with the deep career questions. I had them myself. Especially when we spend more than 12 hours a day of our prime adult life in work places, it is important to ask these questions.
Out of curiosity, I studied the exemplary career paths of folks whom I admire and looks like there is no one way to do it. As limited special editions walking this earth for less than 36500 days with 4500 career days in it, folks have done it multiple ways. While it's human nature to seek comparison points, each individual is unique, so comparisons may not always be effective.
I developed a personal framework for my career. I kept it as a simple AND equation. AND equations are hard and pointed. It filters all the noise and gives only signal. It helps prioritise the right aspects.
Here it my AND equation for career
Career = Interesting + Growth + Learning + Betterment + Contentment + Compounding + Challenging + Worthy + Mastery + Meaningful
In my POV, a career should enable personal growth, learning, and self-improvement. It should provide contentment and satisfaction, contribute to long-term compounding, and present sufficient challenges. If a career isn't rewarding, doesn't aid in mastering my circle of competence, isn't worth spending time on, or isn't meaningful enough to pursue for multiple decades, then it isn't a suitable career. AND equations are complex and composite. That is what makes it fun.
Our starting points can be anything but the ending point should be something that makes total sense to that person.
Design made sense to me. I dabbled with design, engineering, business, products, investing (from angel to vc to markets) and entrepreneurship. Out of all the choices, nothing filled my heart like design and design leadership. That is how I decided to keep design at the centre of my circle of competence. Design gives me the needed growth, learning and meaning. It keeps me on my toes. The depth excites me and helps me wake up every morning with renewed energy. I live design 24X7. As long as your heart beats for it, just do it. This has been my humble framework for career choice.
When it comes to design, I have explored all parts of it. Design entrepreneurship, design agency, design education, design in startups, design leadership in scaled environments, designing communities, design mentorship and more. Every aspect made me a better human and indeed a better designer.
Here is a pitfall a number of us go through with career: Logically it makes sense to spend a lot of time searching what we are passionate about and then make it a perfect career. In reality, it doesn't make sense. As you grow, your exposure widens and your passions expand. With age, your need to make money also changes. So, I would turn that equation on its head by fixing your circle of competence and spending a lot of time living that career and very little time in searching. Compounding needs time and you need to trust your interests. When we spend a lot of time in searching, living shrinks. The amount of time we have this lifetime is so little and the amount of work we could do in one area is a lot more. In the demand and supply equation, our time is in demand and the supply (areas of interests) is in abundance. Should we worry about the supply or demand in this case? The answer is obvious. Let me make that even more obvious. For every one of us, what we don't know is always far higher than what we know at all points of life. So, we will die missing out on a number of areas. Why fear about the inevitable? With this big picture in mind, I analyse my career opportunities against my AND equation.
I say NO ruthlessly to all career opportunities that do not fulfil my AND equation. I ruthlessly prioritise opportunities that gives better ROI on my AND equation. While I pursue my circle of competence, I also feed my circle of curiosity with multiple experiments. I call my experiments as my learning opportunities. Career is personal and I take it as my responsibility to hone my career path. I have zero expectations from my network or schools or workplaces to sculpt my career. I am grateful if they act as enablers. It is my accountability to strategise my career, give it a roadmap and execute it diligently day after day just like how we do for the products.
The current roadmap for me is all about exec management and design leadership. My next role is in that direction. Soon on that in Jan 2024.
🥂 to AND equations!