This post is final part of the series of posts I am doing on ‘Job Search – Strategies that work better‘. Last post concluded my comments on strategies to apply in order to get lots of job offers from the companies you want. In this post, I want to focus on Selection and Transition phases of the COAST framework that I presented earlier. Note that this post is written in a more prescriptive manner than others, because this topic is more vague than others in Job Search category and hence my hope is I can offer some specific suggestions and opinions.
There are 2 reasons I want to focus on these:
- These are not considered part of a typical job search and hence don’t get enough attention from job hunters or from those who help job hunters.
- Decisions made in these phases determine when you have to start your next job search, and wrong decisions bring you to job market much earlier than you want.
Here is the description of these 2 phases:
- Selection: Picking the right offer from the job options available to you, based on the criteria that enhance your career. Even though this seems trivial (‘pick the best-paying one’), it may not be so since criteria for selection could vary a lot person to person and sometimes getting to the criteria that matters to you proves very difficult.
- Transition: Making first few months in the new company count so that you can be successful and have a rewarding career in the new job. It is easy to mess up a good job in so many ways, and it requires some careful planning in order to do well in a new job and not spend too much time proving yourself.
Both of these phases depend on how well you know the answers to some fundamental questions about career:
- What are your career goals?
- What makes you happiest at your workplace, and in your life?
- What are your strengths, weaknesses and interests?
- How do you measure growth and success of your career?
I have written many posts around these topics in the past; for example, see Manage your career please and Mapping your career path. Here is a summary of what I advise to people through these blogs and my 1-1s and mentorship sessions:
- Create a career goals list – This should be your draft plan for future; this should talk in broad strokes about where you see yourself in 10-20 years. Reflecting on your happiest moments of life and career usually gives you some ideas about what you really want to do, and the more you visualize various versions of future (and see how you feel about them), the better your draft plan will be.
- Create a career milestone list – Ask yourself why you have the career goals the way you have created them, and keep asking why to the answer; 5 Whys works well. This gives you a further refinement, as well as some intermediate milestones of careers that you need to go through. Review it periodically, it should change based on changes around you.
- Create growth measurement criteria – Career can be measured in many different ways (financial, learning, job complexity, career milestones, etc.). It can be measured via things you control (see How do you measure your performance) or via things you don’t (see Appreciation at Workplace). Right measures give you control of your career and are important to be kept in mind.
- Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and interests – These help you make the best use of your time by doing the work that aligns with your strengths and interests, and manage around your weaknesses.
Equipped with answers to the above questions, it should be easy to pick the right offer. Right offer is the one that fulfills following criteria:
- Aligns with career milestone you have in mind (‘if you want to be a manager, picking an individual contributor role even though it pays higher is a bad idea’)
- Aligns with your strengths and/or interests (‘if you hate public speaking, picking a sales job is usually a bad idea’)
- Aligns with your growth criteria (‘If you want to learn about org and process, joining a startup is a bad idea’)
- Enhances your career progression rate rather than slows it down (‘if picking a new domain takes 2 years, it may be a bad idea to enter that domain later in your career’)
- For first 10-15 years of career, Learning and handling complex problems should be the criteria for growth, and so next job should always take you to a more complex role and/or very new one (which helps you learn more, and faster).
Once the selection is done, joining the new job brings you to the Transition phase. It is extremely important to manage first few months in a new company well so that rest of the stay in the company is pleasant and productive. There are some basic things to understand and learn when you join a new company as a team member or as a leader:
- Understand the culture of the new team so you can adapt to it or attempt to adapt it to you
- Understand the values as practiced by the team (as opposed to what the company handbook says) and adapt to it
- Identify the influencers (key people who have disproportionately large influence on team) and understand them better so that you can influence them to see your value
In my experience, these can be accomplished by observing and analyzing the following:
- How meetings run and what is their effectiveness?
- Who makes decisions, what is the decision-making process followed most of the time, how are decisions made?
- How is feedback given and received by people/team?
- How do people/team respond to failure and other adverse situations?
- What is the process for selecting people/team who should be rewarded, incentivized and appreciated?
- How and when does the team celebrate?
Most importantly, you need to position yourself in right meetings, right groups, right situations, so that others can perceive your value quickly and correctly. This means being proactive and managing your boss well, among other things.
This wraps up the series on Job Search. I am looking forward to comments and opinions you have on this set of topics.