Just a few weeks ago I decided that a change in my career path was needed. I have been working for the same company for over 5 years and have recently been feeling like I was stagnating. Even though my job provided me opportunities to learn new technologies and to stay near the bleeding edge, I still didn't feel like my career was progressing. This is the same feeling that always seems to precede a job change for me. But this time I didn’t want to just sign up with a new company and wait for the feeling to return in a couple of years. This time I decided that I would take my destiny into my own hands. I am going independent, well as independent as I can afford to be. My ultimate goal is to create software products that I can monetize, but until I can depend on my products for income, I will be working as an independent contractor.
I have wanted to be my own boss for years but I always found an excuse to not take the first step. I finally decided it was now or never, and never was even more terrifying than the prospect of being out on my own. So I started the ball rolling and within a couple of weeks I had secured my first development contract, and immediately gave my notice. So as I wrap up my last few days with my current (and hopefully last) employer, I am looking back at where my career has taken me and have come to some conclusions.
The first thing that I have discovered is that my career has lacked focus and that I have relied on dumb luck to be where I am. I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of clients in many industries and have learned much over the years, but never have I directed my career with any overarching goals in mind. Sure I have passed on maintenance developer jobs and have taken jobs because of the technologies or opportunities that they presented, but there was never a clear path or even a real understanding of the end game. I was experiencing first hand Zig Ziglar’s statement that “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
Next, I noticed that I wasn’t working towards the goals that I did have. In the past I have set some goals for myself and they look great on paper, but goals are just dreams unless you take action on them. Some of the goals that I had set for myself were not realistic and others were just too vague, and yet others seem achievable, but I have made no action plan to reach them.
The last big item that I realized about myself is that I have let fear guide my career path. I am not necessarily a bold person who takes unnecessary risks, but I am someone who has had to deal with quite a bit of fear and uncertainty in my personal life. This is one area where I think my experience works against me as I am now much more capable of seeing the dangers and risks of my choices.
So how does this self-reflection help me? What changes am I going to make? Well, first I am going to map out my career goals and know my end game strategy. Of course I fully expect these goals to change over time, so I need to make sure to revisit them and check that they line up with my expectations. Secondly, I plan to change how my goals are managed. I need to review them at least weekly and do a thorough re-evaluation monthly. I need to align my weekly tasks with my goals and make sure that I am making the needed progress. Lastly, I need to reinforce my belief that the largest personal growth comes from moving out of your comfort zone. The best way to do this is to continually force myself to do things outside of my comfort zone. For one, I have been wanting to do some speaking, so I am planning on volunteering for a talk at my local .NET user group.
I hesitate to publish these personal blog posts, but I figure that there maybe some of you who suffer from the same issues and that reading about my struggles may help in some way. I also hope to follow up this post with some progress reports so others can see my changes in action.