I have always struggled with the big “what’s next” in life. If you’re anything like me, you find it hard to nail exactly what it is you want to do. So how do you find it?
I’ve learned a very valuable lesson over the last few years, and the lesson comes from experience with building software or websites. The main difference between projects that are successful vs those that fail, is that the companies that do it right believe in testing and iteration.
The bad example: come up with an idea for an app or a website. Build it based on what you think people want. Invest money and intangible resources into something that is based completely on assumption. The end result – something that may, or may not, be the best user experience for your customers.
The good example: come up with assumptions around what you know, and think your customers want. Validate your assumptions by actually talking to them. Start building your product, test the minimum viable product with those customers. Get their feedback, optimize the experience, prioritize features, repeat.
So how does that relate to career choices? I feel that people can apply the lean startup methodology to their lives. If you have an idea of what you might want to do, but you’re not sure about whether you should go in that direction… Talk to people that are already doing it. Ask them what it’s like to live a day in the life. When it comes to career moves, it’s hard to do that with the person that’s interviewing you. Find other people in similar roles, at similar companies, and see what they think.
Sometimes you take a leap of faith, based entirely on the assumption that you think it may be good for you. You invest your time in something that may or may not be the right fit for you. Then, you end up stuck. Well, at least I did. When I went from marketing to recruiting, I made that mistake. I hesitate to call it a mistake, because I learned a lot, and I decided that I would not get stuck again. I was only a recruiter for a month and a half, but knew deep down inside that I wasn’t being true to myself. I quit without a plan, and a new opportunity just happened to land in my lap.
Another lesson in there is that you have to attract what you want. Stay positive, fearless, and take risks.