doubling down on a career path

Published on April 30, 2020

When you’re young, you are in a unique position to take risks in your career.

If you want to start a business, there is no better time to do it than when you are young. If you fail, you fail, but it is easy to pick yourself back up again and move on. The same cannot be said if you are in your forties and have a family for whom you need to care.

But, because you can take so many risks, it means that it can be easy to avoid commitment. You should pursue different ideas, because exploration is the only way to find what works, but past a certain point, exploration is no longer beneficial. You need to double down.

I have recently been thinking about alternative career paths that I could pursue, and other skills I could develop. Earlier today, for instance, I found myself thinking back to the times where I was interested in Linux system administration. For a moment today, I thought “what would it look like to get back into Linux system administration?”

I asked myself this question because I remembered how much I enjoyed Linux. It was an interesting technology, and Linux skills took me a long way in my life. But, then I started to ask myself: what would be the real utility in exploring Linux?

Focus is something that I think is too easy to forget about when it comes to building skills -- and choosing career paths -- as a young person.

I could start to learn more about Linux again, but where would that take me? If my current career trajectory is pointing toward product and writing, then it does not make much sense for me to pursue Linux. Indeed, it may be an interesting technology, but the time I would spend learning it would be great, and its impact on my life would be limited.

Young people always have options in their career. I could try something new, or I could double down on what I am already doing. Trying something new sounds great -- I could learn so much -- but, then again, what about all the time I have already invested in my current career? What about the time I have spent reading about venture capital and startups?

I think I am now at a stage where I want to double down on my career path. I have spent a lot of time exploring different fields over the last few months, which I think is important, but now I need to say “okay, this is the path I am going down.”

I have considered taking a course on data analysis, a skill that I find interesting. Yet when I think about the value I am going to get out of that course, I find myself puzzled. Ultimately, if I do not want to be a data analyst, then the only value I can extract from the course is a set of skills that may or may not be applicable to my future career.

How about if I spent that time reading a book about product management? Then I would be able to get further in my career.

It’s easy to try to explore many different paths at once and keep your options open. And, I think for many people you need to go through this stage: if you don’t explore enough, it’s hard to feel confident in the decisions that you have made (or are going to make).

Now though I am ready to start doubling down; to start going deeper into the fields that I have already been exploring for the last few months. For me, this means I want to read more about product management and on content strategy and creation. These are the skills I believe will be crucial parts of my career in the future.

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