think about your career as a series of projects

Published on May 19, 2020

One way to think about your career is as a series of projects.

When you are getting started in your career, it is tempting to get caught up in the optics of what constitutes a good career.

Once you’ve found a job, your next thought may be “where will this lead?” When you are evaluating new opportunities, you may be thinking “does this align with what other people who have followed this path have done?”

I think this is the wrong way to think about things. When you think about your career as a career, it becomes really easy to compare your progress to other people. It’s easy to start thinking “this is what other people have done to become a developer, so this is what I need to do.”

This type of thinking leads to you following a path that is not your own. Career moves become about optimizing for the long-term path that other people think you should follow.

When I found my first job in technology, I didn’t think about it specifically as a job. I thought about it as a project. This has had a number of impacts on how I view my long-term progress.

By thinking about my job as a project, I don’t spend my time considering what my “long-term growth” prospects look like. Instead, I am focused on deriving as much value as possible from the position that I am in right now.

I have spent a lot of time considering what my long-term growth looks like in my career, and most of my thoughts down that line have not been very productive. I have always worried about “what’s next,” at the expense of making the most of where I am today.

In addition, thinking about my job as a project helps me practice a sense of detachment. Projects end at some point, and then you move onto something new. Your latest project doesn’t have to be connected to your first one -- it could be something completely different.

What this means, in practice, is that I am not worried about introducing a linear line into my career. I make decisions based on what projects -- jobs -- will allow me to learn the most. I am not concerned with whether a certain job is “a step forward” in other people’s eyes. I only want to make sure I am doing something that is personally meaningful to me.

Think about your career as a series of projects. When you feel like you have done everything you can on one project, start another one. Don’t make decisions based on what other people think your career should look like.

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