Why should we talk about career path

Did you already wonder where will you be in 5 years?

If not, you may have been asked this question during a job interview, isn't it? And honestly, 95% of the people will have the same answer "I don't know, that's so far away. I'm not even sure about where I will be in 3 months". Or they will try to find an answer to please the person that asked the question.

As a manager, I consider as one of my duties to help my reports to grow from a career point of view. I integrated career discussions during our official quarterly reviews, and I was not surprised about the answers I had during our first session on this topic: "I don't know"...

Why are people usually not knowing? Because that's hard. Really hard. It depends on your next project(s), your next promotion, the evolution of your team in the company, the market (if you want to change your job), the way other companies work, etc. There are a lot of reasons to show that any plan you can come with will be highly inaccurate. But should we not try anything because it's too hard? Or because we won't have it right? Should we not play a match against a stronger opponent "on paper"? Is it then a lost cause, a completely useless exercise ? I don't think so.

As people usually just run with the flow, they start with the first project assigned to them when they join a new company (frequently a non-critical / non-interesting one, as they first need to build their trust in you). Then they jump to the next project, usually decided for them by the management. Then next one, etc. Until they consider that they are not growing anymore (various reasons: no perspective of technical evolution, or hierarchical progression, or pay increase, or ).

And when you reach that stage, you look for the next step (= job) with the career path you have built passively over the last X years. Depending on how lucky they have been, they will be able to access (or not) the next "dream position of the moment".

That's where you can act right now! Instead of waiting for things to happen, start thinking about it way more seriously!! What are the different positions existing in your domain? How can you already anticipate some of your moves to be in a better position for the future? You want to manage big teams in the future? Few chances that it will happen if you don't start managing 1-2 people first. You want to work for company Y? What are the technologies they are using? Their culture? The challenges they are currently facing?

Let's be clear here: I'm not talking about a bullet-proof method to have 100% chances to get to your dream job in X years, but to increase your chances. To be prepared in the right way. To have a solid story to tell about when you describe what drives you.

You remember, I told you that I initiated this discussion with my reports during quarterly reviews. That were the most productive sessions I ever had with them, by far (more about these sessions )

The different guides

Here is what you may find of interest depending on your situation:

  • You are a junior and just started working: the junior guide (in progress),
  • You are mid-level developer and start noticing that you learn less these days in your company: the mid-level challenges (in progress),
  • You are senior and currently really passive in your career: the full career guide (in progress),
  • You are a manager and would like to help your reports to have a career plan: the career path session preparation and the career path session example (in progress),
  • You are a developer that starts having more of a tech lead role, as well as new management duties: the should-I-be-a-manager guide (in progress).

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