How to Start Planning Your Career?

In the Ask Me Anything on the MoT Slack last night, I asked @undevelopedbruce the question

How should someone start with planning their career?

which @amaccormack followed up with

you’re supposed to plan it? :exploding_head:

highlighting that I should have added more context :wink:

I’ve never really planned my career. I fell into my first role out of uni because after applying to everywhere I could, somewhere eventually took me on. From there I fell into development and then testing and was/am nurtured into community management by @rosie (the first instance of planning my career? :thinking: ) so I felt like I’ve never really approached my career properly.

Bruce gave me a lot to think about with their reply

To start with planning a career, you gotta first remember that we’re not talking the next fifty years of your life (unless that’s what you want, that’s cool). I think one of the reasons planning can be really daunting is cos for a lot of us there is a lot of time ahead to plan for. You don’t actually need to plan for it all, just your next steps, your next move.

5 or 10 year plans are helpful for some people, but I know for me it just incites a feeling of slow terror. I don’t even know if I’ll be in tech in 10 years’ time, let alone anything else! I don’t know if I want to be in tech for another decade, even.

I like to think of planning a bit more in the short term. What is something you want to achieve, maybe a role change, maybe a new skill added to your arsenal, that you want to achieve in the next year or two?

There’s loads of questions that stem from there, like “how do I know what I wanna do?“; “how do I actually break down the steps to reach it” etc, which I think I’ll cover in some other answers. So when coming up with a goal, if you don’t immediately know that you have some amazing drive to go from 0 to CTO of a multi-national billion dollar company in the next 10 years, then you don’t actually have to spend a week trying to come up with something. It’s more important (in my opinion) to be able to assess where you’re at and what you want next

I thought this was an excellent answer which I’m still digesting but wanted to share it here in case others need the same inspiration or would like to discuss this further :grin:

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A related question to this that also came up in the AMA

Did you/do you talk to other testers about your career/plan? In a mentoring or informal way? I think that’s the thing I wish I had/was better at, I feel like I don’t really have that kind of interaction with people and it might be better for my career if I had that input

and Bruce responded with:

I didn’t used to, but I do now. I definitely should have talked to people earlier - even though it was out there on my blog, I kept a semi secret of the idea that i was trying to become a test automation person, especially around other people who I knew were good at it. As if they’d look at me or the stuff I was writing, and laugh in my face. xD I realise now that I missed a lot of opportunities to learn from super talented people because I wasn’t confident enough to sit at the same table.
I think it’s super valuable to have interactions within the community, like we do here with the MOT and on twitter, and we get a lot of mentoring from each other just existing and chatting without a conscious effort. It’s harder to shout out and ask for help on career things because they’re often much vaguer issues than “I can’t work out how to test this app right here”. I’ve had a few purposefully mentory coachy chats with different people now, and they’ve probably been the most useful time I’ve spent in the last few months.
uh TLDR yes it’s useful but you’re probably absorbing a lot and getting it from everyday chats without really noticing. Having focussed sessions can be awkward if you don’t already have a solid plan, but worth a lot.

I really loved this part of the answer “you’re probably absorbing a lot and getting it from everyday chats without really noticing”. Being active in the community is talking about your career plan and helping you to make plans maybe without you even realising it :grinning: