As a mentor and instructor in the Skillful program, I have the privilege of advising students, recent graduates, and those early in their careers on how to approach their first or second job.
I’ll often get the question:
“What should I do next?”
Frankly, I struggle with that too - I think everyone does. It’s a topic that requires both deep, intentional thought, and input from the people surrounding you.
Here, I’d like to share some guiding principles and resources that have helped navigate me my career.
Impact = Environment x Skills
Fresh out of school, I believed that I had to mould myself to fit my work environment. I thought that I could take on and excel at any type of work.
That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Through trial-and-error, I eventually discovered (and am constantly learning about) areas of work that don’t go well with me.
Now, I focus on doing work in my ‘Zone of Genius’. Sahil Bloom describes this as the area where your interests, passions, and skills intersect. It’s your place of harmony - where you activate your flow state.
Impact is the product (not sum!) of your Environment and Skills. Environment is your company, manager, scope, team, and so forth. Your skills are well, your skills.
Note that I put the emphasis on product, not sum. If both factors are high, you’ll get exponential output. If even one factor is low, then you’ll get low impact.
Identify your ‘Zone of Genius’ and focus on aligning your skills with your environment.
Math notation aside, this is just a fancy way of saying: ‘think one step ahead’.
In his article, Sumit Gupta shares the following examples:
An engineer who wants to become a product manager (N+1): good stepping stone jobs (N) are application engineer, technical sales specialist (aka pre-sales engineer), or other client facing jobs.
Want to move to sales (N+1)? Try a partnership role, or business development or technical sales specialist job.
How do you figure out what the correct ‘stepping stone’ or ‘N’ is? Think through what your resume will look like after taking the N-job - and whether it gets you to N+1.
Always think a step ahead. Where do you want to be in X years, and what will enable you to get there?
Career Decision Matrix
I’ve also developed my own career matrix for decision-making. It involves four pillars:
People — the community and network that I can build relationships with
Experience — the skills, impact, and knowledge that I’ll be able to learn
Life — the job factors enhance my happiness
Alignment — the values that enable long-term conviction
Everyone will weigh these pillars - and the factors - differently. And as we advance in our careers and lives, we’ll likely shift priority from one factor to another.
Consider your priorities and how they align to these pillars. What’s most important to you?
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P.S - if you’d like to learn more about Skillful or work with me, reply to this email. I may even be able to offer you a sweet deal.
Seven tips for picking your first (or next) job - Nikhyl Singhal
Career Decisions - Elad Gil
Impact = Environment x Skills: How to make career decisions - Bangaly Kaba