What makes a rewarding, fulfilling career? I keep three things in mind: being challenged every day, making an impact, and working with delightful people. Keep these three keys in mind, and you’ll never wake up and dread going to work a day in your life.
These three factors are what I want for myself, and I strive to recruit people who want them too; and to create a workplace and career path that provides them. Life is just too short to consider work as separate1 from life; it’s a third of life after all. In a bit more detail:
- Challenge is what makes work fun and exciting for growth-minded people. Growth-minded people believe that their capabilities are elastic, not inherent; that they can work on their weaknesses as well as their strengths; that they can be better today than they were yesterday. These people are the most dynamic, impactful, amazing people in the world. And they do not want stagnation. They want challenges that force them outside their comfort zone where they can grow and learn and accelerate.
- Impact is what makes work rewarding. I’m highly motivated to make a difference, to make the world a better place, and I seek out people who feel the same way. The single best way to assess for this, and to recruit for it, is to focus on the impact2 of the work. Why would I bother if not for the impact? I want to see that my efforts change something for someone, directly or indirectly. It’s demoralizing to work on something that never gets into production, never sees the light of day. I want people in my company who will not accept less than that.
- People make all the difference. Working with delightful people, people who model the three behaviors that create psychological safety,3 people who are also A-players and challenge me, people with whom I share values—it is impossible to overstate how important this is. It’s more than just a “no assholes” rule, it’s positively affirming that I want to be surrounded by good people who are great at their vocation.
In addition to making a career rewarding, these are also the defining characteristics of how to learn what you want to do in life, your true vocation. This is often very confusing to young people, not least because our society sends illogical messages to them about how to find or create their calling in life. Two related articles, one by Glenn Kelman and one by Paul Graham. They are both worth considering deeply. What does Glenn mean when he writes this?
Often now, I meet young people who want to be something more than they want to do something. What they really want, not unreasonably, is to progress in their career. What they don’t realize is that this progression will end, but their career won’t.
The company I founded, VividCortex, has four Core Values: growth, empathy, pragmatism, and inclusiveness. Hopefully it’s obvious how the three attributes of a great career, and how I use those to attract the best and keep out the rest, align with these four Core Values. If you’re interested, we’re hiring.
- I know it’s a luxury and a privilege to be able to aspire to make your career part of your life instead of simply the means to an end, but if you have it, don’t waste it. [return]
- It’s not the result that matters so much as the impact of the result; “results-focused” is a cheap buzzword that egotistical people throw around all the time. [return]
- The three trust behaviors are listening, caring, and supporting. [return]