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If you are not developing, then you are declining: how not to become an IT dinosaur

5 Tips and 6 Steps to Take you to Your Happy Career Place

By Paweł Rekowski and Krzysztof Rakowski

In some industries, it’s enough to learn some techniques or methods, and you are all set till retirement. You can do the same things over and over again and live your professional life. In IT, in modern technologies, this is not the case, fortunately or not. If you are not learning all the time, developing yourself, then you are not only staying at someone place, but you are declining. You are becoming a dinosaur.

What is wrong with being a dinosaur? Well, maybe someday you will go to an interview and find out that your skills are not relevant any more. How to avoid this? We won’t tell you what technology to learn or what framework, but we will tell you how to shape your path. How to form the vision of your career development and put it in motion. For this, we’ll define several tips.

Tip 1 – Observe and make notes

First, we’ll tell you the story of Mike. Mike basically is a mix of real persons. He is a good person in the team who basically does the same all the time, but does not develop professionally. He sees his young colleagues, juniors, who grow, rise, get promoted, and do fancy stuff but he doesn’t. He does the same all the time and doesn’t want to change. 

Once Mike’s manager said: ‘Mike I noticed that sometimes you are very motivated and you are doing your job and everybody sees that you are great at it. And there are other moments when you are not that much motivated and your teammates also notice that’. 

And Mike said, ‘Yeah, that’s true. I’ve also noticed that there are days that I start at 9 a.m and it’s 5 p.m and I didn’t even eat lunch because it was great what I was doing. And there are some times when it’s 9: 00 a.m and I’m working, working for a very long time and it’s 9.20 a.m.’ 

So, Mike and his boss decided that Mike would start making notes about the tasks that he was doing. For example, ‘When I’m doing this task, I’m really motivated and it’s really exciting for me. I’m doing some other tasks and I see that I don’t like it’. 

The first important step is to get that kind of insight. We are not doing this frequently – focusing on how happy we are when doing certain things. But it’s important to make such notes to review them after a whole month or at least a week and get an understanding of what motivates you.

Tip 2 – Create a vision

Another exercise that you can make – try to imagine your ideal work day and your ideal life in general. Imagine that you have no constraints like money, or the company that you are working for right now. You have no mortgage, you can travel, and do whatever you like. Imagine your perfect day at your job, perfect work. Some of us would say, ‘My perfect day is lying on the beach the whole day’, but this is not the point here, you have to be realistic. 

To help you with this, check out the book “The 12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran about creating habits. The most important is that the book provides specific techniques to help you create a vision for your life, create a list of the things that are really important in your life, regarding your work and your personal life. 

Tip 3 – Find your strengths

It is important to know how your perfect work looks like. If you have no idea what you want and where you want to go, the best idea to use tools. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, use a profiling test, like Wealth Dynamics or CliftonStrengths. It will show you your strengths, your weaknesses, where you should invest time, what is natural for you, how you should communicate with each other. Based on the test results, when you realize what are your talents and what you can use to develop yourself, you can build your perfect career, perfect work.

Don’t be confused if you end up the test with 34 strengths spread from 1, which is the best, and 34, the least. You should invest in several of your biggest strengths, focus on them, and based on that build your perfect job. 

Tip 4 – Get a mentor

It’s great to have a person who will guide you, shape your path. The easiest way to get a mentor – to pay one. You can find a mentor in your company, in your sphere of influence, at events, or through networking. A relationship with a mentor is demanding, you need to prepare, you need to work, you cannot expect that your mentor will do everything for you. 

You can follow people that you admire on LinkedIn or Twitter, and see what they are proposing, what they are discussing, what books they are recommending, what blog posts they are writing. This is kind of virtual mentoring, but you are learning from them and they are most frequently open for conversation. 

Tip 5 – Start doing it

Now the easiest part. Just start doing this, when you get the vision for your future, then you can just start doing that. 

The key here – to grow and develop yourself – is a mindset. To help you adjust yourself to growth and development, follow six steps below.

Step 1 – Evaluate the possibilities

First of all, think if you can get your ideal work it in your current place. Is it possible for you to develop your vision and do the things that you would like to do at the place that you are right now? Very frequently the first answer is ‘NO, I cannot do it at the place that I am because there are lots of daily tasks. It’s the daily churn and it’s really hard to do it.’ 

We’ll show you that very frequently this is not true.  That leads us to the next step.

Step 2 – Have in mind the curse of assumption

Let’s get back to Mike. Mike also has those doubts. He thinks, ‘Okay, maybe this company won’t allow me to do what I want. Because I have my daily work that I did all the past years, I did the same and all the time the same stuff.’ He has assumptions and there is something like the curse of assumptions. 

When you have something in mind, if this is your assumption, probably you will never check, you never validate this assumption like Mike. He thinks maybe the company is not okay to do something new, but he never asked. We need to do it like kids – kids try, fail, experiment, and go further. If you want to do something, you need to try and check whether it will work for you.

Step 3 – Work with your mindset

There is research by Dr. Сarol Dweck from Stanford University. Her team established that there are two kinds of mindsets that are formed in your school years – Fixed or Growth mindsets. People with a fixed mindset usually believe that the talents, the intelligence is something that is fixed. So, you are either intelligent or not, you are either smart or not, and you cannot do anything about this. 

When people with predominantly Fixed mindset face a challenge, they tend to try a little bit and then give up. If there are some obstacles, they are not putting that much effort into overcoming them, because they think that this effort will go to waste. When they hear some feedback, especially if it’s criticism, negative feedback, they have many explanations why they weren’t able to perform or do something. When they see other people, who are succeeding, they view it as a threat. Their inner feeling says them, ‘My intelligence is something fixed, this person is succeeding, so this is a threat that I will be perceived as a little bit less intelligent person’. 

According to research those people are getting to the top of their performance and capabilities earlier. They are not achieving that much as people with the growth mindset, who believe that intelligence skills are something that you can acquire. You can learn and develop. They are lifelong learners. They say, ‘All right, I don’t know how to do it, I will learn that, I will fake it till I make it’. When they see some obstacles, challenges they are going head-on and they are trying to solve those problems. 

They know that if they put more and more effort they will get more and more results. When they get some criticism, they take this feedback and try to learn something from that. When they see others succeeding they treat it as an inspiration: ‘What can I learn from this person?’ According to the research, those people achieve more, they have higher achievements and perform better overall. This translates not only in the performance in school but those mindsets are present in our workplace, in our professional careers. 

However, it’s important to remember that we are not either fixed or growth. We are more frequently exhibiting the traits of Fixed or Growth mindset. It’s important to notice that – now I’m Fixed, I’m exhibiting Fixed mindset, what I can do to be more Growth oriented?

Step 4 – Craft your job

Job crafting is based on scientific research about how you can create your job, your puzzle, your position, your role. It combines three things: 

  • Task crafting. You can create your task, set what you want to do and how you would like to do it based on your strength. You can choose what type of task is better for you. 
  • Relation crafting. We all work with people, so it’s important to craft these relationships to support the task and this is how you see your perfect and ideal job. 
  • Meaning crafting. You should have the vision of what you want to build, how your ideal work should look like and, with this in your mind, create your own position.

Getting back to Mike, this is very frequent that we work with people who think that they are stuck somewhere. We are going through this process of shaping your tasks, the relationships, and finding a meaning in your work. It was the same with Mike. He liked working on some specific tasks, seeing the big picture but before that he didn’t even think that he could do it differently. 

The only thing that he had to change was to involve other people as he liked. When he had a problem with specific tasks, then instead of trying to google a solution, he asked his colleagues to have some short call and have a discussion. 

It’s important that look for ways to shape your work even if you don’t think it’s possible. You just need to try, based on the vision of your ideal work, to find those kinds of elements in your daily work. 

Step 5 – Beware of the imposter syndrome

When you start changing what you are doing, most probably you will start succeeding and will be praised for that. At some point you might think that it was just pure luck not something that you worked hard on. It’s very likely that this will happen, because according to research, over 70% of employees at some point felt the imposter syndrome. The feeling that they are inadequate, they are pretending that they are faking, and in fact their boss or their colleagues will notice at some point that they are fake. It’s important to be aware that this is not that you are failing, this is just the feeling that is common and by this awareness you will be able to overcome that. It’s just important to remember about this.

Step 6 – Fail and go on

Our environment, our schools teach us that failures are basically bad. But this is a lie. You should remember that failures are good. You can learn from them, you can see what is working and what is not, what direction is good, what’s not. 

Failure is not a problem – it’s an opportunity to learn. When it happens, just have to have a place where you can write down all those failures and also the lessons learned. 

I think you are extremely interested in how it turned out for Mike. Of course, as we mentioned this character is based on a few people. All of them crafted their job and reached success. They were noticed by management, by colleagues. Some of them changed jobs. But the final outcome was that all of them were happy with what they were doing. Sometimes they changed their careers or shaped them a little bit but they were satisfied and that was the most important thing. 

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About the authors:

Paweł Rekowski – a man of many passions and professions – entrepreneur, developer, leader, speaker, trainer, podcaster, and finalist of the IT Manager of the Tomorrow Awards competition. Paweł is the father of two troublemakers, looking for effective ways to Feel, Look and Live #Better. For over 14 years in the IT industry. He worked for brands such as Oferia, Allegro, and BlaBlaCar. Currently, a Team Leader at eMAG. A fan of heavy music, effective communication, and making developers aware of how much their work costs. 2

Krzysztof Rakowski – is an experienced leader. He started in the IT industry almost twenty years ago as a web developer, has gone through various career paths, positions, and companies. Currently, he is the head of the Warsaw IT Hub of eMAG – the e-commerce leader in Southeastern Europe. In his work, Krzysztof is guided by transparency and putting people first. He loves to learn and help others to develop.

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