Build your career retrospectively

I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb. –Thomas Edison

This statement is very much a retrospective way of living. Do something. Pause and learn from that something. Do something slightly differently. Do this continuously until you have done something awesome!

If you have done any form of SCRUM that you are likely familiar with the team meeting that happens at the end of the sprint called a retrospective meeting.  This is when all the team member spend a certain amount of time looking at the things they did wrong on the last sprint.  They then look at the things they did right and that they would like to continue doing.  And finally, they choose from all the items that have come up, and pick a few of them to get better at.

ret-ro-spec-tive – /ˌretrəˈspektiv/ – looking back on or dealing with past events or situations.

This activity, if you think about it, is likely a healthy thing to do with just about anything we do in life.  Certainly at the end of a two week long team working session.  But what about as a company in general?  Where I currently work we do a company retrospective once a month.  There are a few big lists of items that people curate in trello.  What don’t we like.  What do we like. What should we keep doing. What are we going to actively resolve.  What has been resolved. All of this can be visualized on the trello board. This is perfect for conversations that only occur once a month.

…are you being awesome?

What about having a personal retrospective? How might that work? At the end of each week I like to look back and see what didn’t work. This sort of goes hand in hand with striving to always be awesome. Continuous improvement can only happen if you actively measure where you are in the process. What happened this week that you didn’t like? What worked well that you might want to continue work on? What needs to be actively improved? I then write that down on a sticky note and put it on my monitor as a continuous reminder. You can also put reminders on your calendar to pop up in your face now and then: “are you being awesome?” Having a constant reminder is important so that you don’t forget.

…give status lately?

I find communication is a topic for me that can always be improved. Also, my current position is sort of like an air traffic controller. I keep my eye on a lot of moving things. And I need to touch the things that are starting to show signs of wobble. This means I am busy pretty much all day. Which means that my ability to radiate information out to those that need it doesn’t happen at the rate that it should. This bites me in the butt constantly. Sticky on the monitor: “give status lately?”. Works great!

So then how does this apply to your career? Easy! Make a trello board and call it career management. Create several columns: working, not working, needs improvement, doing, done.  Something like this.  At least each month have a personal retrospective where you discuss with yourself all the things required to have a great career.

You will achieve your dream if you don’t run out of steam.

Blog post lately?  NO? That might go in your needs improvement column.  Update your resume lately?  We discussed that you should treat your career as though you are a portfolio manager, not an employee. Go update your portfolio! Do some public speaking lately?

You get the idea. Map out the things you want to get done. Build a solid plan around it. Then execute that plan. Measure how well you are executing that plan early and often. Pivot along the way. You will achieve your dream if you don’t run out of steam.

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    Andrew Siemer

    Chief Architect at Clear Measure. Farmer at Friendly Pastures. Software consultant at Siemer for Hire. Random dude at Author of 3 books published by Packt Publishing. Self publishing author of two books in progress at LeanPub. All around programmer dude.