Limiting my options so that I can focus

We’re fascinated by choice, almost slaves to keeping our options open. Sometimes it’s better to close doors, impose constraints, ignore possibilities. Focus.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I plan the next step in my career. There are so many paths to choose from: consulting? development? management, perhaps even executive?

Constraints make choosing easier.

I want to build a wonderful relationship with W-. This is easier to do with little or no travel, manageable hours, and low stress at work. That probably rules out the kind of consulting IBM tends to do, and the executive career path as well.

I want to experiment and create new opportunities. I’d like to try product development / consulting / coaching / webinars / e-books. People have made that business model work. But I’ve got a great opportunity to help change the way IBM works, and through IBM, help change the way the world works, so I’m focusing on that. I should make sure that familiarity and comfort don’t take me too far away from what I want to do, though: help people connect, collaborate, and learn.

Between following a formal career path and going where no job title has gone before, I think I’d like to explore the latter. I can take risks. I learn quickly, and I’m good at making things work.

This will be interesting.

  • Petr

    I work in similar multinational corporation, so I understand how “familiarity and comfort” could hold one from trying something new or challenging :)
    So you are leaving IBM than :) ?

  • No, I’m staying in IBM, I’m just figuring out how to hack the organization to do even more interesting things. =) There are plenty of possibilities within IBM, so I just need to be clear on what might be a good fit for me and what might be a distraction.

  • Petr

    Ha, “hack the organization” – lovely message :)

  • Linditt

    This post reminds me of an Extraordinary Performer course I attended. Some people grow into Leadership role, some get specialized in Consultancy role. Each have their own place; and both can be extraordinary.

  • I see that at IBM too, where in addition to the regular people-management kinds of career path, there are also paths for individual contribution and technical leadership. =)

    I’m having a career chat with a possible mentor this afternoon. It’s interesting planning ahead. We’ve got great systems in place for people who decide they want to be, say, an IT architect or a consultant: clear, step-by-step requirements and tips, mentoring, certification… Me, I don’t really care what job title or level I have, as long as we work towards what I’m passionate about: helping people collaborate more effectively, helping IBM and other organizations transform, and helping people learn from and share what they know with others. I can do that from pretty much anywhere, although some positions have better alignment/fit than others – and that’s where planning comes in.

    Who knows? Maybe I’m growing towards something that doesn’t have a job title yet.

  • > Me, I don’t really care what job title or level I have, …

    I used to think that way too. Function over form any day. But I now realize that in big corporations (at least), job titles are *language*, like most of human interaction, and so can be not only useful but maybe even essential. Titles are not for the title holder’s benefit — they’re for everyone else. They are a function template, or an object’s interface. They’re part of your personal API

    And not having one can be like going to France and refusing to speak French. (Although my experience there is that you’re as likely to get a poke in the eye for speaking French badly as you are for not trying it at all)

    That said, over attention to title can cause more harm than good. Doesn’t sound like you’re in danger of making that mistake. :-)

  • <grin> I’m all for being fluent in organizationese. My manager and I are leaning towards “consultant” as the catch-all job title that we can fit all sorts of things into. The path towards that is mostly about experience, skills, relationships, and documentation, and is well-understood. (Hooray big companies!) I’m not circumscribed by a job title or a description, though, and will happily hack all sorts of things above my pay grade. ;)

  • My first manager just dropped by for a quick chat. =) He mentioned this blog post and told me that if I counted all the work-related things I did outside my job description, it would probably be quite a lot of hours, too. He also said that executives don’t all work those crazy long hours we sometimes think they do. <laugh>