What it really means to be responsible for your own career

Guest post by James Wallace of extroverteddeveloper.com

You are responsible for your own career.

We’ve probably all heard that phrase before. You may have even seen some advice about what it means. I’ve found that most of that advice revolves around networking and visibility or self-advocacy.

Instead, today I’m going to write about what this means when it comes to decision-making.

Making decisions that serve your career

I am from a time in the computing industry when folks had offices and cubicles. We worked in pretty quiet environments and had a considerable amount of space compared to today. While generally I think it’s been a terrible descent into open office madness as an industry, I knew it was here to stay. So the question arose: How am I going to be successful and grow in my career in this new environment?

The evidence is pretty clear that open offices have been detrimental to overall knowledge worker effectiveness. (Hmm, I wonder if that’s why so many want to work from home?) And companies have largely left it up to individual employees to figure out how they’re going to thrive in an open office. That’s what I mean in this post when I say, your career is in your hands.

You might be thinking that when the companies took away our cubicles, it was then their responsibility to buy us headphones so we could continue concentration-heavy work. Some did. Most didn’t. So now what? What should you do if you find yourself in an open office environment, distracted by all the noise around you? By now I think the industry has landed on an answer: You should buy the best noise-isolating headphones you can afford. Why? Because it will increase your productivity, and a single promotion more than pays for the headphones.

Owning your career in a remote work world

We’ve entered a new era of change in our industry: the rise of remote work. Just like with cubicles before, there are some benefits, but also many costs to being fully remote. Who should bear the brunt of those costs?

In the office, the company provides the best possible internet service it can get. Further, it provides a fail-over internet service, just in case the first connection goes down, because everyone knows how important internet connectivity is for everything we do.

Now that you’re home, is the internet still as important? Is it more important, since it’s the lifeline you maintain back to the company? It seems to me that something so important, where if it goes down you can’t do your job, should be taken very seriously. As such, I have dual internet service providers at home: a fast fiber connection and a fail-over cable connection, along with an in-home enterprise grade wifi network. Because I was remote for 6 years, and the internet is how I made money for my family. The decision to make these investments was easy.

The next thing that’s dramatically different in a remote world: whiteboards have effectively disappeared. I have personally found collaborating at a whiteboard to be very beneficial. Turns out, there’s some great virtual whiteboard apps (Jamboard from Google, Whiteboard from Microsoft, etc.) that work great with an iPad and a iPencil. Another benefit of the latest iPad Pro is that it has very nice camera tracking, freeing you from having to worry about whether you’re in frame when on a video call. So… should you drop $1,000 on an iPad and iPencil to get team whiteboarding capability back? I did.

Invest in yourself and your own productivity, and if the company will reimburse you, great! If not, they’ll reimburse you with a promotion.

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