Take some time to write your values and motivations
When I think about my career growth, I often make a habit of comparing my growth trajectory at different points in time rather than focussing on more recent progress. I found spots where I compared the start of my web development career with job changes, specifically, instead of looking at achievements I’ve made along the way. I constantly look back at “the beginning” – forgetting that in “the beginning”, I knew basically nothing, then got to the stage of being a developer with some fairly solid knowledge in the field, within the space of a couple of years.
I was an excited, curious, and very pumped up individual. But everyone’s drive changes over time, and especially in this field of technology, stuff changes so much. Understandably, after some time, it’s not enough to rely on your natural energy to propel yourself forward. The same was for me, and I’m not ashamed to say that the speedy advancements of front end development have often gotten me down.
Many months ago, in the midst of a state of exhaustion, I came across Melissa Mandelbaum’s article Design your personal growth. After hearing stories from friends about their struggles with personal growth, Melissa wrote about her current growth framework that she revisits and updates each quarter. It was what I needed to realise some of my personal values and my vision on learning, so after using Melissa’s framework, I took my notes and shared what I’d written with my manager, and it helped us discuss a clearer direction and figure out where my mind was at.
I wanted to share these values and motivations because I think they are not just specific to working and career growth, but really reflect me as an individual. Much like my blogging values, they are evident of the kind of person I am: what encourages me; what I sometimes need to keep going; what is important to me.
- Do stuff I love. ♥️ And stuff that makes me happy.
- Try to be curious, but never force it.
- Have respect for myself and for others.
- Give opportunities a chance.
- Time at work != time working.
- Always make time for tea.
I wanted to write a bit about why I think I wrote some of these values. In my notebook, there was not a single mark that showed me crossing something out to write something else, no handwriting slip-ups – I wrote these values without hesitation.
It’s really important to do what I enjoy and love doing. Throughout my life I have had a lot of hobbies and I have enjoyed each and every one. And I’ve usually stopped once it got boring. I feel very lucky to have a job doing something I enjoy. It comes with its challenges, of course, and at times I’ve wanted to give up, but I find something that pulls me back because I like it.
I do try to be curious about things even though they don’t pique my interest. I like to hear about new things or to know about something I don’t know about. At the same time, I don’t want to make myself find out more information about some new programming language (for example) when I am not even curious about it in the first place.
Respect is important to me, and that certainly comes from my experience being a woman working in the technology field.
- Being recognised or receiving recognition for my work.
- Words of thanks or words of encouragement from people who appreciate my work.
- Seeing more tangible results, regardless of how much “work” was done (that is, regardless of the time spent on the task, or the amount of code that was written).
- Routine: putting some music on, being in a comfortable environment.
- Having a sense of time: no rushing.
Number 1 and number 2 are the points I feel so strongly about in this list. I may not build the next social network or write an amazing book about CSS, but when my work is recognised, no matter how big or small, it really motivates me to continue what I’m doing. This has been the case for me since I started blogging and writing – it really warmed my heart when people shared my work and commended it. The same goes for words of thanks. This is super emotional, I know, but sometimes I want to cry (happy tears!) when someone thanks me for something I have written. Whether it helped them figure out some coding thing, whether it inspired them to start going to the gym, whether they found a new band after I tweeted about a song I liked. Being thanked motivates me to continue doing that thing – in these cases, I’ve shared some thoughts, and I will continue doing that because people are grateful for it.
Encouragement is probably an obvious motivator for most people but I had to write it down. The amount of times I’ve been struggling to do something, having dreaded impostor syndrome and thinking “fuck me, why can’t I figure this out, I’m an idiot”, and an external voice interrupts my internal thoughts to tell me I’m doing a great job, and to keep going? It happens frequently and it I almost cry, haha. It’s sometimes all I need to keep me going.
Seeing results is a great thing. Although not everyone makes “smart” goals that are measurable, there is no doubt that seeing some kind of result, something that you have achieved, right in front of your face, is better than not seeing anything there at all.
Regarding number 5, I can’t stress enough how rushing really makes me frustrated. It makes me frustrated and anxious to the point where I can barely focus and it just feels like I’m being pushed to a limit. Even if I’m not the one causing myself to rush, but things like ridiculous deadlines can contribute to this.
Strengths and weaknesses
I was a little hesitant to write this because woah, why would I be sharing my weaknesses? But it’s interesting if you compare the two:
- keen to learn, sometimes in big bouts, and other times in smaller bursts
- care about quality of work
- like to try new things
- persistent (I don’t always give up)
- communicating with team members
- I like challenges
- emotional (which can be good or bad)
- sometimes a perfectionist
- stubborn and not always open to change
- easily distracted
- don’t really like big challenges
Cool. So I like challenges, but I don’t really like big challenges. I like to try new things but not always open to change. WTF? 🤪 So the thing my manager and I noticed here is that I need a sense of balance. Balance is important for me to, well, feel sane. Not everyone’s strengths and weaknesses will be almost exact opposites like mine.
I found the exercise useful to help me “reset”. In all honesty it helped me feel inspired by, well, my own self. Me writing about my strengths and weaknesses and the things that are important to me made me realise that the things that are important to me haven’t changed.
Recently, I was feeling a little unmotivated, career-wise probably unsure what to focus on next, and chatting with Lucy reminded me that I actually had these personal values written down and totally forgotten about them. Writing this blog post has brought me back from a place of frustration and panic. Frustration and panic can seem negative. It might impact your mental health, or it might just be a nagging sense of discomfort. Either way, counselling can help – a common misconception is that it’s just for people who are struggling with mental health. But it can help you with career advice, financial advice, or guidance in any other aspect of your life.
If you do the exercise yourself, let me know, I would love to see how it helps you. 🙂