How to think about your career

Charlie Kindel's job matrix

I first stumbled on Charlie Kindel’s blog post about his “job decision matrix” several years ago, while mentoring a young teammate who was wondering about how she should think about her next job. It is such a great model for thinking about – and planning for – career growth, that I have shared it at least a few times a month, every month, ever since.

Charlie Kindel's job matrix
Charlie Kindel’s job decision matrix. (source)

As I prepared to leave Google Ventures in 2020, I built my own version of Charlie’s matrix in Trello, and as opportunities presented themselves, I would put the matrix on screen as I reflected on what each opportunity represented. It was extraordinarily useful – in my experience, these things are often implicit, ongoing conversations with yourself about what matters, what doesn’t… putting my priorities on screen made the evaluation a much more concrete, defensible process. As I’d evaluate a specific opportunity, it became easier to gut-check the stack-ranking of priorities, the preferences about what actually mattered. More than once, an opportunity that seemed exciting turned out to be less so. I learned a ton about what I really cared about, and why – which made it so easy to lean into the opportunity to serve the state of California when the opportunity presented itself.

Kindel’s matrix helps you identify a few key insights:

  • what matters, and in what order
  • what doesn’t matter
  • which merit badges are you pursuing?
  • where are the blockers that you absolutely want to avoid? (In my experience, unless these are explicit, we’re wired to make excuses for things that seem interesting in the moment, but which have one or more red flags… calling these blockers out explicitly – could be geography, sector, leadership, etc. – is very helpful in keeping yourself honest.)

We’re in the midst of the “the great resignation“, a time when millions are leaving jobs, reevaluating what matters most to them, and exploring new opportunities. As covid pushes more employers to adapt to (if not fully embrace) remote work, the roles available to job seekers are increasing – often with fewer constraints (geographic and otherwise) that imposed some natural limits on who would compete for those roles.

It’s with that backdrop that I think it’s worth highlighting Charlie’s original post. (His post on careers being more like space missions, and less like trajectories, is also fantastic.) If you or someone you know is currently rethinking your current role, and exploring what might come next, spend some time creating your own Trello board (Charlie’s current board is here if you need inspiration). You’ll learn a lot about what you’re really optimizing for, and you might be surprised by where that leads you.

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