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The Most Critical Career Mistake You Can Make

Published 8/18/2021

The most critical career mistake you can make isn't a secret. Are you in control? If you aren't driving your career, who is?

What if the best thing you could do was nothing?

Not indefinitely, of course - but often, we intervene in the world when the right choice is to do nothing.

This is uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar, but might be the most critical change you can make in your thought process.

✨ Sponsor:  Around

Thank you to Around for their support of Developer Tea!

More people are working remotely than ever. And that means more video meetings than ever. But it doesn't have to be a drag with bad UX, fatiguing full-screen takeovers, and everything we hate about video meetings. Around is changing the game with a tool made specifically for remote teams to get work done together.

Check out their awesome features (like AI camera framing, auto-filters, and much more) at Around.co!

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
We're all going to make mistakes in our careers. Some are going to have longer effects than others. In today's episode, I want to warn you about the most critical mistake that you could make. And I also want to give you a sense of hope that even if you have made this mistake already, there is a way out. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. And I want you to take a moment and try to imagine what the most critical mistake you could make would be. Some people think that the most critical mistake is choosing a particular job over another one. Or another common answer to this might be choosing to depart the individual contributor path and to join the management path. Another example might be quitting a stable job to start your own company. And still another example might be the inverse of that, never quitting that job to begin with. All of these answers could be partially true, but there's a bigger thing at play. There's a bigger mistake that you can make that could precipitate some of the things that we've already mentioned. Before we talk about the mistake, let's talk about what a healthy career looks like. When we say healthy, generally what we mean by this is you're essentially getting what you want out of your career. And it's not at the detriment of some kind of widely accepted standards of health. For example, you're not spending every waking moment in losing sleep and compromising your physical health, you're not compromising your relational health, you're able to fulfill your responsibilities outside of work and that kind of thing. But when we think about a thriving career, we go beyond that and we look for things like growth, challenge. We look for things like agency and respect from our peers. We might look for markers like leadership. If you want to be leading in a field or you want to be leading people, your career is on a healthy career would be on a trajectory to do those things. So I want you to ask these questions of yourself, do you feel in control of your own career? We're going to talk about this mistake that you can make the most critical mistake that you can make in your career. Right after we talk about today's brand new sponsor, Around. Today's episode of Developer Tea is brought to you by Around. Those of us that listen to this show know that I am a remote worker. I have been for many years now. And more people probably than ever are working remotely. And that means that we're on inevitably on more video meetings than ever. If you're anything like me, I'm not a fan of video calls taking up my whole screen as well as the awful UX and fatigue that comes with those video calls. Around is a totally different and refreshing take on video calls because it's designed for sessions where working together is the focus. They have this lightweight, unobtrusive interface that basically floats on your desktop. It frees up your screen so you can actually get work done together. It's built specifically with modern remote teams in mind and is perfect for things like code reviews, pair programming, or daily stand-ups. And it's a blast to use. It's really fun. Around also has these really thoughtful features baked in to reduce video call fatigue. Like for example, automatic background cropping. So you don't have to worry about all of your bed wasn't made this morning and you rush to make it. You don't have to worry about that. Anti-fotigue filters, AI camera framing and noise reduction as well as playful touches that just make the overall experience a ton more enjoyable. After using around, you'll actually look forward to video meetings instead of wanting to avoid them. I encourage you to give it a spin with your team and let me know what you think. You can try it out for free at around.co. And on a personal note, I want to say thank you to around for building something specifically for remote teams. That means a lot to me. And thank you to around of course for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we've been talking about what it means to have a successful and healthy career with the most critical thing that you can kind of focus on as whether or not you have agency, whether you are able to make decisions about your career. And the inverse of that is the most critical career mistake that you can make. That is getting out of the driver's seat. Getting out of the driver's seat. I want you to really kind of capture this metaphor for a moment. Getting out of the driver's seat of your career means that either you are allowing someone else to drive or no one is driving, both can be calamitous. It's possible that someone else would drive perfectly fine for you, but no one else is focused on your career like you are. No one else can be focused on your career like you can. Or the only person that has, for example, subconscious thoughts about what you want in your life. And so it doesn't make sense to give someone else the keys to your career and let them drive. It certainly doesn't make sense to be entirely aimless and have no one driving. And if you are in the driver's seat, what this allows you to do is, and again, follow this metaphor, really take hold of where you're going. Understanding that driving kind of requires a destination in some way. And yes, you can take detours, you can drive aimlessly, but ultimately, if you are in charge, if you are the person that's making decisions about your career, then it also makes sense for you to focus on where you're headed. Now at the risk of sounding a little bit like a motivational speaker, I want to kind of scale back for a second and give you kind of a litmus test for whether you are in the driver's seat of your career. First, are you afraid of losing your job? Now, most people say yes to this question and that's not really the litmus test that we're talking about here because everyone is afraid of losing their job to some degree, probably at least a little bit, right? But the litmus test is instead to understand why, why exactly are you afraid of losing your job? Do you believe that you are employed at a job, at a role that you don't necessarily deserve, for example? Do you believe that the people that are employing you have some power over your career that you don't hold yourself? The answer to these questions should help illuminate whether or not you are in control of your own career. Another question might be, how does your current role play into the bigger picture of your career goals? Again, these questions, they seem obvious, they seem kind of, you know, again, motivational speaker might give you these questions. My goal here is to help you understand what it means to have agency over your own career decisions. If you are in a role that you don't feel suited for, you should be asking yourself why. What person in your career or what person in your life is, kind of forcing your hand or is driving the car, and why is it that you chose to get out of the driver's seat? Is there something that you can do to take control of that path again? Now, this doesn't mean to suddenly become domineering or demanding, and you can certainly still be both grateful for your current role and in control of your career at the same time. Right? This is not the picture of being an overbearing person. That's not what I'm trying to suggest that you do. Instead, I want you to reflect regularly on whether you are exerting the agency over your career that you can. We recently talked about mistakes being an opportunity to take responsibility. I think this is exactly the kind of responsibility that you need to take to have that agency, to look at your mistakes or look at your opportunities and to actually act on your own behalf. So not simply go with the flow or take a position or a change in your position just because someone else tells you that they think it's good for you. To instead, think about and resource yourself to understand what you want out of your own career. You are the person that will care the most about your career. That means that you need to be in the driver's seat. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. If you would like to join the Developer Tea Discord community, you can discuss everything we talked about on this episode and talk about, you know, maybe even ask questions about what it means to have agency over your own career. That's the kind of thing that we like to talk about, head over to developertea.com slash discord. So much again and until next time, enjoy your tea.