What’s the perfect job?

I thought a lot over the weekend about what I want out of my career. That ubiquitous question about “where you see yourself in five years” got me wondering if I have created a path for myself, or if I am just going with the flow day-to-day.

This experiment started once I stumbled into a crop of mock Product Manager interviews. I was able to see myself through the eyes of the interviewee, and I’ve always strived to end up in a leadership position in my career.

I noticed our similarities — the patterns in speech, controlling the conversation and still being an active listener, making everyone feel at ease by conveying a calm sense of control. I started to wonder — how do I get into a role like this?

It’s likely I’ve already started down this path. I do a number of the tasks typically associated with a product engineer. My strengths lie in communication, big ideas and execution through building relationships. These are all characteristics I saw in these PM interviews, but I still wanted to know how they actually got into a position to have the relevant experience to be approached for a PM interview.

This, of course, got me thinking about where I am in my career. Am I in the right position to be able to scale up into one of these roles down the road? Am I getting the right experience?

Any job has to toe the line between push and pull/give and take. It’s not just about money, though that is the main drive for wanting to work at all. But money is the baseline, and while comp packages vary, how we spend our time is paramount to a happy life.

I spend so much time at work that it’s a must that I work in a way that allows me to continue progressing in my career. Short of that, I’d have to be doing something completely philanthropic, making absurd amounts of money, or already be in my dream role.

A perfect job is about:

  • mentorship
  • learning
  • real-time experience
  • work-life balance

The employer will want certain tasks from me which are outside of that scope, and that comes as part of the job where I may have to sacrifice a bit of personal growth for the good of the company. I accept this, as long as I know the company is allowing me to keep my goals and my arc at the center of my role.

Great companies are able to align individual goals with the company mission. Struggling ones try to shoehorn the two into each other, creating unhappy employees and a flawed working relationship.

I’m writing this in hopes that more managers will ask their employees what they want out of the role. Aside from money, what are you hoping to achieve here? The answer, in my mind, should be a balance between team success and individual growth.

Most of us are not in our ultimate position. I sure am not, so my focus is to try and learn as much as I can from smart people while they’re around. Then turn what I learned into real-life experience to create value for the company and show my own value as an employee. To wrap that up in a bow, I should be just as successful away from work as I am at the job — something that requires a balanced life away from the office, and enough hours off the clock to properly invest in family, friends and creativity.

I still have a ways to go before I’ll approach any PM interviews. But with the right experience and mentorship, it may be sooner rather than later.

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