Next week I’ll talk more specifically about Riot Games and League of Legends, but today I’m covering generic Talent stuff.
I’ve been having a lot of career conversations recently. I don’t know why, exactly. Yes, I understand that having career conversations is part of my job description. I’m the Talent guy, gotta talk careers. But even by my standards I seem to be experiencing a heavy load of career chattery. Twice this week already I’ve even had deep career coaching discussions with job candidates outside of Riot. Apparently there’s some Career Moon rising, and everyone and their grandmother wants to contemplate the future.
Thankfully, I love talking to people about unlocking their potential. And if you want to have a chat with me about your ever-winding career path, here’s the approach I’ll take…
First, I’m going to give you homework. I’ll ask you to answer the following five questions, in whatever format makes sense to you. I’ll tell you that we’ll have Step 2 only after you’ve written these answers down. Take as long as you need. After all, you own your own career.
But do write your answers down. For me, it’s important that we get these concepts out of your brain and into the world. I’m a firm believer that the act of writing forces us to crystalize half-formed thoughts (hello weekly blog, I’m looking at you).
Question 1: What are your life goals?
Make no mistake, I care about your career goals and your short-term job goals. But more important for this homework assignment is what you want to accomplish in this lifetime overall. What does success look like for you as your dying breath rattles forth? Why are you here? What’s your destiny?
Sometimes people’s goals are summed up in their role as spouse or parent. Sometimes the goals are weirdly specific, like wanting to run a flower shop in Honolulu. Again, I’ll ask that you write down whatever it is the question triggers for you.
Question 2: When it comes to work, what do you like and not like to do?
Almost every person out of probably a hundred I’ve seen answer this question says that they don’t like repetitive administrivia. Okay, sure. None of us do. But look past the obvious stuff, and capture what you really love about the work you’ve done and what you really dislike. Another way to put it: What do you do that brings you energy and what drains your energy?
Question 3: When it comes to work, what are you good at and not-so-good at?
Tell me about your strengths and opportunities. What are your superpowers and what’s your Kryptonite? Think about your prior performance reviews, assessments, and feedback from peers. Look for themes. Try your best to capture what strengths you bring to a workplace and where you honestly struggle.
Question 4: What’s your personal “brand” and what do you want it to be?
There’s a lot of literature on personal branding, so I won’t spend time on it here. Suffice it to say, if I asked a bunch of people you’ve worked with in the past, what would they say about you? Do you have three adjectives that follow you around from job to job? And how do you feel about those adjectives? Are there some you like and others you think are either unfair or based on old tapes? Do you aspire to be whispered about in different ways than people whisper about you now? Why?
Question 5: List as many different roles as you can as your possible next move.
It’s ideal if you add the pro’s and con’s of each role, but those are frankly bonus points. Also, pay attention to how many roles you’re listing (i.e. how locked into a particular future you are) and push yourself to create a longer list. Think about lateral moves as well as moves that involve a promotion. Or even–gasp!–think about if there are idiosyncratic, oddball moves you’ve considered in the wee hours of the night and write those down too.
Again, the point here is to write these things down. Doing good, solid, individual work on these five questions is, in my experience, a great way to start a meaningful career chat.
It’s important to note that this exercise is a lot about what you bring to it. The “garbage in, garbage out” theorem is definitely in effect. If you don’t put much thought into your answers, or you leave whole sections blank, or you’re simply not self-aware, then it’s unlikely that any real career insights are on the way. But if you take this homework assignment seriously and bring the right spirit to it, that’s a good Step 1.
Doing the work of introspection and documenting is only half the battle, of course. What really makes for an impactful career conversation is… wait for it… conversation! So Step 2 is that I’ll ask you to talk through your homework with me.
My role in this conversation is twofold. First, I’m asking questions to understand what you’ve written, explore the depth of your answers, and understand your thought process. I’m seeking to understand and practicing active listening. Your job is to educate me so that I fully grok what you’ve done.
My second role in the conversation is to point out connections. Maybe your life goals appear at complete odds with your possible next moves. Or maybe what you like to do and what you’re good at are sitting in opposition. Maybe it sounds like you’re wanting to make a career move purely for branding reasons but not because it seems to serve any of the other questions. Maybe the list of what you’re good at is five times longer than what you’re not good at, or vice-versa, leading me into questions about self-esteem or humility. Again–no real judgement here. I’m trying to hold up a mirror and see how you respond. It’s amazing how often people don’t see connections between their answers, and pointing out those connections looks like voodoo magic to them.
The reason I’ve started to love this approach is because of the results. No two conversations are the same, yet real revelations seem to occur. In a lot of ways it’s a cheap parlor trick, like a career Rorschach test. My hypothesis is that you already know what the right answer for you is in terms of your career–what you need is the quiet space to reflect on it, and then an empathetic, objective voice to play back your reflections.
So beware ye who asks for a career conversation. Be prepared for homework and for a soul-baring chat. If you’re up for it, though, let the career chattery commence!