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How should you think about your next job? First, think hard about the one you want to have after the one you’re currently exploring. That allows you to identify the gaps in skills, experience, etc., you will have for that job. Then, to progress toward your long-term goal, your next job needs to allow you to close some—ideally many—of those gaps.
It is essential to realize that the forces of nature in recruiting will often work against you. Recruiters and hiring managers look for candidates who have already demonstrated success in the skill or role they need. Therefore, they are likely to offer you a job where you continue to do what you have already done successfully. If that aligns with your long-term goals, you are lucky, but if it does not, you need to proactively pursue jobs that help you close the gaps.
When people consider a new job opportunity, their focus is usually entirely on the actual job or project (and the compensation, if relevant). Unfortunately, they neglect two critical aspects of job satisfaction.
First, data shows that your manager makes a big impact on your job satisfaction—a lousy manager will make the best project a nightmare, and a great one will uplevel all aspects of a job. Second, your team members and peers are also hugely important, both from a social perspective (just consider that you will spend roughly as much time with them every week as with your family) as well as from one offering an environment where you will be able to learn the skills you need for your next job from them.
When faced with a tough or scary career decision (or other life decision)—like moving to another country, or switching industries—picture yourself old and gray, telling your grandchildren about your life.
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