Growth Rings: A Reflection Through Career Transition

December 21, 2017

growth rings on tree trunks

What. A. Year.Personally, it’s been pretty damn good. I moved across the country, got married, and landed a fancy new job. I’m incredibly thankful given how absurd this year has been.I’ve been fortunate enough to have a month off between jobs. Something I’ve never had the opportunity to experience over the past thirteen years of my career. The last three and a half years at Curalate have been a tremendous growth period in my life. Thankfully, I’ve been able to look back fondly at my time with that incredible team and fully decompress from it all.People much smarter than I have said that a period of transition is a great time to step back, take a deep breath, and reflect on how you got here. Hopefully feeling gratitude for all the things that have come your way.So, I have.What Are My Values?For a business, core values support the company’s vision, shape the culture, and reflect the company’s identity. They’re usually prominently communicated to all employees and involve the way that the business vows to serve clients, treat colleagues, and uphold professional standards.Your personal values could do the same.In the past, before I’ve joined a new team, there are a few core values I’ve looked out for. Primarily to see if the company values align with mine. But, I only subconsciously had an idea of what to look out for — I never attempted to write a damn thing down!So, I’ve spent some time reflecting on what makes me tick. A little less “Well, I guess that’s true?” and a bit more “Hell yeah, that’s-a me.”Now, I realize this is entirely self-involved. But I think it’s important for others to know a little bit about who you are and how you’re put together. These are basically your IKEA instructions. Here are mine:
 CuriosityWill I genuinely care to dive deep into their business area and the people it affects? The last thing I’d want to do is join something that doesn’t excite me.HumorIs this team able to step back from the day-to-day and enjoy being around each other? We spend so much time with our colleagues, it’s important to have fun.HonestyCan this team be real with me and provide honest feedback during good times and bad? An honest team is one that will help each other out.CompassionDo they deeply care to understand the people for whom they’re trying to solve for — and follow through? Compassion is contagious–if the vision is clear the team will rally around it.And finally,GrowthIs there an opportunity to learn a lot with this team?Growth is a huge one for me, and I’m going to assume it’s a huge one for you too. Whether it’s financial, professional, or personal growth, we all want realize our potential. Whatever that means to us. As long as there’s positive momentum, we’re probably happy and engaged.In fact, “87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job; 69% of non-millennials agree.” (Gallup)→ Yep, I hate that it referenced the “millennials” too.What Does Growth Look Like?Career growth is similar to growth rings within a tree. Ever-expanding based on the conditions around it. Trees can show their age through these rings, but for us, we can use it to reflect on what got us here.“Growth rings happen because of the change in growth speed through winter, spring, summer and fall, so one ring usually marks the passage of one year in the life of the tree. Enough moisture and a long growing season result in a light, wide ring. A dry year may result in a very narrow, dark ring.” (Wikipedia) 

Happy Light RingsThroughout my career, there have been periods of heavy growth where I’m my happiest and most engaged. Where career and personal goals align and explode into a bubble bath full of champagne and kittens. 

Sad Dark RingsThen there are the times when things start to go south. You’re overworked, you’ve lost trust in leadership, and you’re not learning anything new, except how to manage stress through meditation while inhaling a box of Cheez-Its.→ You could argue that Cheez-Its aren’t actually a sad thing.For your career, It’s natural to have these periods of growth, stagnation, and transition. Our interests and values change a lot, so we need to adapt to our surroundings in order to grow in the right direction. And just like growth rings, it tells a story of who you are.Your story is importantIf you’re looking to move into a new job, you’ll need to tell it. As a hiring manager at Curalate, my favorite question was always “Tell me about your career path so far?” It’s the biggest opportunity you’ll have to tell a story that will help others empathize and connect with your past.Build Your RingsI’ve put together a short retrospective in order to help capture what I’ve learned. By answering these questions each year, I’ll attempt to build my growth rings from here on out.What went well?What didn’t go so well?What did I learn?What did I accomplish that I wasn’t expecting to?How can I make what I’m already doing even better?What are some things I’m not doing that I wish I was?What do I need to stop doing?Remembering everything over the course of a long stint at a company is no easy task, It’s best to keep a journal and write in it a few times a week. From there, you can build out your growth rings and tell your story.We’re all a work in progress. Trust the process.Thanks for reading!How do you reflect after a job transition? What do you get out of it? What methods or frameworks do you already have? Message me on Twitter at @andyodore