For me one of the most succinct pieces of career advice comes from Steve Martin:
Be So Good They Can't Ignore You.
Which is also the title of one of my favorite career books by Cal Newport.
In his book Cal demonstrates that following your passion is generally bad advice.
Skill trumps passion!
Yes I love programming, but the journey to become a programmer is filled with mistakes and frustrating moments (machines don't think like humans). Only after you grasp the fundamentals does it become any fun.
Yes I did have a knack for automating things (using Excel) but that alone did not make me marketable as a programmer.
Yes, I got excited by hacker scenes of movies like Swordfish and Antitrust, but real programmer life is of course nothing like that ;)
So one of the main takeaways from "So Good They Can't Ignore You" is that passion does not precede skills, and it's the strategic focus on the latter that will determine how succesful you will be.
These days you almost cannot go wrong learning Python. But it's never the tech skills alone that will get you there.
If you 100% focused on coding, you are missing out on a lot of other important soft skills.
You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.
Cal's book will inspire you. It will challenge you to take action.
Once you start developing what he calls a "craftsman mindset" and start building up "career capital" there is no return.
But there is no shortcut here. And you have to be patient. It will take years of constant (and strategic) effort and focus.
Showing up and working hard will only get you that far. It's not only the amount of work (e.g. the 10,000-Hour Rule), it's also about what you do in that time, your (unique) approach.
It often requires you to become uncomfortable. Deliberate practice isn't always fun as Pythonistas on our platform can attest, but you come out stronger, better prepared.
To speak in fitness terms: muscles grow under stress. And so does your career if you constantly look for new opportunities, going beyond what you already know (and is comfortable), learning new things, exploring adjacent fields of expertise.
What career tweaks have helped you so far? And what didn't work?
What action are you planning to take? Share it with us in the comments below ...
(Cover photo by Matt Sclarandis on Unsplash)
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