Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

questionby Christine Denney

Do you love that question or loathe it?  I have to admit that I have fallen into the latter category.  I suppose that’s because to see yourself somewhere in five years, you have to know where you see yourself now.  Did I understand my “now”?  Well, in a word…no.

Even after looking at the “color of my parachute”, figuring out whether I was an introvert or extrovert, and examining my strengths, I still didn’t have enough clarity to really see what my now was and what the future could hold.  Every questionnaire pointed to IT as a career option, but didn’t really explain why I would find one position more motivating and fulfilling than another.  Fortunately, a colleague shared an interesting article on career development.  The article asserted that there are really only four types of jobs.  Four types of jobs?  Could this really be true?

In his article on LinkedIn (R), Lou Adler hypothesized that there were only four types of jobs: thinkers, builders, improvers, and producers.  As I read the article, I had to admit that the jobs I had seen through the years did have a primary focus on one of these areas.  Unfortunately, I also had to admit that the job descriptions I’ve seen look more like the vague “X years working with…” than “envision a new way to do…”  Perhaps Mr. Adler was onto something.  What would happen if I examined my work in terms of these job types?

It wasn’t a huge surprise to feel my face light up when I read the “improver” job type description.  Master data management, governance, and data quality seemed to clearly fit into that category.  You have data. You want to make it better.  Sounds like improvement to me.  But did these only fit the “improver” job type?  Or could certain roles that may be involved in those disciplines fit into the “improver” type?  Could Data Quality serve as an example?  What were the job types involved?

For Data Quality to be successful, someone has to have a vision for data nirvana.  Next, someone has to actually build the process or tool to implement data quality processes.  After the process is built, someone looks for ways to improve upon those processes.  Finally, someone maintains the system as it continues to function.  In that one example, we find all four of the job types.

With my “improver” type in full force, I was ready to over-analyze the situation (yes, even more than I already had).  Will an Improver who is put in a Builder or Producer type of role become discouraged, bored, or, even worse, develop a perfectionism that strives to change even the minutest of details?  Although the system is functioning as expected and meeting customer needs, will they search for something…anything…that they can improve?  Perhaps “analysis paralysis” is really just the result of an improver trying to fill the role of a builder?  The improver in me wants to fishbone diagram that situation until I find a root cause (and then fix it, of course).

So, what does all of this mean to job recruiters and job seekers?  It appears to highlight that having the right level of experience in a particular area is important in finding the right candidate, but it doesn’t ensure the candidate’s success in every type of role.  Rather than posting a data architect role and asking only for 5+ years of experience in data modeling and data architecture, it would be beneficial to examine the role a bit deeper and identify the primary job type.  Will this person need to develop a strategy or long-term plan, build out solutions, or examine the current situation for opportunities to improve existing solutions?  It may by a hybrid of all three of these.  Is there one that is most important to the company? Using words in the job description that speak to the expected role type(s) would help in placing the right candidate and save both time and money in recruiting and retaining talent.

I hope that you will take a look at the article I mentioned and think about the job type that speaks to you.  Maybe it will help us all find clarity on where we see ourselves in 5 years.

Thoughts expressed in this blog are those of the author and not her employer.

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