Now that I am halfway through the second year of my career, I have been reflecting on what I wish I had known at the beginning of this year.
The second year at Atomic looks different for everyone. Some see new projects and new opportunities. Some are suddenly thrust into team roles with more responsibility and mentorship. Others see little change and are eager for something new.
Whatever the landscape may be, here are a few lessons I found along the way that are helping me stay grounded and energized.
1. Trust Yourself
In a culture of high achievement and over-delivery, it is easy to say, “I am not qualified; I am not there yet.” While humility is a key ingredient to learning and growing, too much of it can blind you from your progress and stunt your growth. Instead, acknowledge how far you’ve come, and trust yourself.
Trust your instincts; chances are they are better than they were a year ago. Just because there is a system in place that works, that does not mean it can’t be improved. If you see a better way of doing something, try it.
2. Anticipate Change
At the beginning of the year, I would have benefitted from remembering that change is inevitable. The days, months, and years come as a constant cycle of loss and gain. When something falls away, a new thing comes along. But we aren’t always aware of that reality.
I recently read Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson, a simple story outlining four different ways people relate to change. It reminded me to stay attentive to my sources of “cheese” (what I need and desire in life) and remain ready to find new sources when the current ones no longer give me what I need.
Project demands, work and non-work relationships, financial situations, career interests, and the like can all change quickly and unexpectedly. Rather than remaining in the safety of familiarity, remember that change is an invitation to growth and adventure.
3. You Are Allowed to be Content
No matter what the world might tell you, it’s okay to be happy where you are. We are asked from many sources, “What’s next? How are your goals taking you to the next level?” And told, “Look ahead to where you want your career to go, and start going there now.”
Don’t get me wrong – these questions are worthwhile and can be highly productive. However, your world will not improve by simply adding more responsibility or commitments to your plate.
In this second year, I am finding that my energy is better spent enjoying what is now, improving in my current role, and learning from the people around me without getting too tangled up about what lies two or three years ahead.
Make Time Outside of Work to be Present
Think that sounds cheesy? Hear me out. Many of us spend an astounding portion of our lives on a computer, where time is bendable (tools like version control let us roll back history), and where “here” actually means “here, there, and then over there — wait, what was I doing again?”
After a year and a half of full-time development (roughly 3,300 hours on the computer), I am remembering how much I crave time to be present amidst all the Slack chatter, internet, project needs, and Google calendar-ing. I earnestly believe that time away from the web of consumerism and fragmentation is imperative for true efficacy and fullness in life.
For me, being present has looked like building time into my schedule to quiet the chatter and focus on one thing. This can look different for everyone. Maybe it’s cooking good meals after work, playing sports, repotting plants, practicing yoga, writing, building a computer, sketching on paper, or figuring out a new song on the guitar. You’ll find that this time is well spent.
It feels good to look back on the year and take stock of what worked and what didn’t. Over time, thoughts and behaviors distill into patterns; some are worth keeping, others need to be amended or thrown out. What are ideas and habits are you taking with you into this next season?