Wednesday 11 May 2016

How do you work out what's next?

Recently I've been prompted to think a bit about what's next in my career. To be clear, I'm very happy in my current role and plan to stay there for a while longer. However I'm also in a position where I don't know what the next step might look like.

I've taken up an opportunity to work with a mentor through Cultivate Mentoring Lab. We've met twice and she has already provided me with some practical advice that is helping me to find clarity. Here are three of her thoughts that might be useful to others too.


I have finally been persuaded to join LinkedIn. My mentor suggested that I use LinkedIn as a means of locating and connecting to people who are already working in roles I may want to do next.

When I say connecting, I don't just mean connection feature of LinkedIn. Rather using the platform to set up real-life interactions. She suggested that I connect with a few people in senior leadership roles by sending a request for a short meeting to ask them three questions:

  1. What was your path to this role?
  2. What was good and bad about your path?
  3. What would you recommend to me?

Part of the reason that I don't know what my next step might look like is that I don't have existing connections to people in the roles that I aspire to. I plan to try and use LinkedIn as a tool for purposeful connection by asking a few others to share their own journey so that I may learn from them.


I always have a search running on the common job sites in New Zealand so that I stay aware of what's happening in the local IT market. It can be frustrating to read the advertisements for roles that might reflect a sensible next step for me. Advertisements tend not to provide much detail about the role. They are primarily marketing to attract the widest possible pool of candidates.

My mentor suggested that I could ask for more information. Where an advertisement includes an organisational HR contact rather than a recruiter, I could ask this person just to share the job description and position requirements with me. It had never occurred to me that I could do this!

If this information is only available to applicants, she suggested that I start applying for the roles purely to gain visibility of what they might entail. The notion of applying for something that I know I am not qualified for is again quite foreign. I know that I'll want to be selective in this approach, as I don't want to create overhead for the people managing these types of vacancies, but it seems a great way to get a deeper understanding of the opportunities that are available.


Specialist recruiters are often used in IT hiring because they are able to filter technical CVs to meet an organisation's specific criteria. My mentor suggested that I contact the recruiters who undertake this work for the roles that I aspire to.

I plan to request a short meeting to get their opinion on what is missing from my CV. Given the volume of CVs that a recruiter will process, it should be relatively quick for them to identify what skills are missing and how the presentation of information is lacking with respect to other candidates.

This feedback will help me identify where I need to learn more in order to meet the requirements of future roles and give me ideas on how to best present my talents for these type of vacancies.


I've found it immensely useful to have practical ideas that will help me determine what my options are. As I work to connect, research and refine, I hope to work out what might be next for me. Perhaps these ideas will help you work out what's next too.


  1. Thank you!
    I can so relate to this and am going to use the three questions above to approach some Senior Testers that are in roles I aspire to.

  2. Hi Katrina,

    I like the practicality of your mentor's advice, but I find it very job-centric. In addition to these, you may find it helpful to step back a bit further and think about what really drives you and what you'd like to achieve from that. You're clearly passionate about software testing, and you do a lot of "extra-curricular" work (like this blog) that relates to it, which I think goes further than just trying to land your next job.

    This is a diagram that helped me start thinking about what my dream job might look like:

    Given the amount of work you put into learning about testing, and the way that you think about it, I believe you will eventually reach a point (if you haven't already) where you will not be interested in the details of a job advertisement because you will define and create an appropriate role for yourself to fit the company you join. At that point, it's less about what the company thinks you should do, and more about what values you and the company have in common, and the freedom and trust they are willing to give you in your role.