Focus on Growth by A/B Testing Your Career
Tune Up Your Growth Alternator
There is an Agile Marketing expression by Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, a leading technology marketer: don’t be afraid to fail, but don’t fail the same way twice. The point is to encourage risk and creativity, but learn from your mistakes. This is an effective growth strategy. The sage advice regarding alternating between experience and test cycles applies to the agile career in the form of A/B tests.
Agile careerists who flex with change are an enviable bunch, aren’t they? This lucky group is forever in the right place at the right time, capitalizing on opportunities that seem to appear from out of nowhere. “Ah yes,” you sigh, “if only there were a way to mimic an agile careerist’s good fortune.”
There is and you can. A/B testing, alternating between experiences and test cycles, is practical wish fulfillment.
Choices, Not Chance
Your chances of riding a vertical thoroughfare straight to the top of the professional mountain are slim to none. The trip will resemble a switchback rather than a straightforward path, zigzagging from a “good enough” job to a “right fit” project. A/B testing provides breathing room to decide between job A and job B based on what works best for your current interests and skill set. When you give yourself permission to be in testing mode, you uncover better options for your talents.
Your experiments, those that succeed as well as those that fall flat, inform your progress. With each new situation, you’re gathering intel, measuring personal preferences for specific roles by asking, “Do I like this job or is that option better?” That’s not luck. That’s thoughtfully applied action.
The idea of A/B testing your career is modeled on the marketing and business intelligence gathering strategy. Much like testing which website redesign your customers prefer, A/B testing gives you permission to compare job options. With the wise intention of choosing the most advantageous environment for your talents.
The principle works equally well for new college grads and mid-career professionals. Periodic testing throughout your work life allows you to identify opportunities for a role upgrade as your skills expand or a career shift as your interests change.
Your ability to predict future successes improves when you employ the proper measurement strategy. As a decision-making tool for career choice it’s useful to create your own reporting method, evaluating your satisfaction with sensible criteria.
I often refer to the three filters of creativity, growth, and happiness as they’re the ideal lenses through which to evaluate each new job or work opportunity. Ideally, your next step, be it straight ahead or off to the side, will be the one that scores the highest.
When is it Time to Explore?
Nimble professionals are hyper aware that the world of work is more unpredictable than ever. New technologies erase old industries in nanoseconds. Inventive revenue streams pop up as frequently as text alerts. What’s engaging today could be boring tomorrow. Landing a dream job doesn’t stop the agile careerist from A/B testing opportunities.
There’s no rule limiting you to only one job that is right for you in a lifetime!
Carmen Hill, one of the people I interviewed for this book, incorporated A/B testing into a career she already enjoyed. She used her measurement results to make adjustments when faced with the harsh reality of hope and what was possible.
When she was nine years old, she was smitten with the idea of being a reporter. Many years later, with a degree in journalism and broadcast news, she envisioned the life of TV personality, Mary Tyler Moore in the city newsroom. The image was one of her boldly throwing her hat in the air. In her vision, confidence and happiness accompanied her on the streets and in the newsroom, naturally.
For a few years, Carmen manifested her personal storyline as a TV News reporter and producer. With the horizon making way for the technology tornado of the internet, she quickly realized the game of workplace relevance trumped the dream job path. The pay was low with fewer jobs in TV News than in fast-growing internet businesses. She clicked the test button and launched her A/B experiment.
Especially relevant, Carmen updated her skills as she eagerly rode into the technology frontier. She broadened her opportunities in the area of online marketing, rather than narrowing her options within broadcast news.
She made this decision at a time when the digital world was in the middle of an impressive growth spurt. This offered her a seat at the pioneering table for inventing new marketing and social media methods, increasing her value with future employers.
A/B Testing In Action
The three test filters for A/B testing rely on the values of creativity, growth, and happiness.
Here is an example of Carmen’s easy method for applying the three filters to her early-career options.
Job A: Great job. Steep learning curve. Learned a lot. Not many advancement opportunities. Low pay. High on happiness and creativity scales. Low growth potential. Time to consider change.
Job B: As a potential industry, digital marketing had strong growth potential due to the explosion of the internet. Copywriting job leveraged skills from TV news.
Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three
Here is a handy grid if you would like to take a look at your own career choices.
- Create two or three columns, depending on how many jobs are in the comparison chute. The rows on the side include the filters of creativity, growth, and happiness included in the definition of the agile career: An agile career is a self-reflective, iterative career path guided by response to change, evolving job roles, and designed to optimize creativity, growth, and happiness.
- Beneath each column, rate these three characteristics with a numeric value.
- Include this approach in your career growth strategy
Awareness regarding strengths and weaknesses helped Carmen channel efforts in more optimal directions. Cataloguing failures and successes in the area of fit and projects added to her career architecture story. She now directs marketing for an agency, expanding her marketing role into the burgeoning discipline of digital experience.
As a result of her curiosity, Carmen fulfilled her dream of becoming a broadcast news professional early on. Rather than announcing, “I’ve arrived!” she asked, “What’s next?”. In doing so, she reset her focus, building upon accumulated skills and interests with each new opportunity. Carmen analyzed the data, measuring job A against jobs B and C. Using data she’d collected, Carmen gave herself permission to move north, south, east, and west until she landed another dream job.
Furthermore, Carmen has since created numerous A/B tests as she has maneuvered through trends and ideas that interest her. The result? Marketing awards, speaking engagements, and a huge deposit into her state of well-being and happiness. She sees abundance, rather than scarcity in her career options.
Create Your Growth
In the perfect scenario, you explore opportunities according to your timeframe but sometimes it’s the employer that makes the decision for you by restructuring your role or eliminating your position. The advantage of A/B testing throughout a career is learning from experiences, successes, and mistakes.
You claim an enlightened point of view with each fresh start, even the ones for which you weren’t quite prepared, giving you the chance to identify and explore what is most important to you.
That’s not by luck. That’s by your design.