I just stumbled across a post from the folks at Reforge and while short, it summarizes a super important point. Let's go.
How To Choose A Project
Especially a bit further into our careers we are able to choose what projects we'd like to work on (within the boundaries of our job description at least). But HOW do we choose? Some people choose projects based on if they are easiest, the most fun, the most creative, the most technically difficult, etc.
However, if you'd like to optimize for your career trajectory and learning, we might have to look at the whole thing a bit differently. Let's have a look at the graph below.
On the Y axis you got "Impact" from low to high. This one should be pretty self-explanatory. You only want to work on projects that have an impact, why work on the ones that don't?
The X axis is less obvious. The first inclination would be to choose the high popularity projects, right? But let's assume you go for the unpopular, hard, and messy projects. This does a couple of things for you:
- You learn more, because the bigger the challenge, well the more you need to use your brain.
- Messy projects mean you really need to dig deep to understand and untangle the issue at hand. You become an instant expert on the topic within your organization.
- As Brian Balfour puts it, you become "the leader and savior, because you are tackling something no one else wanted to touch and everyone wants these types of people on their team".
So whether you are working on a product internally or in an agency for external clients, if you constantly choose the high impact, low popularity projects it won't take very long until everyone in the company knows you. And they will seek you out for the most interesting opportunities going forward. I wish someone told me that 10 years ago!
Three examples for high impact, low popularity projects include:
- Any kind of high complexity migration to a new system (e.g. CRM, Marketing Automation etc.).
- Reforge names the marketing discipline of Monetization, because there is a perceived high risk and the pretty much every department in the company is involved.
- Setting up and implementing automations, processes and SOPs to increase operational efficiencies (i.e. saving costs and resources).