"I feel stuck man. Not sure what potential I have at my current job. I just not happy here. People are great, but something is missing..."
This is not the first I hear that, so I know exactly what to do. Usually I slap the guy, but this one looks like he could slap be back, so I smoothly move to the verbal part:
"Stop Whining and do your drill"
We, read as "software engineers", were trained to build products. Why your career is different? Do you know how to build a product? If yes, then you know how to build a career. Before I give you a recipe there is one catch.
Career is not only climbing a corporate ladder. I have decided a long time ago that I want to work only on interesting stuff and made it a goal. Lately, I have noticed that I am good at building a new stuff, so I want to concentrate on that. One of my ex-co-workers decided that he wants to be happy and be home at 17:00. It can be anything really, not only "become a VP".
Now the plan:
- Define where you want to be in 15-20 years.
- Divide it into 3 year chunks.
- Think how you get to the first milestone.
- Get to work.
Oh, you don't know where you want to be in 15-20 years? Well, there is a different method then. Designed especially for guys that don't know what they want in a long-run: Agile Development. How does it look in Agile? Simple.
- Define your goals for the coming 3 months. This should be easy as the goals are simple. They don't even have to be career/development goals. You can say: "I want to learn something new", "I want to feel that I've done something" or "I want to start some new project". It can be anything that you can somehow know whether it happened or not. I suggest to record your current state when you do that for comparison. You should also think about the goals and how to achieve them.
- After 3 months check where you are. If you have achieved your goals, then return to step #1.
- If after 6-9 months you are still unhappy, then you have to seriously re-evaluate your goals. There is something wrong with them or with how you achieve them.
- If after 9-12 months you are still unhappy despite all the above. Start looking for new options. It is not worth it.
- If after 2 years you are still unhappy and at the same place, come to me and I will slap you.
As a side note, the company I work for (EMC) has a quarterly goals system. It is mandatory, like in many other places. This system actually can be used for the agile method. It also will give you a feeling of purpose doing it.