Why finding the right career is as rare as getting a seat on a rocket ship

Photograph by James Winegar

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to change careers?” is by Ryan Smith, CEO and founder of Qualtrics.

The most successful people I know have a few principles that guide their career decisions. They aren’t distracted by every shiny object or new opportunity, but they also aren’t so self-regulated that they miss great opportunities when they present themselves. When it comes to making career decisions, I have three rules that I think are important to follow:

Run toward growing industries
Growth is indicative of a lot of things. First, it’s a sign of consumer demand and it’s pretty cool to be part of something that everybody wants or needs. Second, growth is associated with groundbreaking innovation. There’s nothing more exciting than finding a new, better, and different way of doing something. True innovation literally changes how the world works. And lastly, growth is usually fueled by smart people solving really hard problems. They say that if you want to be great, surround yourself with great people. Growing industries attract great people who will push your limits and help you succeed. In short, growth brings opportunity. When you’re thinking about your career, finding great opportunities should be at the top of the list.

Join a rocket ship
It’s pretty rare to be offered a seat on a rocket ship. If you can get a seat, take it. Let me explain. When I think of rocket ships, I think of companies like Google, LinkedIn, and Uber. They’ve disrupted industries, changed the way people live and work, and they’ve done it better than everyone else.

We talk a lot about being on a rocket ship at Qualtrics. Our employees will tell you that it’s like working in dog years–one year here is like seven years somewhere else. The fast-paced environments and incredible growth of rocket ship companies mean that people are given bigger responsibilities and more opportunity than they’d get at more established, less dynamic companies. However, you will have to work hard, deal with ambiguity, and be willing to bet on yourself. If you do that, you’ll be in for the most incredible ride of your life.

Play to your strengths
Most people don’t walk into a job as the best person in the company on day one. But the best employees work really hard and find great mentors to help better themselves every day. That said, no one has ever seen a 6-foot jockey, so don’t waste your time trying to do something that clearly isn’t a fit for you. Figure out what you have the potential to be good at and then work like crazy to become the best. If you’re willing to invest in yourself, organizations will take note and reward you accordingly.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to change careers?

How to successfully navigate a career change by Shahrzad Rafati, founder and CEO of BroadbandTV.

S’well CEO’s best advice for changing careers by Sarah Kauss, CEO and co-founder of S’well.

Are you really ready to change careers? by Sandhya Venkatachalam, co-founder and partner of Centerview Capital.

3 things you should know before changing careers by Lars Albright, co-founder and CEO of SessionM.

Is changing careers worth the risk? by Beezer Clarkson, managing director at Sapphire Ventures.

Thinking of changing careers? Here’s what you need to know by Shafqat Islam, CEO of NewsCred.

When you should (and shouldn’t) change careers by Ryan Harwood, CEO of Purewow.

3 things you need to know before joining a startup by Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of Scripted.com.

How to successfully change careers (at any age) by Matthew Salzberg, CEO and founder of Blue Apron.

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