Rules for Career Development

I’ve been asked to talk to a group here at AOL about career development (no idea when, or really what the topic is). But, Jason and I were talking about it, and came up with this list of rules that I think are worth sharing, even if they’re not fully baked:

  1. Don’t be a dick: Translated – be constructive, helpful and positive
  2. Teach yourself something new on every project
  3. Be passionate about what you do: If you’re not, find something else to do.
  4. Get involved in the internal and external communities
  5. Repeat step one
  6. Know when to run: No one talks about it, but you have to know when to get out of a bad situation. I’ve been very lucky at AOL to know when it was time to move on to a new group or challenge. Thankfully, I’ve always found a soft place to land with new challenges.
  7. Expect change, roll with it, move on: Working in a company means things will change. When you’re not in charge, there will be lots of stuff that happens that you don’t agree with. You have to know when to fight, when to give up, and when to move on. The quicker you can do all three, the better.
  8. Update Have a support system: This one comes from Jen’s comment. It really helps to have someone in your corner – a spouse, parent, best friend or mentor who you can turn to. My wife is, of course, my most important, but I’ve had lots of mentors and good managers that have helped point me in the right direction.
  9. Update Be someone who gets things done: This one is from Joe in the comments, but it’s a good one. People don’t care about excuses or reasons why things don’t happen. Be the one folks can go to and get things accomplished.\
    Cool, I think the presentation’s all done! Thanks, Jason!

By Kevin Lawver

Web developer, Software Engineer @ Gusto, Co-founder @ TechSAV, husband, father, aspiring social capitalist and troublemaker.


  1. You forgot a step: Get a good wife who will support you, listen to you, and bounce around ideas with you.

  2. Wait, wait. So, I shouldn’t be a dick? This is all very confusing. I’m going to have to rethink a lot of things.

  3. One more: be someone who makes things happen. No one cares about excuses for not getting things done – they care about getting them done. Find ways to solve the problem, even if it means going outside your area of authority.
    There’s a real advantage to having people know that you can solve their problems for you. Be one of those people.

  4. Here are a few more:
    Remember the good managers, learn from them and implement what they did well. Remember the bad managers, and avoid their management style like the plague!
    Know when to speak up. If you know that what the team is about to do is the wrong thing, make your feelings understood and make a case for why it should be done a different way.
    Do not step on anyone as you climb the ladder, because they will not forget it and give it back to you tenfold on your way back down.

  5. I think you need to re-think what “career development” means. Your list is cool and all, but it’s focused on “job advancement” which, IMHO, is not the same as “career development.”
    Of course, I fail to follow step #1 on your list, but perhaps that’s because I’m less interested in “job advancement” as I am “career development.”
    If I had to choose between “being right” and “being nice,” I’d pick the former over the latter any day.

  6. Dossy, you’re thinking “skills” development, not “career” development. There’s more to a career than what you know – it’s how you work with people, how you handle distractions, problems and yes, even politics. Your career is more than just your job, and it’s more than just what you know. And, it wouldn’t kill you to be nice, Dossy… really.

  7. What, you are not including any of mine??? I need to go get a tissue now and wipe the tears from my eyes….

  8. Hi Kevin,
    I think that this list applies equally to both career development AND advancement. So either way, you are right on.
    I work with someone who is a #1 and someone else who NEEDS to be a #7. Unfortunately, their career advancement is now in the toilet due to reputation by admin. but more importantly, their job is impeded by their attitudes, thus stifling the work they are capable of doing.
    Great list. Wish I could use it when I present at New Teacher Induction but I am pretty sure #1 would get me in trouble unless I could somehow manage to work in “and Jane.” 🙂

  9. Heya Kevin –
    One more for you – don’t be afraid to take chances. If you believe in something, go for it. Kinda goes with “know when to run.”
    Oh, and along with “be passionate,” enjoy what you do. If you don’t love it, and you’re watching the clock at work, you’re doing the wrong thing.

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