Want to grow your career? Make your job harder

I've been the CIO at HubSpot for over 18 months  —  such an easy job. I'm serious. My predecessor was named Boston CIO of the year, and for good reason. He built a great team, set up a reliable global network and hired a world-class CSO to worry about the really hard problems. Everything we use was already in the cloud before I took the job.

Thanks Jim, you've made my job very easy :)

But now I want to make it hard.

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Seven years into my time at HubSpot I've lost count of how many times I've sat with a smart, ambitious person who wanted advice on how to grow their career. I've got a list:

  • Develop skills
  • Solve problems
  • Demonstrate your potential
  • Network
  • Don't be afraid to take risks
  • Seize the opportunities that come your way even if they weren't what you were expecting
  • Be the person the world needs right now; don't wait for the world to conform to your plan

If I could go back to those conversations, I'd tell those up-and-comers one more thing. Do what I'm trying to do today: Make your job harder.

When all the table stakes have been met, that's the time to take on something new. When all the risks have been adequately mitigated, that's the time to take some chances. If you're looking for what to do next to drive some professional growth, think big.

Do something hard.

People who solve hard problems change the world and get ahead. Step up and be one.

We recently celebrated our 11 year birthday as a company. Like most startups, we spent most of those years focused on developing the right product for our market and figuring out how to sustain a business while delivering value to our customers. We used our own product for marketing and built the rest of our go-to-market, billing, and services systems with a distributed team maintaining a patchwork of integrations. It got us where we need to be.

I don't want our systems to just keep pace with the business, I want to be developing capabilities and presenting new options to the business before they think to ask. That reliable network and phone system  —  how can we stretch them to be a platform for collaboration that enables options for recruiting and growth worldwide? All those operational folks in the business units comfortably maintaining years of patch-worked systems —  how can we simplify and automate their work freeing them to focus on real business process improvement instead of system administration.

That will be hard. There will be risks, but this is how we grow.

Want to grow your own career? Look at what's easy for you right now. What's been established as best practice and handed to you? How can you re-think it to be bigger and better?

What if you're not in a position with authority to make those kind of changes? What if your boss is insecure and doesn't want anyone trying something new? What if the entrenchment of the status quo runs so deep that it's just, well… hard?

In that case you have three choices:

  1. Tackle the hard problem and patiently work your way through the challenges.
  2. Leave your job and go someplace more open to change.
  3. Let it all defeat you.

If you pick option two, be sure that the problem wasn't your own fear or inability before you go searching for greener grass. If you pick option three, don't ask anyone for more career growth advice until you've decided you're ready to do something hard.

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This article originally appeared on Medium.