5 Ways to Make Conscious Career Choices

Growing up, we’re told to work hard, get a job, and climb the corporate ladder while being happy and fulfilled in our personal lives. It sounds simple, but it really isn’t! In a world of many distractions and disillusions of what success looks like, many of us struggle to make career and life decisions that are true to us.

Today, I am excited to share some career insights and advice from Alysa Taylor, CVP of Azure & Industry Marketing at Microsoft. I enjoyed hearing Alysa talk about her unique experiences, personal development, and career advancement during my team’s learning and development week and felt compelled to share her experiences and wisdom with all of you. Whether you’re early-in-career or later-in-career, I hope you find these learnings valuable as you progress in your careers!

Enjoy the journey. A lot of people think of career as drudgery, but it’s such a big part of who we are and what we do!


Understanding timelines vs. timing

Earlier in our careers, we can be more focused on titles and timelines. For example, Alysa came out of college with a pre-programmed view of her career and what kind of roles she wanted to land within a certain time frame. Over time, she realized that career development was more of a winding path of meaningful and relevant experiences. As long as you feel like you’re growing, learning, and taking on new challenges while being compensated well, then you are ultimately advancing in your career.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating new opportunities:

  • What kind of net new skills/experiences do you want to gain?
  • What foundation of past skills/experiences will you leverage?
  • Are you more concerned about the job title, money, or scope of responsibilities?
  • Will this opportunity give you energy and excitement?

When making career transitions, it’s important to balance what you can give vs. what you will gain. Look carefully at your transferable skills before jumping into something completely new. Otherwise, it could be challenging to succeed in a new role, team, or company without a foundation of relevant knowledge and experience.

Navigating career conversations

Having conversations where you are advocating for your interests and aspirations is so important. You should be having an open dialogue with your manager at least once every 6 months to check-in on how things are going.

Take the time to map out and discuss these topics in detail:

  • What are your development areas?
  • How are you progressing in these areas?
  • How does your current work set you up for what’s next?
  • Are you satisfied with your work and professional development?

You can also have these types of conversations with your peers, mentors, and career sponsors to explore different perspectives and possibilities.

Decoding the myth of work-life balance

Just like how you can’t be in two places at the same time, you can’t balance work and personal life in the same way. If you’re at work, you’re not at home. If you’re at home, you’re not at work. It’s actually about taking a holistic portfolio management approach with your time, which means knowing what your priorities are and shifting between them fluidly.

For example, Alysa has some weeks where she will need to prioritize her work and dedicate more time to it after hours. Other weeks, family will be a big priority and she will focus her energy on spending time with her boys or hosting big dinners.

When it comes to this time management approach, it’s important to recognize that mothers usually put themselves last. However, we all need to take care of ourselves holistically by sleeping, exercising, and eating well!

Re-energizing yourself through reflection

Energy fuels our success at work. There are energy builders — aka activities that we enjoy doing — and energy drainers — aka those tasks that we’d avoid if we could. The best way to identify your energy builders and drainers is through self-reflection and gratitude.

Make space for peace and quiet so that you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What gives you joy at work? Why?
  • What makes you feel energized?
  • What do you gravitate towards?
  • What drains your energy? Why?

Once you identify your energy builders, you should identify more opportunities to engage in these activities in your day job or through special projects. Then you want to manage your energy drainers by delegating, optimizing, or changing up the approach. For example, you could consider replacing that unproductive monthly meeting that everyone dreads with an email update instead.

Make sure to share these insights with your manager so they are aware of how to create a better work environment for you and give you projects that meet your needs. If your energy drainers happen to be a core part of your role, then it may be time to discuss evolving your role or transitioning into something new.

Embracing your authentic self

Sometimes, we may find ourselves showing up at work in ways that we believe are more acceptable, yet not true to who we are. These moments of imposter syndrome lead us to talk, look, or act in ways that we think are acceptable, instead of celebrating who we are as unique individuals. Be mindful about when you do this and try to be more intentional with how you want to show up vs. how you actually show up.

As you network, find trusted peers and mentors who can become a part of your personal board of directors and give you feedback across different areas:

  • Potential blindspots (areas of growth)
  • On-the-job roles and responsibilities (skill building)
  • A job well done (celebration and recognition)
  • Career advice and professional development
  • Life advice and personal development

Thank you for reading!

Thank you so much to Alysa for taking the time to share her thoughts and advice to empower us in our career development. Also, special thanks to Tracey Ferriss for helping me coordinate and edit this blog post 😄

If you enjoyed reading this, please find more Microsoft career content at kkarenism.com/msftadvocate!