Sunday Night Mentee Corner: Career Quadrant

Greetings and Salutations,

I’m going to start dedicating my Sunday night posts to the topics that are always creeping up in my mentee sessions.

The first of these is the basics of looking for work.

Now, contrary to first impressions, the first port of call (besides deciding to actually look for work) is not the job boards.

The first port of call is working out what you want, and how to decide if the role you’re applying for matches that requirement. So, in that light, today I’m going to share with you an exercise that was shown to me by a nerd-herder friend of mine known as a Career Quadrant.


The concept of a career quadrant is simple. A page is divided into four quadrants, each exploring a different aspect of your work and career balance. At the end of this exercise, you will have an extensive checklist to assist you in your decision making process.

Quadrant 1 : Job Satisfaction

This is the box in which you’re work life and duties are examined in some detail.

First, create two columns. Title the first “likes” and (unsurprisingly) the second “Dislikes”.

In the “Likes” column, start writing down all the duties, aspects, relationships, cultural, environmental, etc aspects of your current and previous roles that you enjoyed. Funnily enough, do the opposite in the second column.




Part of a Large Team
Friendly and social environment
Project Work
Placed in isolated area
Constant Fire-Fighting
Repetitive tasks

This will form the basis of a checklist for you to utilise in evaluating roles, both before you apply and after the first interview. Going through the job ad, job description or your notes from the interview, evaluate them against your two columns and tick of each of the respective items as you come across them.

At the end of your analysis, you should have an idea of the balance of the aspects that you like and dislike that can be translated into an idea of the job satisfaction you’d feel in this role.

Quadrant 2 : Career Development

An important aspect that somehow alludes peoples minds when looking for work is – where am I going, and how will this role help me get there?

Amazingly, a rather high majority of people don’t have a five-year plan, nor any idea of where they want to take their career. Some people are just happy to do a job and go with the flow. I doubt that’s you, otherwise why are you reading this?

So, this is the box in which you’re career direction and development desires are examined.

This can be done in a number of ways, personally, I like to split the box up into three rows.

In the first row, I write out where I believe I am in my career and what opportunities this affords me.

In the second row, I draw out a timeline for the next five years pointing to my end goal, with milestones I’d like to reach in between now and then.

In the third row, I write out all the skills and technologies I’m interested in developing and experiences I’d like to accumulate to assist me in reaching my goals.

This process should help you solidify your career direction, or the very least highlight the development that you are seeking.

Quadrant 3 : Work/Life Balance

Especially in this day and age of “always on connectivity”, it’s important to work out your line in the sand when it comes to how much time you’re willing to give to your job and host company.

Again, I prefer to split this box into three rows – ideal, realistic, crossed the line. The ideal scenario is what you’d consider to be the absolute perfect setup (while still taking reality into consideration). The realistic scenario is what you can cope with on an extended basis. Finally the “crossed the line” scenario is what aspects you will not put up with, end of story.

Take into account everything – standard hours, overtime requirements, working from home, pager support, change windows, shift requirements, annual leave restrictions, observance of Public or Religious holidays … everything.

Quadrant 4 : Return

Finally, but far from least in everyone’s mind, return.

However, this should not be focused on the almighty greenback alone. You need to consider other aspects as well. However, let’s start with the subject that is foremost in everyone’s mind. The cash.

First, split the box into two columns and three rows. In the first column, we’re going to focus on pay.

So, in row one, write down what your ideal package (again be realistic about the market and your skills) would be – include base, superannuation, benefits, etc.

In the second row, repeat the scenario, but be more realistic about what you want, what things can you live without for the right job?

The final row should be your absolute minimum. This is your line in the sand. Any jobs below this threshold will be ignored – even if they are absolutely perfect.

In the second column, we’re going to match up non-pay returns on the investment of your time and skills to this new role. So, repeat the rows, but focus on aspects such as training, development, free parking, paid meals, events, social clubs, whatever else it is that you consider a non pay return.

Putting it all together


Now that you have your four aspects you can begin to evaluate your roles, where they fit into your path and how you are going to reply to them. This is also handy to re-evaluate any job offers against as well.

So, for example, let’s say you’ve decided you’re currently a Junior System Administrator (earning say $A 40K) and that you’re looking to achieve Senior System Administrator (Team Leader) role within 5 years. You’ve worked out the training and development you require to achieve the skills and experience you need, you’ve got your job satisfaction checklist and you’ve worked out that you’re willing to work up to 60hrs per week as long as your weekends are free. Ideally you’d like to reach $A 50K base with superannuation, free parking, and two weeks of guaranteed training per year.

A role comes up that will leapfrog your career directly into a System Administrator role with some team leading requirements. They offer four weeks training per year and a guaranteed pay rise per certification achieved. However, there is a bi-weekly rotating morning and afternoon shift and you’d be expected to be on 24*7 Pager support every four weeks.

With this role, you can assess it’s offerings against your checklist, then make the decision that you can live with the work/life balance changes that it will introduce for the additional training and pay rises, but the loss of weekends is an issue that you can only deal with for $A 57K.

Since you now have all the facts at your disposal, you can go in confident and make your case or reject the role based on the fact that they only pay $A 45K.

Hope this helps, leave me comments if you need further clarification.


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