How to Craft a Go / NoGo Strategy for Your Career

Imagine walking into work on a Monday morning feeling the anticipation of doing what you love to do. You are skilled. People value your competence. Not only that, but you feel connected to a purpose bigger than yourself.

Now contrast that with coming in late to work and feeling overwhelmed. Not only do you not feel valued, but you aren’t even sure if the people above you know what you do. Purpose is limited to a mission statement on a wall filled with so many catch phrases that it is difficult to feel you are connected to anything at all.

Smart B2B companies have Go/NoGo protocols to protect them from the kind of work that will take their company under. The Go/NoGo is a list of questions or criteria that help teams decide if the work they are contemplating pursuing is “good work.”

What if you could do the same?

Having a personal Go/NoGo career framework can help you evaluate the opportunities that come to us to help get to work we love.

Go/NoGo protocols can keep us from getting stuck:
  • Working with terrible people. 
  • Working in a way that is contrary to your core wiring and prevents you from growing in competency. 
  • Working in a way that creates misalignment with your time and resources. 
  • Doing unprofitable work. 
  • Feeling discontent because you are disconnected from a mission. 

Here are five things to consider as part of a personal Go/NoGo Protocol:


How do I find a company with good culture?

1. Build a network in order to find the people you want to work with.

While we can do a “best places to work” search on Google and figure out what companies have good corporate culture, it is trickier to find which companies have a great corporate culture for us personally.

Building a network in an industry leads to conversations over drinks or coffee that can connect us with opportunity. Think about it. Every great opportunity that comes to us usually involves a conversation.

It's not enough to know the influential people in our industry, we have to seek them out. If we don’t have a starting place for this, we can join a professional organization. While networking events can be torture for introverts, serving on a committee can give us an easier way in. Organizations are always looking for volunteers and because we wind up volunteering with others, it creates a softer path for relationships rather than shaking hands and exchanging business cards.

2. If you don’t have good culture where you are at, can you become good culture?

While we can’t change bad culture, we can often influence it. Gandhi had a point when he said to “be the change you want to see in the world,” and just as one person can take good culture and sour it, one person can also sweeten it.

The challenge with this strategy is that it takes giving energy in a place that drains it. If you decide to take a position where the culture isn't great, focus on strategies that recharge you outside of work. This is going to become an art on your part where you recharge outside of the office, and use your energy to improve your environment while you are there.

3. Level up your people skills.

One of the big blind spots we have to navigate in our life is how our actions and attitudes impact our experience of the people around us. We can't land in a place with good culture if we won't be a fit when we get there. For most of us, it takes effort to grow our people skills.

People questions that might be part of our Go/NoGo:
  • Is this culture a fit? 
  • Is my network strong enough to get to a better culture? 
  • Can I influence the culture I’m in? 
  • Am I part of the problem? 


How can I be in the right position if I don’t know myself well enough to figure out what makes me valuable?

Self-assessment can be one of your strongest tools in finding the next right position for your career. Knowing yourself—where you are right now—can help you assess the position you want to be in.

1. Figure out what is hard-wired. Some things in us are part of our biology or are hard-wired into our psychology:
  • We are Tiggers or Eyores (optimists or pessimists).
  • We are introverts or extroverts. 
  • We are night people or morning people. 
  • We love to launch new projects or we take great pride in the craftsmanship of finishing one. 
Knowing these hard-wired tendencies in ourselves can reveal if a position isn’t a fit because it violates our core wiring. For example, an introvert with an outreach job gets drained really quickly. For a launcher of projects, the last 20% can feel like torture. Spend time assessing the things you know to be true about yourself that would be very difficult--if not impossible--to change.

2. Figure out what is soft-wired.  Often our skills are soft-wired and just like software on a computer. We can improve our programming. There are multiple ways to do this:
  • We can say yes to opportunities that stretch us.
  • We can get training.
  • We can read books that expand our ideas of what is possible.
  • We can seek a mentor. 
  • We can ask for honest evaluations from our co-workers and use that feedback to make us better. 
Position questions to include in your Go/NoGo evaluation:
  • Do I know myself well enough to understand what position I want? 
  • If there is a mismatch with the opportunity, is it hard-wired or soft-wired? 
  • Do I need to acquire skills to be a match for the opportunity? 


How will I allocate my resources with this opportunity?

Work has an impact on our most important resources: time and energy. Consider that most of us invest the best hours of our day and our highest energetic output with our day jobs. But some commitments take more time and energy than others.

1. If this opportunity is demanding, do I need to free up time and energy resources to pursue it? 

The only way I know to evaluate this is to pull out a spreadsheet and list every single time commitment for work, family, hobbies, friends, organizations, volunteering, etc on a spreadsheet and rank them in terms of if they drain or energize you. Then do your best to get rid of the embezzlers to be able to pursue the opportunity you want to pursue.

2. Figure out your essential “one thing” and de-prioritize all the other things. 
Taking the path of essentialism is liberating. Defining the most important skill we need to acquire, project we need to launch, battle we need to win, or relationship we need to foster keeps us from feeling diluted in our efforts and is the biggest secret for getting off the hamster wheel we feel like we are running on. 

Priority questions to include in our Go / NoGo evaluation:

  • Are my resources aligned with my priorities outside of work? 
  • Will this work bring me balance or take me further out of balance? 
  • Do cuts need to be made so I have more bandwidth? 


Am I receiving a good return on my time investment?

1. Find out what is custom in the marketplace. Many professional associations offer salary surveys for their industry. If there isn’t a recent one available for your area pitch the idea to association leadership and organize a team to create your own.

2. We can negotiate other forms of compensation besides money.
What would it look like to ask for:
  • Reimbursement for cell phone, mileage, childcare or education. 
  • Paid attendance at events or conferences. 
  • Unpaid time off or a paid sabbatical.
  • Creative control.
  • Flexible work hours or more control over where you work.
  • Gym membership.
  • Transit passes or tickets to cultural events.
Alternative compensation can sometimes be easier for companies to provide because they can come from different budgets. The company may also be in a position to purchase some alternative compensation items at a heavy discount because of volume and provide them to employees.

3. Sometimes our ideas about salary are way off. We have an intense emotional connection to external valuations of ourselves. After all, someone is putting a hard number on our worth. Take a look at how you feel about the way you are compensated and see if there is any work you need to do internally to shift your mindset. We can easily under or over estimate our value. It pays to take the emotional component out of it.

4. The best way to ask for a raise, is to ask what we need to do to become more valuable.  The best way I know to get to the income level you desire is to ask what the steps are to get there. No company wants to pay more for the same work. Consider how we feel when our cell phone bill goes up with no change to service. Asking might be a bold move, but it is better than asking for a higher salary without being willing to offer more skill. Once your supervisor gives you direction, go for it. There is no opting out once you’ve put it on the table.

Profit questions to include in your Go/NoGo: 
  • Have I researched comps to make sure the opportunity is aligned with market? 
  • Have I looked at the non-monetary compensation in my career? 
  • Is my internal dialogue keeping me from making more money? 


What about this job would connect me to a purpose bigger than myself?

Everyone wants to do work that matters. But there is a big difference in finding purpose in your career and throwing all of your career capital away to “find your passion.”

Our purpose may be to the company’s highest goals, to the team we work with, or maybe just about growing our skill or influence through an opportunity so we can take the next step. Whatever we are working at, having a sense of purpose gives us more satisfaction in our day jobs.

Sometimes we have a dream or a cause we are committed to outside of our day job and feel frustrated if the job is using up time and energy resources that we feel should go to the dream.
When we are really committed to a purpose outside of work, the best path is to take the smallest possible viable step we can toward our dream and see what happens. We should also consider that our day job may simply be “fund raising” for our core purpose. 

Purpose questions to include in our Go/NoGo:
  • Am I test driving things so that I learn what I really want? 
  • Is there tension between my dreams and the day job? 
  • Could there be creative overlap where I could live a version of my dream in this opportunity?
  • Do I need to launch a minimum viable product for the dream on the side in order to test drive it while still pursuing my career? 
Evaluating career opportunities based on people, position, priority, profit and purpose can help us make decisions on whether an opportunity could be a good fit. And while we don’t know everything about an opportunity until we take it, having a framework to evaluate it can help us better make a decision about taking a leap.

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