Squiggly Careers

I watched an interview online today that resonated with me. I have also recently had two career related conversations with two different people about almost the same thing, which is rare for me. In both conversations we talked about how we can work for a particular company and get caught in wishful thinking, and the hope that the boss will change, but they don’t. When the boss owns the company this is even harder, because you know that they are not about to move on; they run the company, and their values do not normally change. For the ones who don’t appreciate you by giving you meaningful feedback, do not recognize what you can offer by giving you meaningful projects, or gets distracted by squirrels or shiny objects, we must accept that they will not change. Oh sure, if you give your resignation and you are serious, they might offer you a few dollars to quiet you, but that act is to not a reflection of their changing heart.  

If you want things to be better, you either have to learn to manage your boss, or you need to leave and get on with your life. I usually recommend the latter, though not always. I did work with one very resilient woman who felt that a boss who had been recently hired would soon move on to something else, and she could outlast him. She did too, but she is a rare example, and she liked what she did enough to stick with it. 

The interview that started all of this today was with Mitch Joel of Twist Image. He was speaking about his “squiggly career” as part of an interview here and how he has had a range of experiences – from writing and publishing music magazines, to where he is now in the position of digital marketing “giant” with his company in Toronto. By squiggly career he is speaking to the variety in his background, which has contributed to his learning, growing, and getting to where he is now. This is in contrast to a linear career where you find out you are good at something at school, go on and study at college and university, and then go to work in that same field, as if we know from high school what we will want to be doing twenty years ahead of us. As a career counsellor I find it pretty common to work with people who are bored out of their minds because they have followed that linear – and seemingly safe and predictable path. That kind of path leads to a content life for some people, but certainly not for all of them.

In this age of constant development and change, being flexible and open to continuous learning are essential survival skills. We need to be able to scan the environment and to learn to learn in order to be flexible and succeed. This is not the same as when we are in school, where we are taught to be good at certain things, and for those things we have no talent for, we are expected to at least get mediocre. With credit to Sir Ken Robinson, this method of education is broken. It doesn’t work in today’s world, where there is so much change that we are confronted with. Twenty years ago, we barely had the internet. The average person didn’t have a cell phone, and now most of us carry a smartphone that allows us to communicate extensively, do our banking, shop, and book movie tickets. Where we used to sit down to a screeching internet connection, we can communicate with tablets, notebooks, and download books onto our eReaders. We don’t need rooms and warehouses full of paper files, but we’d better be able to locate the digital file. We are also living in a time where we can barely predict what the world will be like ten years from now. After all, the things that fascinated me in high school are not likely to fascinate me later in life (although they could). There is so much more to come, so many innovative, crazy, harebrained ideas that have not even been thought of that are tomorrow’s BlackBerry, the next Star Trek. 

What’s next for you in terms of your career? Are you squiggling? 


Anonymous said...

I am definitely a squiggler! A nomad tumbleweed in all things!


Pam Robertson said...

I believe you Lynda, as am I! It isn't genetic, so not sure where it comes from, but it is certainly something the three of us have acquired!