Friday, October 29

Searching for a Career - is this an outmoded concept?

In the past month, since I stepped away from the Product Development for the Texai, I have been entertaining conversations on "searching for a career". Around the time of Yom Kippur, I met my natural mother's best friend - a gentleman that has had on order of 20 careers in his lifetime.

He was married three times, has two kids, is into real estate, financial instruments, clothing, sales - you name it. And I was surprised by his incredible candor about his life. He said that every time he was working, he always was looking to "settle down" and build a career, but circumstances and the economy often had another spin on his life and would have to change and rebuild once again.

I have had a very diverse career in the past 15 years, and I am still trying to explain my career path. I often joke that my mother has had a hard time explaining what it is I truly do. Or WHY I do it.

Daring to Make a Difference
Back in high school, I wrote a speech that advised my listeners to "dare to be different, dare to excel and dare to make a difference". My reasoning was a simple premise - which I find eloquently summed up in this poem: "Our Deepest Fear":
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
This quote is often perceived as a religious quote because it suggests a divine power and that we should show "his" glory. But I have always taken it, and other quotes, as statements for people to stand up and take a chance in life that they would not normally do.

A career is a very safe path - one of predictability and normalcy. Which - I have no beef with. But, for my life, I believe in making a difference where ever I go. In every role - whether as a consultant or as an employee, it is my responsibility to help the company succeed - to drive value from our transaction (they pay me, I deliver services).

Our services are of varying value - and the marketplace of jobs, roles, companies, businesses and organizations are always in flux. At the present time, our population is growing, the number of college grads are expanding, and the efficiency of technology ensures that fewer people can accomplish the work that it took two to three times the people to accomplish - and the economy can not support the current unemployment (close to 22% by rough, unofficial estimates).

So, are we looking for something that is an anachronism of a time when skilled manual labor was best when local, and the delivery of products and services from afar were of such low quality, that we would laugh at a sticker that said "Made in China" or "Made in Japan".

T-Shaped Managers or Lateral Employees
When I drafted my recent bio, I had to find a way to explain that I am skilled in more than a single silo of work - I handle product management, marketing and sales - and often lead software development teams. How do you place that into a single box?

One person suggested the role I play is more T-shaped than siloed - especially since after so many years playing in different companies (especially smaller ones), I have had to play in many roles. So, am I a sales guy with technical chops? A marketing technologist? An engineer with a social skill-set? A CTO? A consultant?

Being lateral - or not being afraid of going somewhere where I have not had experience is often confused with lack of focus. But as I mentioned in my speech, it is about "daring to make a difference". When you have to accomplish something with limited resources, limited time, limited money - but it has to get done - how does one NOT try to get involved?

And when you find passion - it becomes FLOW
As I was bringing this post to a close, I saw this tweet from my friend Whitney Hess on her new-found love:
Read about my new adventure in life and business with @:
And within her blog post, she had some wisdom that she imparted:

In two years and two months of independent consulting, I had never before: a) worked on-site with a client for more than one day; b) worked on a single client project for five days in a row; c) worked at New Work City for five days in a row. And despite catching the cold that was going around on Day 2, it was the most fun I’ve ever had doing client work — and I’ve had a lot of fun doing client work.

This felt different. Calling Loosecubes a “client” just felt wrong.

At the end of each day, after 10+ hours in a small, stuffy room together, we went home to write each other love notes about how much fun we were having. I was sad to see the week end. Friday night we all went out for beers with a few NWC peeps. Yes, we wanted to spend more time together. Saturday night I invited Campbell to join me for the Food & Wine Festival’s grand dessert tasting. We laughed the night away with chocolate and wine, and as we stumbled out hours later to catch cabs home, she stopped me on the street and admitted that she wanted me to be a permanent part of Loosecubes. And I admitted that I wanted it, too. It was like falling in love.

The whole following week, I was walking around in a daze. I asked my closest friends, friends with startups, if they’ve ever felt high all of the time. “You’ve caught the bug,” they all said. They were right.

How does one call finding you passion a "career"? How does one call finding that fit a "career"?

Are you searching for a career? Or are you truly searching for a passion?

1 comment:

Tony said...

Labels are overrated. They're theoretical constructs we use as a shorthand to facilitate communication, and they're rife with inaccuracy.

A person isn't a "manager" or a "programmer," they're a *human*. They sing and dance and draw things and do all sorts of stuff.

This is especially true, now, of many people's professional lives.

Perhaps a subtle shift in language is in order-- instead of saying "I am," we can say "I do." "I know." "I have."

Very much enjoyed this post, thanks.