Monthly Archives: July 2009

How to innovate your career

When careers were based more on hierarchy, and work was more about getting a paycheck than knowledge, it didn’t really matter what you did. But today’s worker no longer desires swanky salaries or titles (although those don’t hurt, certainly), but instead searches for work experiences that can contribute to their lives.

Today, experience is the product. And smart workers are building their careers in the same way innovators build businesses. For example, trendy Barcelona shoe company Camper diversified it’s offerings by plunging into the hotel business. People rightfully asked, “Why?” To which Camper replied, “You misunderstood what we’re all about. We don’t produce shoes. We produce comfort.”

And that’s good career advice. That is, you don’t produce marketing plans, you create connections. You don’t create paintings, you evoke emotion. You don’t deliver newspapers, you spread information.

It’s time to stop looking at your career as a set of skills applicable to a single position. You probably won’t use the major listed on your college degree. You’ll change jobs six to eight times before you’re thirty. And you’ll eventually get the urge to change the world, which doesn’t happen from a single pressure point.

If you can’t talk about how your waitressing job applies to architecture, how teaching kindergarten makes you great for customer service, or how your blog has prepared you to be a circus manager, you lose.

Instead, look at your career as a set of experiences in which there exist core ideas that can be widely applied across disciplines. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink argues that the majority of professions (doctors, lawyers, even MBAs) can either be automated, outsourced to Asia, or are abundant (it’s easy to make quality goods and services).

“The only thing these three A’s as he calls them cannot yet do well,” Bret Hummel reports “is bring ideas from multiple disciplines together. [Pink] argues that the person who understands the big picture, how to bring people together, and create a unique idea are the ones who will succeed in this global economy.”

Gen X and Y thrive in this regard. Occupations are no longer siloed, but instead individuals are cultivating multiple passions, talents and income streams to create meaningful work lives. Marci Alboher calls this becoming a “slash.” Being a Musician / Engineer / Bartender is encouraged and admired. I love design, marketing and database spreadsheets myself.

Working across disciplines “rather than climbing the career ladder within a corporation, facilitates flows of information and know-how between individuals, firms, and industries,” Wired reports.

Everything is connected. HR people call this transferable skill sets, theorists describe it as systems thinking, and poets recognize these ideas in the words of Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass.

Worker mobility gives flourishing industries “fluidity, velocity, and energy,” Wired continues. “It creates a culture in which people routinely jump from one job to another… And that lack of loyalty has been a key driver of the rapid innovation over the past three decades.”

Innovation isn’t a stickler for tradition, you see. It only cares that you bring it. In summary, to innovate your career:

1) Collect experiences, not titles.
2) Realize connections.
3) Apply those core skills and ideas across disciplines.

Are you talented in more than one area? Do you apply lessons from one place to the other? What’s your advice to bring it?

Agree & Disagree Links for 07-28-09

AGREE: Pair your story with experiential marketing, @StuartFoster

DISAGREE: Want to win an RFP? Include social solutions in your proposal, @StuartFoster

Agree & Disagree Links for 07-20-09

AGREE: Swearing actually has a pain-lessening effect, @CNN

AGREE: I’m the only thing holding me back, @heartsleeve

AGREE: Fight group think with dissent, PsyBlog

AGREE: Charisma is overrated. The No. 1 most predictive trait is perseverance. People who in the context of a challenge — you can’t see it unless you’re in the context of a challenge — have the instinct to figure out what they can control, and to own it, rather than to blame everyone else in the system, @nytimes

Is Gen Y losing religion?

A recent study reports that Americans are changing religion. A lot. Some people talk about practicing religion a la carte, while others talk about leaving church entirely and finding a new kind of community as a result. Either way, things seem to be changing.

What do you think? Is Gen Y losing religion? Do you believe in God, but don’t attend church? Is there a difference between religion and faith?

Agree & Disagree for 07-08-09

AGREE: Be nice, and respected. Be nice, and successful. Be nice, and deliver results. But always be mindful of your value: don’t play nice, @scotherrick

AGREE: Good PR almost always “gets ink” because a good story has been well-told to the right people, @TDefren

Weekend

Winery

Winery

Ryan and I went to a winery last weekend and they told us that some of the past owners had lived in this cave while they made improvements. Good thing they had something to drink.

How to decide if you have a good job

Oh, crap.

My adrenaline starts to pump and the anticipation in my stomach rises so quickly that a little laughter escapes. But at 10:03 pm on Monday, the 22nd this is a bad time to laugh.

I yell to my boss Mark, “Tech Crunch just published!”

“What?” he yells back.

I run into his office, “Tech Crunch just published their post!” The rest of the sentence, that they published an hour early, an hour before they were supposed to, an hour before the embargo lifted and we were going to launch the site doesn’t need to be said. Hundreds of people are already on the site. Are we ready? I’m not ready! I thought we had an hour.

Around me, I feel like everyone is running and rushing. Mark and Brian meet instantly and make a split-second decision.

“We’re going live!” Brian exclaims. “Right now! Go! Go! Go!”

He sweeps through the office as excitement sweeps through our fingers. It’s bad that Tech Crunch published early, but their article is good. I’m shaking a little and smiling. Mashable emails me. They have to publish their article now too and I tell them it’s okay. We’re turning on the site now. We’re opening the doors. It’s starting. Alice.com is launching in beta.

The rest of the night is quick, blurry, surreal. When new press comes out, we yell, “CNET is up!” “Business Week!” “Financial Times!” and I throw the links onto Yammer. I refresh my screen every few minutes to watch the bar on the new customer graph rise. I work more than seventeen hours, my co-workers even more, and none of us really notice.

Some of the developers bring sleeping bags, the customer service girls bring a blow-up mattress, and the rest plan to sleep under their desks. At Alice, each employee is assigned an animal. I am a crane, which means, in part, that I’m particular. I want my own bed, so I drive home in the middle of the night.

The highway is completely empty, black and shiny. I own it. The asphalt, everything beneath and all the buildings lined up along on the side are mine. No other cars or people or lumbering trucks. I drive fast because I’m tired, and I want to sleep, and I want to get up and do it all over again.

Considering my co-workers only got two or three hours of sleep, I know they feel the same. The Alice team is more than dedicated, more than hard-working. This is the start-up life, our life.

There’s a lot of talk about balance. Some of the most popular authors preach zen-like attitudes, getting out of work, and lifestyles that are built on, well, not a whole lot. And then there are those who talk about sacrificing your health for your start-up, who talk in terms of not just passion, but obsession for your profession, and whose idea of fun is innumerable hours spent on a single idea.

Fighting balance across the fence is blur. And that is where I live. A life that should preclude me from having any sort of relationship with anybody or anything other than work, but in reality, betters those relationships. A place that makes me excited to be young and in love and working hard.

Peace, it seems, can not only be discovered in the quiet pauses of life, but also in the often forceful and uncertain flow that rushes against walls and norms and status quo.

Fancy Work.

Agree & Disagree for 07-01-09

AGREE: The next bubble to burst will be the education bubble, @nytimes

AGREE: That is what design is all about: rethinking the standard to solve big problems, @realart

AGREE: Talking about social media is very easy. Anyone can be “an expert” and dictate etiquette that doesn’t really exist. Actually making money with it is very hard, @michellegreer

AGREE: Curiosity and sensation are exponentially more effective than obeying the rules, @WhiteHotTruth

DISAGREE: You can’t fake exceptional, @CarlosMic

DISAGREE: If you have the means, start your company in Silicon Valley, @TechCrunch