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.
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?