What was your smartest career move?
Tamara: My smartest move was adding my independent side projects to my resume. Beforehand, it looked like I didn’t really have any skills or ambitions because I’d never had a job where I could show them off. I’ve really only ever worked entry level jobs, so I needed another way to show what I am capable of and what I care about. My updated resume, which includes my geeky hobbies, shows a much clearer picture.
Ewen: It wasn’t a conscious career move, but becoming friends with lots of interesting and talented people is probably the best thing I’ve done for my career. All that networking and collaborating really adds up after a while.
Serdar: I think the smartest thing I did with my career was realize, in the words of John Cage, that I didn’t have “a job”. I just had whatever it was that I was using to put bread on the table today. This came up in a discussion when he was well into his seventies, and was asked whether or not he felt prepared for his old age. He said yes, in big part because he hadn’t kidded himself all those years: he woke up every morning, no matter what was going on, and asked himself, how am I going to put bread on the table *today*?
The idea of a job, or a career, is a useful fiction — I don’t think Steve, for instance, would object to either half of that particular formulation — but I’ve been that much more conscious of the “fiction” part of it as of late. A career is just the nice word we use for taking whatever it is we’ve done and describing it to other people as if it were a story or a coherent narrative, when the truth is that there’s no story except the one we choose to tell. Being able to see through all that and out the other side, and to realize your career is simply a story you tell people about what you choose to do, has been very liberating.
Scott: I think it was holding my ground when it came to doing sales while being a first-level tech drone at a major ISP’s call centre. Someone in Marketing had the idea to have the techs upsell services to people calling in with problems. I just didn’t bother, earning me a 90-day probation where, if I failed to upsell, it’d be grounds to have my contract terminated. I was heard to, again, not upsell. Contract ended. I found better, less stressful employment where sales were not a factor. Lesson learned: No job is worth daily stress migraines and other health issues, especially if the pay rate is barely paying rent.
Best choice ever.
Bonnie: Making the jump to working in New York City after several years at suburban publications. Jobs in an urban area are an entirely different thing – not only do they usually pay better, but they offer networking opportunities (chances are, you’ll be sharing your building with a lot of other companies).
Ellen: I’ll let you know when I have a career to make moves in. I guess right now, it’s not giving up.
Lauren: I don’t think I’ve been working long enough to know what my smartest career move has been! (I’ve only been out of graduate school two years.) But so far, I think the best thing I’ve done was to ask for exactly what I want in a job, loudly and often, by writing about it on my personal blog. It’s connected me with people who could help me make my dream job happen. And now that I have it, writing in it helps me to reflect on how far I’ve come and to continually reassess my goals.