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Your Career is a Garden

photo(6)It’s funny how the universe has a way of working out.  Just as I begin this post, a new connection on LinkedIn sends me an article I’m quoted in (I had no clue it was out, nor do I recall being interviewed for it) but it has a quote in it from yours truly that is totally apropos to this post, which is in part the following sage advice for your consideration:

Gone are the days of treating your career like a ladder.  Treat your career instead like a garden.

First, careers aren’t linear anymore.  They zig, zag, go 360, and move around all sorts of crazy non-linear pathways.  People get laid off, quit, or choose to opt out of the workforce altogether for various reasons.  People also jump back in–reinvent themselves in new industries by utilizing and maximizing transferable skills.  A ladder is straight, with usually only one directional option.  Ladders really don’t cut it when describing one’s career anymore.  There’s more than one way!  Besides, the 40 hour work week with ONE employer is dead.  Over.  So over, we need a new word for over.

Instead, think of your career as a garden.  First off, have you ever witnessed an extraordinary garden? Apart from the beauty and gobs of hard work behind the scenes to make it beautiful, they rarely have only one flower in them.  The best gardens have vegetables, herbs, and flowers of all kinds.

As I begin writing my new book about Multipationals, (yes, I’m declaring that a word, right here and now) or people with multiple careers advancing at the same time, I realize that the most fascinating and interesting people on the planet now treat their careers not like ladders – but like gardens.  They look for opportunities that might be a little different from what they currently do, but the new opportunities heighten or intensify their existing expertise and skill set.  In the meantime, they weed out the “junk you don’t want” – as I was so eloquently quoted in this article unbeknownst to me today.  I’ll also be discussing this with my friend, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz on his radio show Friday evening 8/15 at 6 pm in Indianapolis on WIBC.

Gardeners painstakingly weed out the stuff they don’t want in the garden.  They constantly evolve the garden into its magnificence over time.  They foster the plants they love in the garden.  The seasons, temperature, and care all can change the garden as well, just like our lives.

One of the hardest jobs I see as an educator is preparing the next generation of students for this new garden-like or portfolio-like approach to career development.  No one in school ever taught me how to look for pockets or varieties of career opportunities in the same space and time – I had to figure it out for myself, and I’m still struggling with optimization of it.  But now, through my writing and teaching, I’m going to investigate how these amazing multipational career gardeners are managing it, as they will own the future, so I can help the next generation of rock stars shine.

Mark my words.  Or mark my nasturtiums…!

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