Digital marketer Mitch Joel has coined a new term for today’s career trajectory: squiggle. In his just-released book, “
Ctrl Alt Delete,” Joel says the squiggle is a somewhat random, non-linear process that involves constant career tweaking and iterating — and it’s the path we should all embrace to stay employable in today’s “business purgatory.”Embracing the squiggle and getting over the “lazy” straight path can be scary, but Joel says success has never been easier.
We summarize his “squiggle” concept in detail here.
Below are some broader lessons for succeeding in a rapidly changing workplace.
Be a perpetual entrepreneur.
“If you don’t cannibalise yourself, someone else will.” Joel refers to this memorable line from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs as an example of innovation stemming from a perpetual entrepreneurial spirit. As proof, two-thirds of Apple’s revenue come from products that were invented from 2007 onwards.
Joel says having a constant zeal for invention and innovation will separate those who create the future from those who are left behind.
“Business owners think a lot less about creating the future because they are much too concerned with both mitigating risk and minimising mistakes. There’s nothing wrong with being a business owner, but it’s an important distinction to make as we lurk in these moments of purgatory.”
If you want to break out of the purgatory, constantly look for new projects and problems to solve. Be an entrepreneur.
Make yourself indispensable.
At a time when budgets are being slashed and jobs are not in huge supply, moments of purgatory (in the form of layoffs) are more prevalent. The ones who survive will make themselves indispensable beyond their current role at their company.
“Your resume no longer solely exists on a white 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper. It’s 3-dimensional. You are not just the employee of a company … Write blog posts, podcast, get your name beyond the confines of that 8.5 x 11…” says Joel. “If you don’t like to blog, that’s fine. But at the end of the day, the world is still creating content whether it’s on FB or LinkedIn or Twitter. It’s an important part of who we are. Your presence and what you’ve accomplished needs to be available so the people who can affect your life in terms of finances and success can see.”
Take a digital-first posture.
Rather than be distracted and overwhelmed by each shiny, new platform, turn your attention to the overall digital landscape. Stay aware of technology, trends and the impact they are having on the world.
“I’ve really struggled to find an industry where there hasn’t be a dramatic digitization of the industry (either on the front or back end) … whether you blog or not, there is a social scoring system that has started and will continue to affect your life. If you go blasting an airline on Twitter, the airline’s ability to see who you are, who you’re connected to, and how much your message amplifies, will be indicative of their reaction and what they do to fix it.”
Find your blend.
Forget about work/life balance. True superstars work constantly but do so willingly. If you love what you do, the work will merge with your personal life into a “healthy blend”.
“The most adaptive path for you to find your success in these times of purgatory will be in your ability to forget about the notion of work/life balance and find the blend in your work, personal, and community life.”
Get in the mode of ‘why’
Marketing guru Seth Godin made an appearance at Daniels’ book launch in New York and offered several nuggets of advice, including one on how he manages to write on his blog every day:
“I notice things for a living. If I see something that I don’t understand, like, ‘Why is there a line in front of Mission Chinese restaurant?’, I try to figure it out. Get in this habit and ask why…..By observing, you can see a teacher fail in real time. You can see a student ending their educational career in real time. Why does that happen? And by asking that question relentlessly, you’ll see how things work.”
If there’s any other message at the core of “Ctrl Alt Delete,” it’s that none of this can wait. The world is changing as you read this. So, get comfortable with the squiggly.
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