Jody Greenstone Miller had a modern career before it was modern.
She started out as a lawyer and then launched a public finance business. She worked at Lehman Brothers, became a White House fellow, started a television division for Time Warner, ran Americast, and worked at Maveron, a venture capital firm founded by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.
Today, Miller is the cofounder and CEO of Business Talent Group, a global marketplace for workers interested in project-based work. She’s also a bit of a workplace prophet.
In the past, you graduated college, chose a company, and followed a prescribed progression. Today you’re on your own, says Miller.
“Individuals have to design their careers in a way they haven’t before,” she says. “There’s nobody who’s going to do this for you. You have to develop a different set of skills to succeed.”
What skills will workers need in this new Wild West of career climbing? Miller lists the following:
“You’ve got to look at the world and have some thesis about where it’s going,” she says. Then you can better position yourself to be valuable in it. Those who’ll have the most luck finding their place in the future, she says, will have passion for something they’re good at and that the world needs.
The paint-by-numbers careers of the past didn’t require much introspection, but when you’re the architect of your own future, you have to know what you want and are best at, says Miller. That requires some serious soul searching, as well as clarity about your strengths and weaknesses.
The world is moving so quickly that employers are beginning to prioritise people with “learning agility” over those with deep expertise, says Miller. “Five years from now, the most desirable people will be able to demonstrate impact and value in a series of jobs rather than in one role they have had for 15 years. All is going to be flipped.”
A resume is useless if you can’t connect the dots for people, Miller says. Since there is no well-worn path, you have to create it and bring people along with you. In order to gain supporters, you’ll need to tell the story of how what you’ve done connects with what you want to do.
Being comfortable with uncertainty
It used to be that you picked a company, they told you how hard to work, and you either did it or you didn’t. Those days are gone. No one’s going to hold your hand. You’ll likely change jobs often, and you may not even work for one employer, but several simultaneously. That requires the ability to be comfortable with uncertainty, she says, to be proactive about what you want, and to seek out mentors and knowledge.
“As scary as it is, it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Miller says. “You don’t have to be plugged into someone else’s vision of what a career looks like. It gives you a rare, new responsibility to figure out what you want and when, to monitor your progress, and make adjustments. You just have a lot more options.”
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