Careers Do Not Belong in a Box


The best ideas are those that lie ‘outside the box’. The top thinkers, innovators, and visionairies have all been considered ‘out of the box’. Similarly, those that have the appearingly ‘best’ careers are the ones who have taken the concept of ‘career’ OUT of the box.

Don’t wrap your career in a box. Don’t look at your career in a vacuum. It’s not static and if your idea of a career is static, you will become static as well.

Here’s the truth; if you’re looking for a career, you’re looking for the wrong thing.

What you should be looking for is something that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning.

What you should be looking for is a way to continuously better yourself, continuously learn, continuously grow.

What you should always be seeking out – is your next adventure.

Certainly, that may take the form of something that turns into a career; or it may not.

Maybe what you’re looking for is to start your own business, maybe what you’re looking for is a contract – for a project that excites you, maybe you are good at several functional areas and it’s time to CHANGE what you thought was your ‘career’ path because all of the sudden, you’ve realized you’re a General Manager, but CERTAINLY you do not want to FORCE a career.

If you ignore this advice and continue to seek out a career, you will become part of the statistic that has changed so dramatically over the past decade. You will become one of the people who changes jobs an average of every year and a half, without promotion, but more importantly, without being happy.

By tying yourself into a career, you’re missing out on the most important part of your learnings; the different journey you take. The people you meet along that journey. Most importantly, your closing your mind to opportunities that may arise.

There’s probably a lot of people who will read this and think, “sounds good in theory, but I need to bring in some cash!” Of course you do – we all do. But bringing in cash and tying yourself to ONE career is NOT the same thing. Get a day job if you need the cash; but look for a day job that at least ties into something you love OR one that gives you enough free time at that “job” to work on your REAL passion – whatever that may be. A great example is Gary Vaynerchuck. He worked 12 hours / day at his retail wine shop and then built his own business at night – he worked almost every night from 8 PM – midnight. It took 2 years – but he did it. He launched his own business.

Another example is how I’ve designed my life. People ask why I consult and own my own businesses; and the reasons are very simple: 1) I don’t believe in a “career” as currently described in the marketplace 2) I haven’t yet found a job or group of individuals that meet the criteria set above; So, I take on projects and clients – I actually turn down more than I take on…and then I work on my own projects for free a couple hours / day. I have not “settled” for a job. I have figured out how to use my current skill set to continue making money. And I’ve ensured everyday is an adventure, every project is a learning opportunity, I only work for people who intrigue me, and most importantly, I enjoy my journey.

Your “career” can be anything you want it to be. Throw out the preconceived definition that so many cling to as a security blanket (definition of career) and define what a career is TO YOU!

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  1. January 2, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Great post! I’ll be watching for more of your stuff.

  2. January 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    This is a great post Jamie and no surprise, I couldn’t agree more. Interested in expanding on these ideas in a guest post for me?

  3. January 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Thanks Jen. Laughing that you read this as I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU if you would continue on this ‘string’ with a post similar to your career redeisgn, as someone who has DONE the above and relay their experience. Wanna trade? ( ;

  4. January 3, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Hi Jamie
    Looks as though you have really hit the ground running in 2011 – left me way behind.

    Great message, which needs courage to listen to and even more courage to act on.
    Notice that you have addressed the major point that stops most of us jumping in…

    “sounds good in theory, but I need to bring in some cash!”

    Good to know that you are enjoying the journey and I look forward to you sharing some of the steps you have taken along the way.

    • January 3, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      Thanks Keith and looking forward to your first post of 2011. Curiosity – have you figured out how to ‘bring in the cash’ and still ‘live the dream’?

      • January 4, 2011 at 12:47 pm

        Not yet Jamie, not yet.
        Good to see the comments flooding in on this post – interesting subject.

  5. January 3, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Awesome, Jamie……. You get it!!!

    I’ve been living the same life you describe for well over 40 years now…. In that time, I have NEVER held a “real job”…….

    Are you on Linked In? If not , join up and let’s see if we can put together an adventure…..

    What is your expertise and interests? I “do” project management…… Any projects, anywhere….. “have computer, will travel”……

    BR,
    Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia
    http://www.build-project-management-competency.com

    • January 3, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      Thank you, Dr! I’ve been to your site several times as I am PMP certified (but truly am not a “PM”).

      I’m interested to hear how you maintaned for 40 years! I see how this lifestyle is a bit easier now than it was 20 years ago because of computers, but I’m interested in how you built your life / your business with less / limited communications. Do Tell!

      I’m certainly on Linkedin and will go on now to find and connect ( ;

  6. January 3, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Hey Jamie,
    Great post – seeing more and more synergy between your own ideas and my own & Enspiral’s every time I read something you write. Should hook up a skype chat sometime if we can coincide time zones – would love to hear more about what you’ve been up to + tell you about Enspiral! Cheers, Sam

    • January 3, 2011 at 9:09 pm

      Sam – I LOVE Enspiral – phenomenal concept and when I went to “join us”, I didn’t get the option to “join” ( ; do I just fill out the contact form. I’m thinking it may make sense to tie this post into Enspiral, no? I’m US CST…any times we can make the attempt?

  7. January 4, 2011 at 12:26 am

    Well, here’s an oldie but a goodie. What’s in it for me?

    No one is going to watch out for you except for yourself. You are the CEO of Me,Inc. You can bust your chops making money for your boss, but make sure you don’t neglect Me,Inc. While you’re at your cube, make sure you’re still getting knowledge, friendship, network, etc. that does to Me,Inc. and not Boss,Inc.

  8. January 4, 2011 at 5:59 am

    Great post Jamie! I must admit, there is a good bit of wisdom in what you say. I have resolved to make 2011 the year to make more waves for myself professionally (I’m in graduate school until 2012, but I don’t want to wait until after graduation to make stuff happen). I must admit I get very disillusioned when looking at job postings; with the job descriptions and the bullet points of ‘requirements’ and ‘preferences’. I can understand the competitive nature of today’s job pool. But it is also a bit unnerving to have some complete stranger try to stuff you into a box (or at the very least put a label on you).

    And while I can understand experience counting for something, some of the most successful people out there are people who are flexible and fast learners. For example, you can have 10+ years ‘experience’ making websites, but still make sites that underwhelm. This is just one example of how HR managers (and common HR practices) undercut today’s professional talent.

    Again, great blog & thoughts!

    • January 4, 2011 at 7:27 am

      Hi Rishona! Great to “cyber” connect with you and thank your comment. First, you are WAY further than I was when I was in college; I definitely did not know the first thing about “reading blogs” or reaching out to people on the computer – so high five on that. I’m actually starting school again as well ( ; I graduated about 8 yrs ago (undergrad) and have taken a couple masters certifications while researching different Masters degree options and have finally found one I like; maybe we can help one another and keep eachother motivated! What are you in school for?

      As for your comment, two things I’ll tell you: 1) Never look at job descriptions. I never have and probably never will as I’ve found that every role I’ve had through the years I was nowhere near qualified for WHEN I STARTED, but I networked my way in and was overqualified within 6 months (to your point about quick learners).

      Unsure if you are working on anything right now, but even in grad school – in this climate, the best thing you can do is partner with 1 or 2 different people (even if only for a few hours / week) and start working / getting your name out there. I have a lot of connections and would be happy to help.

  9. January 4, 2011 at 6:55 am

    You bring up a great point – a career is simply a collection of professional decisions, actions and engagements over a lifetime. There is a greater need for folks to take control of their own destiny by defining specific professional goals and working toward them. One of my biggest pet peeves (which tends to play out constantly on Facebook) is the idea that because one has received higher education that a “great career” is entitled to them and will fall into their lap. Luck is a factor, sure. However, sustained professional achievement isn’t magic. The interesting thing is that very few people will do what it takes to develop themselves to get to the next level. I hope that more people will take the opportunity jump into 2011 feeling empowered and ready to shape their own professional destiny.

    • January 4, 2011 at 7:12 am

      Thanks so much, Meghan. I love when someone can take what I am “attempting” to say and turn it into a concise, 1 paragraph, professional piece; which of course – leaves me open mouthed that it took me so long to “write out my free flow” of thoughts ( ;

      Seriously – thank you. You bring up a much better point about people taking control of their own destiny. I’m in 100% agreement with you on the “higher ed” pet peeve. I’ve turned people away for jobs before and been told, “I have an MBA….do you? You’re not qualified to manage me”….and I think to myself – NO – I don’t have an MBA, I AM a Master at the art of human interaction ( ; which is far more important than an MBA. Not trying to be a “hater” – just giving an example to agree with your point.

      I’m with you on 2011! Cheers (well, raising my coffee) to 2011 empowerment.

      • January 4, 2011 at 7:28 am

        Thanks Jamie! In the spring, I will have an MBA/MPIA (dual degree), and I’m here to tell you that you were absolutely right not to hire someone simply because they have an MBA. Being “qualified,” in my opinion, is based on experience and the ability to continually learn and apply that knowledge. Too many MBAs are totally missing the point.

        Take what I’m saying with a grain of salt, because I tend to be the anti-MBA-MBA.

        Do you know Amanda Krauss (she is part of the Brazen Community too)? If not, you would probably enjoy her blog – she burned her doctorate! Like, lit it on fire, literally. You can find her blog at http://worstprofessorever.com/

        Cheers, raising my cup of coffee back to you! Happy 2011!

  10. January 4, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Ha. I’m LOL as I literally subscribed to Amanda’s blog last weekend. She’s a TRIP! I’m not “anti” MBA….I’m not anti ant higher education, BUT (and I think you’re probably the same way) – I AM anti the “MBA and I have no experience but kiss my ass anyways!”….I agree – so many people are missing the point. I think it was smart as hell that you did the ‘dual’ program as not only will you learn more (I developed some of those programs), but you set yourself apart. Where are you in school? Ground or online?

    • January 4, 2011 at 7:46 am

      She is hilarious! I actually met her on Network Roulette and when I heard her story, I was like “she gets it, she really gets it!”

      I’m in school at the University of Pittsburgh, so ground. I initially enrolled at the Graduate School for Public and International Affairs for my MPIA, because I was lost in my career (mistake, lesson learned) and thought that I wanted to go into intelligence. Then, I got there and realized that I hate bureaucracy, so a career in government is not exactly a good fit. That is when I decided to shift into the dual degree program and get my MBA.

      At the end of the day, you are right, I’m not truly anti-higher education. It is a tool, not a magic career wand. Although I don’t plan to pursue a career in international affairs, it is certainly relevant background to have when doing business globally.

  11. January 4, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Jamie:
    You are absolutely right! I honestly cannot imagine going to a 9-to-5 job each day that I hated, or that I went to simply for the paycheck. This isn’t to say that I have loved every minute of the work that I’ve done in my life, but I can say that I’ve always done things that interested and inspired me.

    I think many people fear following their dreams because they aren’t sure they can make the same (or any!) money that way. I can’t believe I’m going to do this…but I’m going to quote Oprah (what up with that?), who wisely said if you do what you love, the money will follow.

    Great post.

    • January 4, 2011 at 9:22 am

      Awesome that you’re calling yourself out when quoting Oprah. It’s funny because I watch her once in a while and she kind of annoys me…but when I read about what she’s done and how she’s done it – I can’t help but be inspired.

      You are dead on about the “fear” factor. Fear is the largest motivator (even more so than money), so for some of us – we choose to let it motivate us to do our own thing. For others, I believe the fear motivates them to get a 9-5 J.O.B.

      I don’t think there is anything “wrong” with getting a JOB or defining a career for some people – it just doesn’t work for ME anymore ( ;

      • January 5, 2011 at 9:04 am

        I hear ya on the annoying Oprah comment. BUT, I’m going to share with you the only other Oprah quote I pull out… important words to live by:
        “If you see crazy coming — cross the street.”
        That quote has been in the back of my mind when I’ve considered new clients, business partners, even dates.
        I don’t watch her show, but those two statements are sage advice!

  12. January 4, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Jamie, great post. I wrote along the same lines on my Blog as it is mind blowing how for some people, there is no plan but random walking to collect a pay check. http://fit4thabo.blogspot.com/2010/11/is-your-career-job.html

    I remember the line “A job is nothing but work”. Still tickles me, but what is not funny is how people can get stuck. You asked Keith if he has figured out how to bring in the cash and still live the dream? Let me know when you guys figure it out, but right now I can say I am living the dream and I have all that I need. It does not mean there isn’t more to come.

    • January 4, 2011 at 7:14 pm

      If everyone had your attitude, we would be living in a much better place ( ; En route to check out / subscribe to your blog; but I agree with you – it isn’t funny how people get “stuck” -it’s sad.

  13. January 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks for a good post–like your thinking, as usual 🙂

    I’d like to explore some alternate terms, since you’re right–the term career is outdated. What else could you call it? It needs to be active, changeable and work-oriented. Here are a few thoughts:

    work/life trajectory (cumbersome)
    work path (new Agey)
    specialty (general)
    expertise (I always like this word because it means you have a strong background in something–but it doesn’t replace “career”)
    calling (sounds religious)

    Looking forward to hearing some other ideas on this!

    • January 4, 2011 at 7:12 pm

      Hmmm….I don’t think you have to call “it” anything. I think some people will continue to call it a career as that’s what it is to them; a pre-determined path / way of life that they follow in order to make a living. For people who don’t think like that, I would think it’s more of a “passion”. I would call what I do my “passion” – it always has been. I like all the terms you threw out above, but don’t love any of them; that said, I can’t think of anything better except – “passion” – which may not work for most…….TBC

    • January 4, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      I call it life.

      I think seperating living and working is a sure-fire way of not pursuing things you enjoy doing – Jamie’s passions for example.

      If I think of work as my life, then it makes me want to ensure that I enjoy doing what I’m getting paid for, and makes me feel a little more empowered about changing it. When it’s just ‘work’ somehow I feel a lot more detached from it.

      I would say it also makes me ensure that I am not part of the problem, but part of the solution ~ there’s a lot of broken systems in the world, but many of us perpetuate them day in day out just for a dollar. If the company I work for has a leaning toward positive change + empowers me to work in the community around me on projects which are not only exciting but will bring around some positive change – all the better. It’s my contribution to life. Want an example? Well 3 of us in Business Development for Enspiral are taking a week out to be at this event next week: http://www.regeneration.org.nz/summer-jam

  14. January 5, 2011 at 7:44 am

    Sam – I couldn’t agree with you more – you hit the nail on the head. That said, I still contend that there are only certain types of people that will ever think about “work” as their “life”. I think your rationale behind it makes complete sense, but I don’t think its for everyone as candidly, some folks are just lazy AND some don’t really have any ‘real’/tangible interests. Or at least none that they’ve realized.

    I went to the website of regeneration and I’m jealous ( ; I think Enspiral is a phenomenal concept and look forward to it coming to America!

  15. heather
    January 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Jamie, you are spot-on. I bumped into JenG a while ago and she’s been a great source of support on this transition. I’ve clearly been offline all week, but I’m adding my comment anyway:

    I spent my early adult years adventuring, taking a leisurely tour of states and universities, on what I refer to as the undergrad tour. Though I was off to a good start with a combination of job skills and education, I couldn’t see it because when I wrapped up my degree I was starting to look at my “career potential.” I traded traveling and studying, panicked, and joined the Army.

    Now I’m about to embark on another adventure: transitioning from military to civilian life. I tend to view each of my career steps as blocks, and figure as long as I learn something from each experience I’ll keep moving forward. Maybe we are accepting forward progress as opposed to the old notion of “moving up.”

    • January 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      Heather -I love the statement you make here – “Maybe we are accepting forward progress as opposed to the old notion of “moving up.”

      That’s one of the best quotes I’ve heard this year. I think if we continue to focus on forward progress and growth – one of 2 things happens – either 1) The ‘moving up’ will happen naturally. or 2) We will find that moving up is not important to us; we may even find that we don’t want to move up – but rather work in either a flat organization or have our own businesses.

      I’m excited for you to transition from military to civilian life and can’t wait to hear about it ( ; Based on your mindset, I can confidently tell you that you are more ‘ready’ for civilian life than most of us that have been living civilian life with no military experience.

  16. January 11, 2011 at 7:56 am

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  17. January 24, 2011 at 4:19 am

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  1. March 15, 2012 at 7:04 am

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