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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Combine all aspects of your life into your career — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Combine all aspects of your life into your career — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

July 1st, 2014

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Each and every one of us is a unique combination of knowledge, temperament and experience. We all have different wants, needs and desires.  It is this very uniqueness that can bring us great success in our careers, if we use it to its full potential. If you can find ways to bring all your experiences, all your desires and all your knowledge to bear on your career, you will find many opportunities to find work and do great work.

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The trick to bringing everything that is “you” to bear on your career is finding the edges, the boundaries, those areas where different aspects of your life and work interact. At these boundaries you will find interaction, friction, conflict and overlap that can lead to deeper thoughts and understanding, unique viewpoints and new ideas that have never been seen before. It is at these edges — away from the safe, predictable middle, that you will find the best sources of a good job and a great career.

What makes these edges so special? It is said that most, if not all, great innovations come from combining two or more elements that no one had thought of combining before. Gutenberg combined the features of a coin punch with those of a wine press to create his printing press. The inventor of Velcro combined the natural stickiness of burrs with clothing to produce something extremely useful and unique, Velcro. Just as you can combine ideas to create new innovations, you can combine aspects of yourself to create new careers.

Find the edges of your life. Perhaps you are a musician in one area of your life, but you also love technology or video games. Could you combine these two areas and develop musical video games, programs to teach music or music for videogames and other online projects? Maybe you could look at it in the other direction. Could you use your technological skills to create algorithmic music, interactive environments or meditation programs? What two aspects of your life can you rub against each other and create some sparks?

You don’t have to combine just those things you like, though. Maybe you have a pet peeve or annoyance that your would like to solve. What other tools in your skill set could you use to solve that problem? Again, look for those edges where the problem and your skills rub against each other. Is there another interest in your life that can be brought to bear on the problem?

Look beyond what you might consider traditional work skills, too. Do you sail? Do you surf? Do you rock climb? Do you write poetry? Each of these is a valid part of your life and experience. You might not think of including them as part of your career, but you should. It is unique and interesting aspects like this that can cause some of the biggest leaps in your career innovation. What have you learned in these hobbies that would be useful in your career? I can imagine that seeing 1,2 or 3 handholds or footholds ahead in your climb could prove very useful for planning any project or job, just as the ability to read the wind and currents could help you predict the future of a new product. Don’t discount your skills just because they aren’t traditionally used in the office. Everything you know, everything you do, should be fodder for producing better work and a better career.

Think of your world as a series of circles the touch or overlap one another. In fact, draw some Venn diagrams yourself. You probably learned about these in high school math class. Where do your interests create an intersecting set or a union? Below is a diagram of interests from my own life. Some circles are skills. Some are interests. Some are types of people. Some are goals I want accomplish in my life. All your circles will be and should be unique to you. It is your life, interests and skills,after all.

Diagram of Douglas' Skills and Interests

The next time you are considering where to go in your career, look to the edges of all these circles and see what new, exciting possibilities arise. You don’t have to stick with the same old jobs, the same old careers, the same old life. Look to the edges and see what amazing adventures can be found there.


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