As we develop our careers our focus narrows more and more over the
years. We find our niche and develop it more and more carefully. We
specialize in fewer and fewer skills until we have our career honed
to a razor-like sharpness. This has long been the way of developing
a great career and yet this method holds some pitfalls. When we increasingly
specialize in one narrow area, we are in danger of closing out ideas,
innovations and activities from other disciplines that could lead to
great advances in our career.
One interesting aspect of my own life and career is that I greatly
enjoy investigating areas of interest well outside my career focus.
Whether it is helping others develop podcasts about creativity or
mortgage loans, digging in my garden and investigating my bird
and bug life
or learning about the intricacies of running a restaurant, I enjoy
it all. I immerse myself in these widely flung areas and feel much
the better for it.
While there is certainly an aspect of fun involved in this immersion,
over the years I have seen concrete effects on my career, as well.
Each time I delve into one of these new areas, I develop ideas and
actions that help to build my existing career. This is the great power
of immersion that we sometimes ignore – at our peril.
Why is it so useful to look to other industries, businesses and ways
of life? Simply, these areas are so new to us, and we are usually
so ignorant of them, that we see everything with fresh eyes and
mind. We might be amazed at the complexities involved in ordering
food for a small restaurant, but we can also learn something there
our own ordering processes. Perhaps we are confused about how an
artist creates their work and works towards a one-person show that
gallery, and yet we can find deep lessons in PR, marketing and organizations.
Maybe the banking industry confuses the living daylights out of us,
but having a friend lead us through the process illuminates our own
finances and how they are effected by the outside world.
So, the next time you are feeling a bit tired with your work, or
even outright bored, here are a few methods of immersing yourself
world, if only for a short time.
• Visit the newsstand
This exercise has been around for a while, but it is still very effective.
I do this myself several times a year. Visit your local newsstand and
spend some time at the magazine rack. Now, pick 5 magazines that you,
otherwise, would never read. My own collection has included magazines
on wooden boats, print design magazines, home decoration, photography
and more. Remember, these should be magazines you don’t know,
or perhaps haven’t looked at in years. At the very least, they
should be in areas dramatically outside your career interests and activities.
Now, sit down with the magazines and a notepad and just start flipping
through the magazines, absorbing the pictures, the titles of the stories,
the advertisements. I can guarantee you that you will need the notepad,
as ideas will immediately start coming to you -- “Maybe you could
use that type of design in your product. What don’t we use that
method of marketing? Wow, I’ve never heard of that before!”
• Go to a meeting of other professionals
I love hanging out with my fellow attendees of our local BarCampLA
group. BarCamp is an un-conference that we put together about every
6 months, much like thousands of other groups all over the world.
We also get together once a month for Geek Dinners, which are just
opportunity to hang out and talk about everything that is happening
in our lives.
These meetings are important to me because they allow me to interact
with people from all different careers. The person to my right might
work for an Internet Service Provider, the one to my left is an artist
selling their work on the Internet and the one across the table may
be an expert in marketing who is working on their next big company.
Sure, in this case, we all have some sort of tech background, but
within that realm the diversity is amazing.
• Talk to your friends
Do you have friends in industries totally different from your own?
Most of us do. Why not ask them some questions about their work and
career? I think you will be surprised by what you hear and how it
might relate to your work, regardless of the differences in your
Even better, they will probably learn something from you, too.
If you want to get out of a rut, or simply grow your career in new
and interesting ways, try immersing yourself in another industry, another
area, another job.. Seek out other like-minded folks – maybe
even start your own group. You never know what you might discover.
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