Common career thought over the last several decades has been that you need to learn more and more about the work you are doing. You should specialize more and more and develop your own set of rules and guidelines for your work. Of course, in a world where job stability is rapidly disappearing, learning more and more about a job that might not exist tomorrow might not be the wisest course. While you do want to deepen your knowledge about your job, I think you should also be exploring other opportunities and information and expanding your horizons as much as possible. In this way, you will be better able to weather whatever career storms might come your way.
Keeping your head down can lead you into a wall
You need to look for opportunities to expand your interests. You can’t simply put your head down and grind through your work anymore. Otherwise, you are liable to come up for air and realize that your job, your co-workers and life have passed you by. We used to think that certain jobs and certain industries would last forever, but you only need to look to the steel and automotive industry to see the results of that thinking. Despite what you might read or watch in the press, there are no companies or industries that are “too big to fail.” If economic realities decide that they will fail, they will, and there is little we can do about it. All we can do is expand our expertise, our knowledge and our skills.
Starting today, you need to develop a new mindset about the world around you. Where before you might only have read about interesting trends in your industry, today you need to find and follow interesting trends in a wide variety of industries. If you work in software design, what examples, directions and activities can you take from the fashion industry? How about from the world of finance? Political science? You need to look outside your own small world and energize your work with new ideas, new actions and, perhaps most importantly, new people.
You never know where your next great idea is going to come from. In most cases, great new ideas are going to come from outside your current business or industry. Too many of us today live in a great echo chamber, where the ideas of a few get reflected again and again. Just like a traditional echo, though, this constant repetition and re-echoing quickly devolve the idea into a cacophonous noise devoid of any value. Sure, you can monitor what the “experts” of your industry are saying, but when these experts gain too much power, too much of a following, they will start to drown out the truly innovative voices that can lead you and your industry forward.
Finding the under seen, the under heard, the quiet voices out there in the dark
Much of my time on the Internet takes the form of listening for those under heard voices that are developing the new ideas, the new products, the new industries that will sustain us all down the road. Sometimes these people and their ideas can seem crazy to us, but within their shocking craziness is a kernel of truth that can be adapted, shaped and turned into amazing things.
You can see this today in those people who proclaim that “Free” is the new business model. Most traditional business people scoff at such ideas and can become downright angry at the thought. How can you make money giving away stuff for free? Well, as many people are showing, and no matter how counter-intuitive it might sound to us today, you can make money by giving some things away, while charging for related items that add to, expand on or enhance the free product.
It is important to understand that an idea which may sound crazy today, could hold great promise in the future. Even more, you don’t always know which crazy ideas will be the ones to succeed. Some crazy ideas are truly crazy, but even then, if you adapt, manipulate and transform these ideas, you could come up with “the next big thing.”
Get out of your own head. Get out of your own industry. Get out of your own stale (and comfortable) ideas. Challenge your thinking and yourself with new ideas, no matter how crazy they might sound. You goal is to expand your horizons so that when the world changes you will already have an idea of your next step, your next job, your next career.
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