I’ve helped a couple of people who are early in their careers find jobs recently. Well, I hate the word job, so lets say projects or startups where they only have 1 large customer (their employer).
The first thing I asked them is what their digital foot print looks like. While these ‘kids’ are digital natives, you’d be surprised at how many of them haven’t invested their digital knowledge into creating their personal brand on-line. I then remind them of the new amazing automatic CV generator. A lot of people haven’t heard of it, but it’s really cool. Most employers use it these days. If you want to see it in action, just click on this link – and type in your name.
Ok – so you see where I am going with this. And the simple truth is that your CV is what you say it is, not what your past employer or past job title says it is. It’s what you say it is, but if you choose to own your digital footprint. In fact the most important stuff you’ll do in your career these days, is the crazy projects that show you ‘get’ we are living through a revolution and that you want to be part of the revolution. The tools are all here, the tools are all free, all you need to do is allocated some of your daily 24 hours to them and create our own path. The cool part about creating your footprint is that the internet doesn’t care what school you went to, what your SAT score was or what club your are a member of. It only cares about what you create – or better put, co-create. The audience will do the judging, not some gate keeper. Smart employers and investors are more interested in your side projects than how you have earned a living. Your side projects say so much more about you and your capabilities. They do this because there are no barriers or permission requirements to what you can do in this arena. it’s a simple combination of your ideas, desire, work ethic and ability to connect with others who share your type of interest. It is all up to you, and democratized technology means you don’t have to be a genius.
I like to practice what I preach. And so I always make sure I’m doing stuff which differentiates me from the crowd. Stuff which google will like and let bubble to the top, stuff which shows I’m thankful for the resources gifted upon me in this digital revolution, stuff which gives to the community and helps others first. But mostly these are simple tasks which are more about regular effort than unreasonable effort. My homepage, this blog, my startups, my twitter account,my crazy projects, youtube videos, Op-Ed journalism and public speaking engagements are a few such outputs. The sad part is that it’s not that hard to do, but most people don’t bother.
My digital footprint I regard as a financial investment. I see it as a conduit to my current and future earning potential in all realms. And probably a better investment than a post graduate degree in today’s era.
Seth Godin recently advertised on his blog for a new staff member for Squidoo. What he asked applicants to provide was enlightening. Here are some (not all) of the information requests he made when looking for help:
- Point to your personal website
- Show us some of the projects you’ve led that have shipped and made an impact
- Are you restless? What do you make or do in your spare time that leaves a trail and makes an impact?
- Four book covers you think are both effective and beautiful
- Find a particularly lame example of UX on the web and fix it into something better than good
- What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from Steve Krug or Steve McConnell?
- Point to a blog post that changed the way you think about connecting with people online (not by Seth!)
- Show us a Squidoo lens that you’ve built
- Have you created anything worth watching on Vimeo or YouTube?
- In four bullet points, tell us how you’d change the Surface (or some website) to make it spread virally
- Whose picture is this? How did you find out? Why does she matter?
- Where do you work now? What’s great about it?
It’s a pretty clear indication of what matters today and not one mention about formal education. It’s none of the stuff that mattered yesterday, and excitingly it’s stuff we can choose to create with a little effort.
This is a really interesting piece from the late George Carlin – who, despite all his success took the best part of 35 years before he thought he found his place. While all of this 4 minutes is interesting, and it isn’t so much for entertainers, but really appeals to the spirit of any entrepreneur or employee with the entrepreneur wanting to break out. The bit I find most compelling is when he discusses the choice he made at the age of 30. That he was living in the middle of a generation gap and had to choose a new audience – a new young crew who got it, or an older crew who bought into it. We too need to choose our audience carefully. Should our audience be a bunch of senior managers in company XYZ who believe in the status quo, or should it be a new breed of entrepreneur / intrapreneur whose enthusiasm might be the missing ingredient to change stuff?
- thanks to Ender for inspiring this post.
For those in our local startup community, you may have heard little about Tweaky.com It’s one of those ideas that just makes perfect sense in hindsight – or foresight for the founders at least.
Well, the good news is that Ned needs you (oh, and PJ) as his (their) founders apprentice. Which isn’t an intern kind of role, but one that will be a fast track into startup land with that rare thing called a salary. There’s no need for me to go into how bomb tweaky is – you can check that out for yourself. Instead I’m going to tell you that I’d work for Ned in a heart beat. He has taught me plenty in the few years I’ve known him. The fact that he wants Australia to get into the habit of investing back into the local community tells you a thing about his character too.
This post happens a day before the cut off date which is Septmber 5th – to test your bootstrapping skills in preparing to apply. (not really, but you already knew tha!t)
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of random things I have done during my life:
Take gymnastics classes
Play Australian rules football
High board diving
Build multiple cubby houses
Swim in the local river
Learn basic code on a 16kb ram TRS-80 computer in 1981.
Waste all my pocket money on video arcade games (think Galaga)
Mountain Bike racing
Had 9 broken arms (well the same 2 nine times)
Stand up comedy
Do Surf Life Saving (so I could get free beach accommodation)
Live on a farm
Live in 4 of Australia’s 7 capital cities
Collect first issues of magazines ( I have many, it was a weird long term investment strategy)
Start and sell a clothing company
Build a raft that sank on it’s first outing
Learn to speak Italian
Learn to speak Mandarin
Be a Sales Representative
Be a shelf stacker
A valet parking attendant (still my fav’ job ever… could write a movie about it)
Write a movie script (it’s waiting to be made)
Perfect break dancing (all the while wishing I lived in the Bronx)
Work in advertising
Lecture at University
Eat only frozen food for 6 months (don’t ask)
Your list is just as long as this list. Your list is probably more interesting than this list. This list that we all have tells us a great deal about our desires, our passions, our successes and our failures. It shows how much we know and what we are capable of. If we write it and study it closely it often gives us clues on the things that really mattered, and might just tell us what to do next.
For the best part of the last 10 years I haven’t been able to explain to my mum what I actually do for a living. Both with startups I have created and jobs I have had. Probably more so with the paid roles I have had. And this is an important insight into the world today and how we all fit into it.
How my mum responded to various activities I have undertaken:
My blog: Why do you do that? What is it about? Who pays you for it? Why do people want to read about startups?
Startup School: How can it be a school if they don’t get a certificate at the end of it? What curriculum do you follow?
Rentoid.com: Why would people trust strangers with their things? Why would people rent or share stuff when they can just buy it?
Director of Strategy: If you don’t write the ads or make the film at this Advertising agency, what do you actually do? I don’t get it.
Twitter: Who cares about what you have to write? Why can’t you write more than 140 characters? What do you mean people follow you?
In fact, without being disparaging, we need to ensure our mums don’t understand what we do. It’s the best indication that we are a scarce resource in a rapidly changing landscape.
When everyone understands what we do, it almost certainly means there are plenty of people who can do it. And if there are lots of people who do what we can do, then there is less chance we can extract significant value in the marketplace.
If money didn’t exist what would we do differently? Let me first remind us what this would mean.
In this imaginary moneyless it would mean: That we all had enough to eat. That we all had a place to live. That we all have equal access to healthcare and education. That we wouldn’t get paid for our work. That no-one gets paid for the work they do, in dollars at least.
It means that we do in during the day has an entirely different perspective. In this imaginary world it make sense that we choose our line of work carefully. The work itself, becomes the thing that matters.
It turns out that this is also the best approach for a world that does actually have money.
Some one said these words to me the other day:
“It’s easy for you. You are confident being in front of people and speaking in public…”
I thought for a second and then told him the truth about confidence. Which isn’t verbatim, but it went something like this.
Confidence isn’t something people are born with. In fact, it doesn’t really exist. Confident people are those who are prepared to make themselves ‘uncomfortable’. People who are prepared to risk pain and or embarrassment to get something done. They embrace the risk of failure and get so used to failure, that people believe it comes easily for them. They assume it is ‘confidence’. But it’s just that these people accept the tension of being uncomfortable, as well as the potential for failure. And this is the truth about being confident.
I teach marketing part time at Melbourne University, and many students come and ask me about what they should do in their post graduate studies. I tell them that post graduate studies are useless unless you want to be an academic or scientist. So here’s a top 10 list of things to do instead of post graduate studies which will make you more learned, more employable and a better entrepreneur:
- Learn a language (Mandarin or Spanish would be my recommendation)
- Start a blog (on the area you want to be an expert in)
- Master the art of public speaking
- Make your home Eco friendly
- Mentor someone
- Read one non fiction book per month on a new topic
- Learn a musical instrument
- Learn to grow food
- Renovate something (car, dinning setting, local park, house, tree house, anhything that can be renovated)
- Do a part time startup business.
The reason suggestions are more valuable than post graduate studies is that they create wide perspective, most post graduate studies narrow perspective. We are entering the age of symphony, where the real value in life and business is created by our ability to make commercial music from seemingly unrelated topics and ideas. Broadening your horizons will make you a better conductor of the symphony, or at very least give you some very interesting stories to share with those you want to do projects with.
Add your better than more ‘formal’ studies idea in the comments.
This is a guest post by Jared Shay, who recently decided being employed was for chumps and started walking his own path. He blogs with his brother Xavier about personal development and being awesome at two-shay.com.
The advice “everyone has something of value to give” used to crop up all the time in my morning feeds, and it used to annoy the hell out of me. It was easy for all those successful internet folks to say it, they were travelling the world with nothing but a back pack and a laptop, or working with people who were at the top of their fields. It was obvious what their value to give was. What could I possibly do that would compare to that? I was always trying to think of that one big idea to set me apart. If I could find that, I’d have it made. I couldn’t find it though. It was my white whale.
You know who else had a white whale? Captain Ahab. His white whale was called Moby Dick and it bit one of his legs clean off. He spent years chasing after the thing so he could get his revenge. Eventually he caught up to big MD and decided to go toe-to-fin with it. Predictably the whale smoked him, and whilst he did get a few good hits in the whole thing makes you wonder—maybe Ahab’s obsession with finding that one big thing just wasn’t worth it. I got lucky. That could’ve been me—dragged into a watery grave by a whale. I realised I didn’t need to find that one big idea, I just needed to take stock of the life I had already and take notice of the things that I spend every second of every day either doing or thinking about doing. Things that I’d been doing so long they had become routine and boring to me, but were totally interesting to other people. As soon as I discovered this I realised why it was so easy for those annoying successful people. They didn’t start travelling the world or turning themselves into experts just to get readers or sell products—that’s just who they were already.
Let’s suppose Captain Ahab was alive today and he decided to forgive and forget all that whale business. He lead a pretty darn interesting life: He grew up as an orphan, began sailing at age eighteen, got a leg bitten off by a whale and in in forty years spent less than three on land. Now just try and tell me that if he started a blog that you wouldn’t want to read it, or that he couldn’t package together an international sailing guide, or fill a venue on a public speaking tour. He wouldn’t need to go out and find interesting things to do. Just from living his life he’d have all the material he’d ever need.
My life resume might not be quite as impressive but it still has plenty of things I can use to provide value to other people. I’m a musician who teaches and performs regularly, a huge personal development geek, and I exercise everyday. I’ve been cooking and eating vegetarian and vegan food for years. I got through a computer science degree without a computer, can juggle, have tutored maths, and have watched more professional Starcraft than just about anyone outside of South Korea. I’ve been doing most of these things my whole life, and that pretty much makes me an expert by default. Doesn’t mean I’m the best, but it does mean I can provide something of value to others.
I stopped looking for big ideas and starting using what I already had. I’d already done the hard work. I started blogging about personal development because I’ve spent years reading and practicing it; I began teaching drums because I’ve played the instrument my whole life; I help people learn to cook vegan food because that’s how I live. One out of these three is already profitable. These aren’t new or innovative ideas, but they’re backed with solid life experience.
Everyone’s lives are filled with things they can use to provide value to others. You don’t have to be the best, you only need to get out there and start sharing what you’ve got, even if you can’t immediately see where it’s going to lead.
With the exceptions of reading and writing, all of the most important things I know (and can do for that matter) have been 100% self taught.
Marketing, Public speaking, Entrepreneurship, Motivating others, Creative writing, Financial Investing, Surfing, Gardening / Growing vegetables, Weight training, Riding a bicycle…. everything.
I think the best way to learn is by paying attention and being curious. Which always leads me to observing others, reading and getting out there and having a go at things.
Observe, Read, Try. Repeat.
That’s it. I find that when the desire is there, the rest comes easy. Which is why I’ve always done much better at everything outside of my schooling. Things for which I had real desire. The unfortunate thing about this ingredient, is that it is removed from most of the development & selection programs in modern society. Instead, we say ‘Rote learn this’, then we might let you do something you care about. One great example is that Architecture University studies require physics as a prerequisite, and yet Architecture studies don’t involve physics, and architects never do the engineering function in building.
Startup blog advice: Don’t let a terrible system, reduce belief in your own capabilities. The stuff that kept you out, you didn’t really care about anyway. It was a rule built by someone else to protect themselves. If you forge ahead and teach yourself, the right people will notice. They will come searching for you because they understand not just the importance of what your know, but the value of how you went about learning it.