An Intelligent Career REVIEW
In Arthur, Khapova, and Richardson’s book, the authors explore – one chapter at a time – how to approach work life with intelligence. I confess, as the book works its way to the latter parts of its argument, it begins to feel like a bit of a jumble. I can’t even really remember what the last half of the book was about. But its premise is worthy and its approach, in the beginning, is helpful. Here is the essence of the argument. If you want to find yourself in a career that your brain can be proud of being in, consider where you are working, why you are working, how you are working, and with whom you are working. Thinking about when to change intelligently is also addressed.
Where? Consider the relationship of what you want to do to where you are. To use an exaggerated example, if you dream of running a surfboard shop, don’t expect to succeed at it in Topeka Kansas. If you want to be a coal miner, don’t move to Vermont. If you want to think intelligently about your career, it requires doing some thinking about geography. Where are the industry clusters that require that work? Where is an entrepreneurial approach likely to find a market? Where is government spending money? Where is there an intersection of tributaries or resources? Where are there problems that you have a solution for?
Why? To select an intelligent career for yourself, you need to be aware of why you work – of what motivates you. It is entirely possible to misplace yourself into an occupation that does not care about what you care about in the slightest. Thus, if you are motivated to make a secure risk-free modest living, you might select a different career than you would if you were motivated to make money for lots of luxuries. It could be the purchasing power is low on your list of intrinsic motivators. Maybe you care about “a calling” – some mission that you believe yourself to have been put on earth to accomplish. Perhaps you need a career that allows you to be who you are personality wise, or maybe it is acclaim or immortality that lights your fire. Maybe it is freedom that you hold most dear and you want a career that does not leave you reporting to someone else for orders (or maybe you just want to take orders and not stress about outcomes? Whatever it is that runs the engine of your ambition, it is important to think intelligently about the work you sign contracts to fulfill.
How? First, I wish this chapter were better written. It is not always clear to see the relationship to the chapter’s thesis question and its parts. But nevertheless, the question is worth exploring. Consider the following sub-questions about how you work: do you like to go to work and apply what you learned in your formal education? Or do you like to go to a job that requires you to be constantly educating yourself? Do you like to work in a place and role that requires you to try things and experiment with things to succeed? Or do you prefer to work in a position where you are not likely to meet challenges that you do not already have the resources to overcome? Do you prefer to work in teams or by yourself? Do you relish the exercise of hard skills (specialized technology for example) or soft skills (collaboration and communication for example)? Do you like exercising power and managing people towards achievements? Or do you prefer to avoid positions of power and authority? These are the sorts of questions intelligent people think about when they go job hunting.
Whom? Most jobs will require you to work with other people. And not all people are equal when it comes to a satisfying career choice. When you look at a potential job, the authors suggest looking at who the networks of people connected with that job will be. Who is likely to be your supervisor or CEO? Who is likely to be the customer you must satisfy? Who is likely to get assigned to work on projects with you? Who will you need to depend on and who will be depending on you? Who will you need to mentor you and who will you need to mentor? Most work requires a team approach and knowing if the team that you will be working with is a dumpster fire of backbiting slackers or a professional cadre of caring servers is worth your investigation.
When? This chapter delves into the question of when you should consider changing careers if you are going to be intelligent about it. A number of possibilities are presented. For example, between contracts or commitments. This makes sense so that you do not leave a wake of broken promises and obligations in your wake. It may also make sense to make a career change when some educational advance dictates an expansion of responsibilities or a lateral move itno a new endeavor. Change may make sense when you have had an inspirational experience or when something changes in the world around you. Maybe the answer to the question “where do I want to work?” has changed. Or maybe the answer to the question “Why am I working” has changed? Or maybe the answer to the questions “How do I want to work?” or “With whom do I wish to work?” has changed.
The material above constitutes the first half of the book. From here, the authors try to explain how one goes about transitioning to one’s more intelligent career life but, as I said at the beginning, their thinking gets somewhat less cohesive. It becomes difficult to understand just why any particular part of chapter belongs in it and not another. So, I think I will end this review here.
Question for Comment: How intelligently have you managed your occupational life? Do you think it is ever too late to manage it better if you have not done so thus far?