When Careers Aren’t Paths: Using Networks to Grow Your Future
Last week, I had the pleasure of leading a track at BlogHer’s Pathfinder Day, where women sign up to spend a day with experts learning how to turn their online activities into work that can support them financially. Along with Cheryl Contee, co-founder of Jack and Jill Politics and partner at Fission Strategy, I walked 25 women through the Change Agent track. that evening, I was the guest speaker at the NYC chapter of Women, Action & the Media’s WAMentor event.
For both events, I was asked to map out how I came to do the work that I do. when I sat down to make notes, I ended up documenting what looks like a hot mess of a career:
I told the participants in the room that it looks a little crazy because it is. and in plotting out my own choices for my work life, I’ve come to realize that there is no linear path, there is only network. we are brought up to believe that to accomplish x, we must follow the path of y. Technology is shifting that pattern, with our ability to run organizations without centralized locations, and to learn skills that previously required serious monetary and geographic investments. But most importantly, social technologies have given us the ability to relate to one another in new ways, to find those to who are like us in the world, and to develop and deepen our relationships.
In my case, I realized that almost every major shift in my choice of careers has been facilitated by people that I met in different (and sometimes bizarre) circumstances. those shifts were almost never linear in a traditional sense: I graduated with an honors degree in linguistics, and have worked in telecommunications, finance, advertising, media and advocacy. Each of the experiences I’ve had informed the next, but were often so radically different from one another that my resume could look to some like a hodge-podge of indecision. in fact, it is a breadth of experience that has allowed me to grow in unique ways.
Here are the key points of advice that I offered to the women I worked with last week:
Relationships and networks are key to our sanity and growth. Realizing that the linear path that’s been culturally set up for you might be a trap can free you up to move in networked ways though your life. As Anaïs Nin said, “We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. we grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. we grow partially. we are relative. we are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. we are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”