“So, what do you do?”
Don’t ask me. GOD. PLEASE don’t ask me. Because the answer isn’t simple. And ain’t nobody got time for my Linkedin profile.
I mean, I know what I do right now. I write and I make podcasts. I guess on my resume, if I was a wanker, it would say “Content maker in digital media”. (Actually I’m pretty sure it does say that. #Wanker.)
But how did I get here? Through a series of strange and curious events is how. It’s a long story with a short message:
The idea that you will climb the ladder to career success is over. The ladder is broken. Actually, there IS NO LADDER anymore.
In fact, these days your career path will look more like a jungle gym.
I won’t bore you with the intricate details of my career but here’s the rub.
In the last few years I’ve worked in countless jobs. You see, I went on a reality TV show and when I came back from filming, I had no job. So instead of getting on Centrelink, I did some things I’ve always wanted to do. I renovated a travelling bus that now sells vintage clothing and raises money for homeless people. I rang the Women’s Weekly and did some work experience in their test kitchen. I rolled out a caravan that I’d been renovating and sold lemonade out of it. I renovated and shucked oysters until my hands bled.
And the whole time, I pretended it was awesome.
Because the reality was, it wasn’t. I had a University degree full of distinctions and a decade of media experience and I used to play National League Basketball and once even played for Australia but still, there I was, selling lemonade and taking all my five cent pieces to the petrol station to put $5 of petty in my car. ‘Cos I couldn’t get a job anywhere.
And I thought – well, if I can’t get the job I want, I’ll just keep moving and something will appear. And eventually it did.
That’s the thing about careers these days. There is no direct route to your dream job. Today, when you walk in the door of a company, if you even GET that far, there’s really no step-by-step formula or well-worn path to your leadership aspirations. Everything has changed faster than we’ve been able to adapt.
According to Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, we have to forget the upward climb to management. That’s for suckers and it doesn’t exist anymore. The idea is to embrace a career jungle gym that will make you move you down a step, across, up a step and then shimmy you across the rope bridge.
She says in her book Lean In that it’s her career is best described as a “jungle gym scramble”. And that the most successful people tend to look at it the same way.
But she’s an interesting case study. Trained as an economist, she was a top dog in the White House before she arrived in Silicon Valley with no job and practically no tech experience. She spent nearly a year looking for employment and took her chances working for startups, one of which was the very early days of a relatively unknown company called “Google”.