Design Your Own Job

As you learn in school as well as through internships and jobs, you will eventually narrow in on how you truly want to spend your days as your career. You want to have a career in your “sweet spot”  in which you have genuine interest, utilize key skills & continually have opportunities to grow. That career may or may not be out there for you, not because you aren’t the best person fot it but because it just might not exist, yet. Why not create that career? Maybe your primary skill set doesn’t necessarily apply to a field where your interests are. See if there is a way that your talents can be applied uniquely to that field.

Technologies that connect people to knowledge, services, and one another across the globe have acted as a centrifugal force, spinning functions and authority away from the center toward millions of previously silent and disempowered individuals. The result is that many old titles and jobs no longer make sense, and many new functions are just waiting to be claimed.

Consider journalism, the profession most obviously shattered by this trend. Reporters have traditionally been finders of information and spinners of stories. Today the function of finding information can be performed by crowd-sourcers; mappers of local sources; filters and curators of tweets, posts, and liveblogs; algorithm designers, data scientists, and knowledge managers. The function of storytelling is still essential, but occurs at different levels of aggregation, from Storyful, a tool that allows anyone to put together tweets, pictures, and blog posts in a rough narrative, to quick blog posts assembling information and analysis in real time, to more finished pieces that rely on the art of the storyteller.

So what does all this mean for job-seekers in this uncertain economy? Forget the titles on the org charts and the advertised positions. Design your own profession and convince employers that you are exactly what they need. In my view, the New York Times and other information hubs ought to be advertising for curators and verifiers, but you shouldn’t wait for them to do so. Define the functions you think they need and you can supply, and then apply for a corresponding position, whether or not they’ve created it yet.

This phenomenon is already alive and well on Twitter. Twitter handles are a 140-word invitation to users to describe not who they are, in a formal titled sense, but what they actually do. Susan McPherson (@susanmcp1), an SVP at a public interest communications firm, introduces herself as a “passionate connector.” Scott Thomas (@ScottMThomas) from Atlanta calls himself a “relationship broker/connector, entrepreneur.” Maria Popova (@brainpicker) of the fabulous website Brain Pickings says she is an “interestingness curator.” A tad more conventionally, Richard Florida (@richard_florida) is an “urbanist.” Howard Blackson (@hblackson) is an “accredited new urbanist.” Micah Sifry (@mlsif) is a “strategist and agitator.” Priya Parker (@priyaparker) says she does “visioning,” something we all sorely need. Deanna Zandt (@randomdeanna) is a “media technologist and strategist.” And I list myself (@slaughteram) as a foreign policy curator, a job I invented and absolutely love (although I fully admit that I have a great day job).

Information and communications technology is blowing the old categories into bits. But countless new jobs will be created connecting those bits in unexpected but useful ways. And who better to name them than you?

(via HBR)