A couple weeks back I wrote a piece called Content Market Yourself. In that piece I discussed how everyone is in the business of selling themselves and that in order to do that you need to become an expert in your field. I expanded on that by saying that it’s not difficult to become an expert–it just takes doing that little extra that 90 percent of people don’t do. It takes constant learning and consistent documenting of that learning and of your work. In other words, you need to content market yourself.
But before you can content market yourself you need to build content. And in order to build content you need to push yourself to constantly be doing challenging and interesting things. The best way to make people interested in what you are doing with your life, to make them interested in reading your blog about what you are working on, is to do things that are constantly pushing your own personal envelope.
I recently finished reading The End Of Jobs by Taylor Pearson. In this crux of entrepreneurial exposition, Pearson argues that the time of traditional, typically corporate jobs* are coming to an end. The era in which you got a college education, learned a complicated job, and spent the rest of your career doing that job has been dying and we have hit or past “peak jobs” (similar to the idea of peak oil). He describes how the advancement of technology and subsequent globalization has changed the leverage points in accumulating wealth.
Pearson lays out a history of the context of work and how the paradigms of those contexts shifted over time. In the Western World we have seen the shifts from the Church to monarchies to banks to corporations to, finally, individuals. Though these transitions are ultimately positive–each increasing the well-being and freedom of individuals relative to the previous era–those caught in the transition period have to adapt or face being left behind. We are in the midst of such a transition right now.
Traditional education systems (read education since the latter half of the 19th century) were designed for the rising period of corporations. Originally intended to educate people with the basics so they could then learn a trade or get a factory job, higher education then developed to ready people for the more complicated corporate jobs which were quickly on the rise. Both of these types of jobs, however, are more similar than we tend to think. Though of vastly different complexities, both of these realms deal with people working within systems created for them. You get a job, learn how to do it well, learn how to operate within that system, and then operate within that system.
Today our world is different. Although it has always paid to operate outside existing systems and build your own, today that is becoming a necessity. Today we have to build our own systems. Pearson argues that being an entrepreneur, putting yourself out there, and creating value for others on your own terms is in fact the safer choice compared to typical corporate jobs. Traditional jobs increasingly require longer hours, less real pay, and less security. People losing their jobs to outsourcing, college degrees losing their value, and stagnating wages are all symptoms of this transition period and people’s failure to adapt.
So what does this all mean? It means that to be successful in today’s world you need to be entrepreneurial. It means you can’t stagnate. If your job is something that, once learned, is something you can do without difficulty and without challenge then you should be worried. You should worry because if you spend years not pushing yourself or challenging yourself you build what Pearson calls “quiet risk”. You are building risk because if you aren’t constantly improving then it’s likely that others around the country and world are–people who will do your job cheaper than you currently are.
To combat this you need to learn to build your own systems instead of just operating within those created by others. Figure out what you’re good at and figure out how to sell it. Create value directly for others. If you have a job working within a system that for whatever reason you are hesitant to leave, have a side hustle. Start doing some freelance or consulting on the side. If you are a programmer then start designing your own programs in your free time. And no matter what you do, document it! Let people know what you are doing and how you are building value.
Don’t tie your career to your job. Your career is bigger, it’s your story, your life. Don’t rest until you feel confident that you could lose your current job and be fine. The way you build that confidence? By getting your feet wet in entrepreneurship. If you learn how to successfully create value for others you will never have anything to worry about.