Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends On It

Your Career Won’t Be Predictable, And That’s A Good Thing


There is no gold watch in your future. Careers just aren’t as predictable as they once were. Here’s how you can manage.


This is an excerpt from Mitch Joel’s Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends On It. © 2013 by Mitch Joel. Reprinted by permission of Business Plus. All rights reserved

To be an effective business leader (and this is, without question, the goal for those of us who want to still be employable moving forward) requires you to not only personally embrace a digital-first posture but to also look microscopically at your career to date and where it is headed.

I’m fascinated by successful people and their career paths. Do you know what I never hear when I listen to a successful businessperson speak or when I read a biography of someone I respect? I never hear a story that goes like this: “I always knew that I wanted to be in marketing. There was never any doubt in my mind. All through elementary school, all I could do was daydream about marketing campaigns and working on a company’s overall strategic vision. While other kids were outside playing, I was busy drawing up logos for imaginary companies. In high school, I started the marketing club and could not wait until our economics teacher touched–ever so slightly–on the topic of marketing. Right after high school graduation, I interned at an advertising agency and could not wait to pursue my MBA with a focus on marketing.”My point? Very few people set out in life to be the people that they have become. Even fewer know that they’re going to be in one specific industry from a very young age. The most successful and interesting entrepreneurs and businesspeople don’t have a very linear career path. In fact, it’s actually very squiggly. Always bear that in mind. Embrace the squiggle.

Accept it: There is no gold watch in your future.

Here’s the thing: People want guarantees. If I go to school and get a degree, I get a well-paying job, right? If I work hard my whole life, I’ll have a pension, right? If I do everything my boss tells me to do, I’ll get that promotion, right? I’ve been fortunate enough to have met some of the most fascinating musicians, artists, thinkers, authors, business leaders, and politicians around. I don’t take that gift for granted. If there’s one thing that has become abundantly clear to me, it’s that the most successful people I know have very squiggly careers. No linear paths and no constant and consistent ascents. It’s been bumpy, weird, strange, funky, and all-around fascinating.

What about you?

Do you find yourself stuck in thinking that it’s time to “adapt or die”? There are days when it is the soundtrack of my life–and then there are days when I shake my head at the connotations. You see, it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback and say that the newspaper industry, the music industry, the book publishing industry, the retail industry, a traditional advertising agency…and almost every other industry should adapt or die. We live in interesting times (to steal a turn of phrase from the ancient Chinese curse), but it’s not so easy to “adapt or die”–especially when it comes to our own careers. Are we supposed to go back to university or trade school?

The challenge for you and your career is to not remain stuck in the past and to not get too comfortable with how things are today. Is it time to take chances? Absolutely. Is it time to blow everything up and start over? Maybe for some, but not for many. Is it time to kill even the profitable business units because you know there’s no future there? That’s a very tough call. Regardless of what we–as business owners and employees–are capable of, there are bigger forces at play: technology, connectivity, mobility, analytics, data, creativity, commerce, publishing, and more that will continue to reshape and change how we do business. So, where does this leave you and your career? Do you adapt or die? Maybe it’s more like tweak, iterate, and get comfortable with the squiggle as this purgatory unfolds.

Lost in adaptation.

You will have to adapt to a world where your career can (and should) get squiggly. You wind up seeing, reading, and listening to a lot of content (both online and in traditional publications) that speaks to the coming years and what businesses should expect in terms of disruptions, predictions, new channels, and shinier and brighter objects. It’s almost easier to say that everything we have known about business continues to change and that the only constant in our lives will be change. Fine. Dandy. Now what? The true adaptation for you (and your business) will not be about how smart you are with your marketing or whether or not you’re doing clever things in spaces like Twitter or Facebook. True adaptation will come from how well you can get over what I call “the lazy” and move to a place where squiggly becomes your friend.

This doesn’t mean that you have to suddenly change your ways. Just know and understand why these people are the way they are. It’s also important to think deeply about your own definition of the word career. This isn’t a generational issue, but one based on the reality of business as we know it today. Is there really a need for you to be sitting behind a desk–day in and day out–doing the job that you’re currently doing? Or is there a way for your career to better balance your interests, attention span, and what needs to get done for some breakthrough work to come through?

Indeed, start looking at the most interesting people you know…the ones who have had true success (by your own definition) with the work that they do. The one component that the majority of them will have in common is a very squiggly career (with a dash of incompatibility). Start getting squiggly.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: