Most of the time on this blog I focus on bursting bubbles. I deliver bad news about finding a spouse, choosing a career and earning money. But the thing that really keeps me going as a career adviser is the good news.
My career has saved me so many times that I think of career advice as a sort of trousseau that you draw on to make life more livable. Or, for those of us who are way past trousseau time, career advice is a way to gain equilibrium in our lives after we’ve completely given up on the preposterous idea of work-life balance.
Which is why I have collected a bunch of tidbits that make me happy and I think at least one of them will make you happy, too:
1. The top predictor of career success is how open your network is. This is great because it justifies doing all the non-work things that you feel guilty doing. An open network is full of people who are not in related fields and do not have similar skills. The more you fill your life with putting your head down and doing the work, the more likely it is that your network is closed. Closed networks lack ideas or opportunities. I’m sure this is related to the research about how successful leaders are also weird. Surely weird people have open networks.
2. Doodling makes you smarter. What do you do in all those meetings where you are banned from checking your email? Doodle, of course. I used to worry that I looked crazy when I doodle, but now there’s evidence that doodling helps people think more creatively. Bonus: people with Aspergers can stare while drawing and appear to have high creativity instead of low eye contact.
3. You don’t have to lie about how well you use Microsoft Office. Word is a great tool, if you are a ninja with formatting. Which I’m not. So everything I do looks the same. Like my dog did it. In fact, a few times I have not gotten paid as a freelancer because my invoice looked so not-invoicey. I wanted to believe that people don’t care about formatting, but they do. So now we can all go to hloom to find templates for all the forms we said we would make for ourselves but never did.
4. We don’t have information overload. Really. None of us. Because our brains can store incredible amounts of data, so really we are just having data recall problems. We need to know how to store information so that it is useful to us later, according to psychologist David Levitin (who explains this in his book that is way too long so it’s probably filled with information we don’t need to be able to recall.)
5. You can be a hipster entrepreneur without hipster instinct. Use the hipster name picker to come up with an impossibly cool sounding company name. Then get your business cards printed at moo.com (they should be paying for this post, but they are not). And then when someone asks you how many people work at your impossibly hip company, you can talk about this article in the Harvard Business Review about how the highest performers struggle to fit in with teams.
6. Reading fiction is good for your career. Thank god. Because I get like 500 business books a month that authors and publishers want me to review, and they are generally mind-numbingly terrible. There are exceptions to the rule. Like, I’ve been saving this book on my shelf to remind myself to tell you about it: Art Inc: The Essential Guild For Building Your Career as an Artist. It’s good. But really I’d rather be reading fiction. I just finished Making Toast, about surviving a tragic loss by struggling to raise three kids. You should read that book. It’ll help your career. Because the New York Times reports that neuroscientists are able to prove that reading literary fiction gives us better social skills.
7. You can make a career out of pasta letters. Nothing calms me down like words. There is a word for feeling this way about words: Hyperlexia. I didn’t know this term existed until I was in my son’s Asperger’s preschool class. All the kids could read. Ten percent of kids with autism have hyperlexia. One of the signs is that a child is reading before age 5. I’m shocked, of course, because so many people in my family read before age 5, including me. But then, my family is full of people with Aspergers.
A side note about hyperlexia: The therapists in my son’s classroom discouraged reading in such young kids. It’s not good for their brains because the developing brain should be making other connections at that point, not reading—sort of like how walking so early that you skip crawling is not good for the brain. So maybe this paragraph is saving one kid from reading too early.
But what I want to tell you is that I love anything that is letters, so it warms my heart that Fire When Ready featured an artist who sorts pasta letters.
And she makes ceramic cups. Finding the right career for you is finding the intersection of what you love to do and what people want to pay you to do. It bodes well for all of us that someone is getting paid to sort pasta letters and squish them into words.