10 Ways to Disrupt Your Career

J.T. O’Donnell

I came across this article over at FastCompany on why more businesses should consider ditching their core competency model and proactively reinvent their purpose. From a career development viewpoint, I was deeply struck by a quote from Nike CEO, Mike Parker:

"Business models are not meant to be static," … "In the world we live in today, you have to adapt and change. One of my fears is being this big, slow, constipated, bureaucratic company that’s happy with its success.
That will wind up being your death in the end."

Swap out the term, “business models” for “careers” and “company” with “professional” and you’ve got my thoughts on the need to disrupt your career today.

Creatures of Career Comfort Today…Professionally Challenged Tomorrow

Given the business world is changing at a faster and faster rate (with no intention of slowing down), there’s a definitive case that the careers of the people working in this ‘new normal’ will change just as quickly. Settling into your job and thinking, “I’ll just do this for a while,” has become a dangerous career move.

Yet, millions of working professionals today are doing just that. They’re avoiding the need to evolve and build out their skills in exchange for the immediate gratification of their current situation. Why? I’ve observed two things:

A) As professionals, we’re only now understanding the full impact of our *new* economy.

We are in a chronic recessionary state. New jobs are being created monthly, only to be offset by layoffs. Every job is temporary, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, a powerful infographic over at CAREEREALISM shows theEvolution of the Employee, which indicates the next chapter in employment will be what they refer to as, “Professional Emancipation,” a liberation from the Golden Handcuff Effect that traditional employment places on workers. But, until this is widely understood, we’ll continue to have workers making short-sited career decisions.

B) Change is work.

People tend to avoid being proactive in their careers because it requires additional time and effort. It is often said, “We are more likely to wait until we need the aspirin, then to be consistent in taking our vitamins.” It’s in our nature to avoid the extra work until the pain is too intense and we finally have to take action.

Good News: It’s Never Too Late to Get Disruptive with Your Career

Making the decision to disrupt your skill sets and build out some new areas of expertise is easy. It’s creating an plan to actually move forward that troubles us. To help you get going, here are ten examples of things you can do today to start disrupting your career:

1) Visit Alltop.com ( a magazine rack of blogs) and find 3-5 sites writing about your field or industry and subscribe to their email RSS to keep yourself up-to-date on what’s new and trending.

2) Take an online course that can be completed at your convenience.

3) Attend a webinar in something indirectly related to your current area of expertise.

4) Identify a project you can do on your own time that isn’t directly related to your job, but has an impact on the company.

5) Identify and create a “board of advisors” for your business-of-one and set up quarterly meetings with these people as a way to hold yourself accountable to developing your skills.

6) Start a hobby career you can do part-time to develop a new skill set and earn a little cash.

7) Write a guest post for an industry publication.

8) Set a goal to meet 10 people that are considered experts in their field that somehow overlap with your own industry and ask them questions about what they do.

9) Put your current resume or LinkedIn profile text into Wordle.net and create a word cloud of your expertise to see what keywords are most popular. Then ask yourself, “Will these skills be relevant in 5 years?”

10) Identify 10 companies that deliver products or services you greatly admire and set informational interviews with at least one person at each firm to learn more about where they see the future of their business. Then, ask yourself, “How could I use my skills to be a part of that?”

Anyone can be disruptive in their career, but nobody is going to do it for us. The longer we wait to build our skills and abilities for reinventing our careers as a way to stay employable in the new economy, the harder it will be to remain relevant.

Before You Move on From Reading this Article….

I know it can be difficult to self-motivate. I have days when I say, “Why can’t I just do my job and not worry about this?” That’s when I look at a magnet on my desk with one of my favorite quotes of all time which says:

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

It reminds me I can either look at disrupting my career as a chore, or a smart choice. I like being smart. What about you?


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