Hello Friends and Family,
In just over a month the unemployment rate of the United States grew from under 4% to over 15%. Many of you are out of work, or worried about losing your job. It's a tough time for many and many of you have reached out to us asking for guidance. We don't pretend to have all the answers, but we have learned a few things.
We both hit the job market during the Financial Crisis in late 2008. Between the two of us we've worked in industry, government, consulting and entrepreneurship. We've done hundreds of interviews and interviewed hundreds of people. Everyone's situation is different, but there are shared first principles for career building, and we've also learned a few practical strategies for uncovering valuable opportunities. Career building is a process...so what we share here applies to everyone regardless of if you have a career you love or still searching.
To begin...lets start with a few first principles of career building...
Specific Knowledge is everything we know and do that makes us unique. It cannot be taught, but can be learned through experiences. No one lives an identical life to someone else. Your specific knowledge has to come from within ... from all the things that inspire you. It's what you do like breathing ... without even thinking about it.
Your specific knowledge is extremely important because it is what makes you scarce and scarcity is the source of value. Only by discovering your specific knowledge can you guarantee your career security because your specific knowledge makes you irreplaceable.
To learn more about what your specific knowledge is and how to harness it you can check out this post by Sumay: https://www.wequil.com/post/arm-yourself-with-specific-knowledge
Know what you know is a mental model for categorizing what we know. During a recent trip to Iowa State University we were asked by a group of college students what classes they should take and what industries they should work in. But that's not the right question.
The future is unknowable and how your specific knowledge fits into that future can only be discovered by you. Discovery is a process...not an answer. You will need to constantly evolve with the world around you and continually find how your specific knowledge can be leveraged to add value to others.
The only way you can do this is by first recognizing that we are all deeply ignorant of the state of the world. Once we accept this we can let go of our preconceived beliefs about what we were "born to do", and start having lots of conversations and interviews. Once we accept our ignorance we can begin learning from leading minds, podcasts, blogs, books, and every other source fo valuable insights on what will innovations and industries are creating value. We need to reduce the size of the "unknown unknowns" and avoid thinking we know things that we do not.
To learn more about this mental model check out this post by Aila: https://www.wequil.com/post/not-knowing
Positive Skew opportunities provide the potential for large gains without much risk or cost. The term comes from statistics...and refers to the shape of a probability distribution on the right. Notice that the distribution has a "fat tail" on the right hand side. This means that there is a small possibility of a large outcome. In this context we can think of the "large outcome" as including things like discovering a great opportunity, building a valuable relationship, or finding a passion that also pays well.
There are no guarantees in life. Everything is uncertain. But we can use this to our advantage when we create many positive skew opportunities. We can never count on any one opportunity to pan out, but if we create enough of them, then we can greatly increase the probability of very good outcomes.
To learn more about positive skew check out this post in our Evolutionomics Blog: https://www.wequil.com/post/positive-skew
The culmination of finding our specific knowledge, knowing what we know, and creating positive skew, is a recipe for career building success. We first learn how we best add value to the world...what the world needs...and then create opportunities for making that overlap become a reality.
The first two steps take a lot of time...
Understanding our specific knowledge takes deep introspection. It also takes a lot of honesty, and close relationships with good friends that can help us better understand who we truly are. It takes reflecting on feedback from our bosses, our spouse, our kids, and others willing to share. It takes a lot of listening, and that takes courage.
Our family has a process for learning about ourselves and each other. We call it our Sangha...and you can learn all about it here: https://www.wequil.com/pandaparent
Our daughters are using their blogs to generate and learn about their specific knowledge. Writing is a very fast and effective way to learn. By following their own educational curriculum through Makeshift Homeschool they are learning as much about themselves as they are standard academics. Given our success with this ... writing and blogging is a process for learning and discovering your Specific Knowledge that I highly recommend: You can check their blogs here:
Understanding what the world needs requires letting go of our preconceptions. It also takes a lot of humility, and a willingness to invest a lot of time in our education. The internet has made nearly all of the world's knowledge free...but very few use its power to its potential. Leading minds like great business leaders, scientists, engineers, and many more are out there sharing their wisdom and insights for anyone willing to listen.
We write a lot about what we learn from the world's leading minds. You can find pieces here on thinkers and entrepreneurs like Peter Theil, concepts like mental models, and new innovations reshaping the future like machine learning. It's all out there.
Only after we know who we are and where we fit in can we really make the most of positive skew opportunities. Thankfully...that last step doesn't take much time at all!
Strategies for Creating Positive Skew Opportunities
Positive skew opportunities cost almost nothing but can create tremendous value. Like a seed we plant in the ground...it may not survive, but if it does it may thrive. There are many sources of positive skew opportunities, but they all come down to relationships.
We forget sometimes that at the end of the day...everything that we create, and our greatest sources of happiness all come down to relationships. Your interviews could create relationships. Your colleagues might create valuable relationships. Your neighbors could be helpful relationships. Your spouse could be the greatest of all relationships.
Starting a relationship costs almost nothing...but like the seed we plant, it can make a huge difference.
When you are ready to grow your career you want to start a lot of relationships. Here are a few ways to start:
Share on Social Media
Do lots of interviews
Connect with Leading Minds in your field
Sharing on Social Media is a strategy that has only been around for a decade...so if you believe social media is a waste of time then perhaps you are just doing it wrong. Here are the strategies we have found to be most effective:
Linkedin is arguably the best job searching platform in the world. Use it to grow your professional career by connecting with everyone you meet in a professional capacity, looking for job openings, and marketing your published works. If you don't have any published works...learn to love writing and then start publishing on Linkedin. Many business leaders and other leading minds use this platform to share their insights with the world. You should also.
Twitter gives back whatever you put into it. We follow Leading Minds. Never before have many of the world's brightest thinkers been willing to share their insights in real time...until Twitter. The more we use Twitter the more its AI engine learns what types of information we like to read. You can create lists of Leading Minds categorized by their areas of expertise for fields you have an interest in. Its a tool...that take time to learn to use, but once you learn to use it properly you will find it as valuable as email or Zoom.
Facebook has been adopted by a larger percent of the world's population than any other platform. Use it to create private subgroups to connect with old friends and colleagues on subjects of interest to you. For example, we run two private groups. One on Evolutionomics and the other for Universal Principles. We are able to keep up with far more friends and family this way and control the quality of content by ensuring that those in our groups have a Growth Mindset.
Other platforms may be useful as well. The key is to make the platforms work for you. Know what you want out of them and structure them accordingly.
Doing lots of interviews is the fastest way to generate positive skew opportunities while simultaneously learning about your industry and building valuable relationships.
Interviews are perhaps the fastest way you can learn about your industry. If you have not done at least 10 interviews within the past year at different firms in your field...then you don't really know half of what's going on in your field.
There is a limit to what you can learn from your job. You probably only have one boss...and you probably only work on a few projects at a time. You only get to work with a few people a month and the priorities of your branch may not provide much insight into broader industry trends.
If you were to ask leaders of an institution to take a break from their jobs and spend a day talking to you about where they are having problems, what they need, how they see their business growing, and who they want to help them get there...they probably wouldn't give you the time of day.
But that's exactly what an interview is!
Interview frequently...regardless of whether you actually want to change jobs. Use them to build relationships and gain insights you never could from simply working.
Connect with Leading Minds in your field by reading a lot and reaching out! Don't be annoying, but also don't be afraid to email or connect on social media with thought leaders in areas you find interesting and relevant to your career.
We've found this to be a valuable way to build relationships, learn about the world, and generate leads to new opportunities. You just don't know where these relationships will take you. Remember...there are no guarantees, but the cost is near zero ... so the result is positive skew.
Let's know if you have other suggestions for career building...and feel free to reach out...we love building new relationships!
Joe & Lulu
If you are trying to expand your network and found this article helpful...feel free to connect with us at the links below.