Is it Time to Innovate Your Job?

This is just off the top of my head, so I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but here are some of the jobs that I’ve had:

Strawberry picker, warehouse worker in a pottery factory, church janitor, , house painter, circuit board assembler, babysitter, lawn mower, DJ, radio assistant music director, college food services worker, feed mill hand, radio program director, radio station manager, guy that fed raw wool into a big machine that made one layer of a mattress, feed mill feed mixer, radio sales manager, guy that photocopied papers for an economics professor to send to other economics profesors, construction worker, photocopier salesperson, industrial water treatment consultant, professional normal control, spreadsheet programmer for a sheep tannery, director of student recruitment for a polytechnic, sales & marketing manager for a software startup, university tutor, research assistant, management consultant.

And right now, my linkedin profile has four jobs listed:

  • Senior Lecturer in Innovation Management at The University of Queensland Business School
  • Managing Editor of Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice
  • Owner of the Innovation Leadership Blog
  • Consultant for UQBS Consulting

In short, I’ve had a few jobs.

And in my experience, I’ve always left a job too late rather than too soon.

All these years, I could have used Sarah Peck’s One-Page Career Cheat Sheet (see the full-sized version here):

Peck’s blog is outstanding, and I suggest that you check it out.

I’ve talked before about how if there is a gap between where we are and where we want to be, then we need to innovate. While this is true for organisations, I think it’s also true for people.

John and I interviewed a CEO this morning for a consulting job that we’re working on, and he said:

You can’t reach a desired future state if you don’t know what your current state is.

And this is where Peck’s Cheat Sheet is so valuable – it can help you map the current state of your career.

I know that the economy is tough everywhere right now, so it might not be the best time to be thinking about changing jobs. However, if you’ve found your way to this particular blog, it’s likely that you’re lucky enough to have some choice about what you do.

If I told you which of the jobs on that list were my favourites, my response would probably surprise you. My best jobs haven’t always been the ones that sounded the most interesting. The best jobs have been the ones where I’ve been challenged, where I’ve learned a lot, and when I’ve had great people to work with. Not many have all three.

My situation now is interesting. On the one hand, it’s frustrating that I had to go through so many different jobs to find the one that I love. On the other, I’m fortunate that I finally did find that one.

The real secret with my current set of jobs, though, is that I’ve basically built my own job. I innovated it, and I’ve come up with a set of responsibilities and opportunities that is unique.

So take Sarah Peck’s test. If you’re not happy with the results, it’s time to innovate your job. The best way to do this is to build your own.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “Is it Time to Innovate Your Job?

  1. When we don’t know where we really are, we can’t plot a route to where we want to be. We’re just wandering in random directions, going with the flow, hoping things will get better.

    And if we don’t know where we really want to be, we might as well be settling for the nearest sushi joint which, as anyone who enjoys sushi will tell you, can get pretty dicey.

    Like you, Tim, I’ve had many different jobs. It can seem frustrating to think it took us as long as it did to find our callings, but the experiences we’ve had made us who we are today. Wouldn’t change that for the world. :)

  2. Like it or not, employees today are much closer to permanent freelancers than 1950-style employees. The savviest employees will create a personal business model that constantly innovates their personal value proposition. Those that do not will find themselves competing for mindless jobs with billions of others.

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