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Growing Your Career - Inventing A Job Is Better Than Finding One

 

I re-watched the movie The Social Network yesterday. For those of you who have not seen it, the movie is about the launch of Facebook and centers around two lawsuits that Eduardo Saverin and the twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss launched against Mark Zuckerberg challenging him about who created Facebook.

The movie script was written by Aaron Sorkin, whose trademark is great dialogue (described as intelligent and rapid-fire). For other examples of this work look at A Few Good Men, West Wing, and The Newsroom.

One quote caught my attention. It is a scene where the Winklevoss twins are pleading their case the Larry Summers, the President of Harvard, about punishing Mark Zuckerberg for violating the Harvard student code of conduct. The twins are not getting anywhere with Dr. Summers about getting the university to crack down on Mark Zuckerberg “stealing their lucrative business idea.

Dr. Summers is getting frustrated with the twin's insistence that he needs to do their legal work.  He then unleashes this great rebuff to the twins:

Everyone at Harvard is inventing something. Harvard undergraduates believe that inventing a job is better than finding a job. So I suggest again that the two of you come up with a new project.

This quote stuck with me because it perfectly captures one of the essential rules of career management in today’s knowledge economy. Inventing your job allows you to

  • Frame the opportunity to meet your skills and experience.
  • Create new value and be recognized for it.
  • Have control over your career.

Creating your job can be done as an entrepreneur (no explanation needed), but it can also be done within an organization.

My career has examples of this.

Years ago, I was a Brand Manager at Kao (formerly Jergens). I had a lunch meeting with our VP’s of Marketing and Sales to discuss the key learnings I took away from a marketing conference I attended. I remember going on quite a bit about how impressed I was with one presenter who talked about how his company was building an integrated go-to-market function that built out account specific marketing plans. He called it Trade Marketing.

 

What I did not realize in my dynamic analysis of how Trade Marketing could help Kao/Jergens was that I was essentially creating my new job. While I had some initial reluctance to moving from Brand to Trade Marketing, I now realize that change opened up so many future opportunities for me.

My other career example involves going done the entrepreneurial path and creating my job by becoming the President of The Frontier Group (now proudly CMP). I talk about this in more detail in my previous blog: Outplacement Advice: Everyone Has A Skill Stack and Should Know How To Use It.

Creating your own job is going to be one of the hallmarks of career management in the knowledge economy.  All of us will need to prioritize skill updating and career reinvention. The easiest path to doing this is going out on your own – either as a consultant, business owner, or part of a start-up.

There are plenty of opportunities to create new roles within organizations – especially around new technologies and analytics. These two areas are greenfield spaces where so many new functions will be created – it just takes some imagination and vision to make them happen.

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