Reconceptualizing jobs, trades, professions and careers as a series of projects and experiments
September 10, 2022
by Jeffrey Ian Ross, Ph.D.
Jobs, trades, professions and careers typically provide tangible (e.g., economic) and intangible benefits.
But this approach to earning an income often comes with a considerable amount of unstated, unarticulated, unrealistic, poorly articulated and understood baggage.
This baggage includes the numerous challenges and sacrifices that one must make to complete a course of studies, earn a certification, diploma, degree, or licensing requirement one must pass in order to enter the field, possibly finding one or more mentors, and then time in grade to reach a position where one achieves mastery and perhaps some modicum of work autonomy.
The downsides of particular jobs, trades, professions and careers often makes aspirants (i.e., people attempting to enter this type of work), and journeymen (i.e., those who currently occupy these positions) frustrated, stressed or burned out, and may even force them to question why they chose the career path, and consider quitting the job, trade, or profession (e.g., the great resignation), or engage in such contemporary practices known as quiet quitting.
Granted nothing says that you must work your chosen career for your entire life and empirical evidence bears this out. People change professions on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, for many, it may be difficult to exit a career especially if they are used to a particular income level, can’t change their work location, and if their identity is closely tied to the profession.
Short of visiting a career counsellor or reading another book on career development, there are a handful of options that those who are frustrated with their careers might take.
One suggestion, that is rarely advocated, is to reconceptualize work as a series of projects and experiments. This approach is not necessarily unique in professions where the boss or team are trying to solve a problem, or launch a new product or service. But with other kinds of industries and work, there may be opportunities to reconsider ones approach to work in the manner that I am describing.
Well-designed projects (and experiments) typically have a relatively well laid out plan and they have a start, beginning, and end. They also have one or more mechanisms to determine if the project or experiment achieved its objective/s. One of the dominant questions the worker should then ask is did the effort succeed or fail based on the criteria that were established at the beginning? For example, in teaching a class that I have taught numerous times before, I frequently experiment with new resources and approaches to teaching subject matter. I introduce the material, and try to gather feedback. If the new material succeeded I try to determine why and if it failed I want to know too.
Not everyone has the luxury to reconceptualize their job, work, trade, profession or career, as a series of projects or experiments, but some of us do. But this subtle shift, however, may make the difference between career anomie and fulfillment.
How you conduct your work is your business, but having a framework that enables you to cut through the bullshit to better understand what you do may help you better achieve your goals.
Photo Credit: Luther College Archives