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The Shift: Professional Reinvention🕵🏻‍♀️

• Four big trends at work
• Practical strategies for reinvention – meet your possible selves 

How do you reinvent yourself professionally during precarious times? 

A friend has stopped hosting corporate events because of the pandemic and isn’t sure she wants to go back to it, given all the restrictions – where’s the fun? She’s figuring out her next step and doing another job and a ceramics class – enjoying working with her hands. I’m also in transition, not so much reinventing as repositioning myself, so I’ve been digging around to see what resources can help. 

Catch up on this talk on professional reinvention with Herminia Ibarra, a professor at London Business School, if you’re contemplating a career change or thinking about how to redefine your current role. She takes an evidence-based approach and shares some tools and practical strategies (via The RSA Good Work Guild/Polymath Festival).

Four big trends

  • Longevity – we’re living longer, and we want to do different things, so we’ll need to reinvent ourselves a few times – including reinventing retirement. Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott are leading thinkers on this: The 100-Year-Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.
  • Technology is disrupting things – gig work, freelancing, portfolio careers, and remote work – which wasn’t really a thing 20+ years ago when I started working. It’s creating opportunities and changing how companies operate.
  • Work change – the pandemic has disrupted our routines and created space to ask the big questions: what matters? What do you want to do? What is worth doing? It’s also a reminder of our mortality. My neighbour (in her 60s) has quit her corporate job to co-run a brasserie and jazz bar with her best mate here in Hastings. She doesn’t want to spend her life commuting and has more time for herself now her kids are at uni.
  • Social expectations – in a survey of 5000 people (aged 20-60s) asking about a career change, by far, the most significant trend was a shift towards more meaningful work. We want meaning, passion, and balance – and to create our own opportunities.

Professional reinvention is a transition which can be unsettling – but it’s also exciting. 

A psychological and social process:

Moving away from something without not yet having yet left it, while moving towards something without not yet knowing what it is. That’s the magic of it and that’s the challenge of it. 

Transition takes longer than you anticipate, and it’s a messy, non-linear process of experimenting and learning. It’s about knowing what you don’t want anymore, but you can’t pinpoint what you’d like to do instead – or the goal posts are shifting. It’s also under-institutionalised – there’s no set pattern and the steps are unclear.

As she calls it, I’m in the ‘messy middle’ phase – an exciting and challenging period between old and new – oscillating between ‘holding on’ a bit longer and ‘letting go’ and taking the leap. Psychologists call this ‘fertile emptiness’ – you may be busy exploring things or having quiet time to reflect and do inner business. I’ve been doing both over the last year. You can’t shortcut it. Play, explore, and delay commitment.

3 things you can do

Get out there and start activating some of these possible selves. 

  1. Get some side projects – experiment with your ideas. Take on projects at work or advisory roles externally, work with friends, do voluntary work, give or take a class, start a side hustle, write a book, speak to a headhunter… Bring those possible selves to life.
  2. Shift your network – our identity is the company we keep. Find mentors and kindred spirits – this helps generate ideas and shapes the messy middle process.
  3. Make sense out loud – create new experiences and self-reflect out loud to help yourself figure things out. Talk about it with others, it’s hard to self-reflect in isolation. 

As adults, we’re more likely to act our way into a new way of thinking than to think our way into a new way of acting.I love that. Get out of your head and do stuff. It’s a really productive phase of taking action rather than getting stressed about not having clarity or knowing the outcome.

There are all kinds of constraints – financial mostly, and of course we can’t get into every career in our 40s, but from what she’s seen during her research: “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Lots of positive comments about her book Working Identity changing people’s lives along with Charles Handy’s The Age of Unreason.

For more on multiple selves check out psychologist Hazel Marcus.

Follow her research @HerminiaIbarra.

I’m taking a break from publishing the newsletter in August – going on a pilgrimage locally with a friend and seeing my folks – can’t believe it’s been a year! I’ll be on board #Ship30for30 in mid-August and sharing essays on Twitter🚢

Have a great summer!


5 things🖐

📆What really happened in Iceland’s 4-day week trial? It’s complex: this project was about understanding the impact of fewer hours, not specifically the 4-day week. Key lessons: Regardless of the type of work, productivity does not slip if we cut hours. We unquestionably waste time at work (and in the UK, we work some of the longest hours in Europe). We need more trials like this – sign this petition to encourage companies to join the 4-day week pilot in 2022.

Nicole Michaelis’ on teaching content marketing, running a business, and UX writing at Spotify (includes tips and advice). Super practical and encouraging career advice, and she tells it like it is! Fantastic example of a one-page resume that has inspired my own on Canva. 

🤾🏻‍♀️When we allow ourselves to work and live at full throttle, scarcity is bred very quickly. I personally think [it] destroys our psychological freedom and the ability to enjoy the successes that we do have in life.” Dr Pippa Grange on how we can let go of fear and lead more fulfilling lives. I love what she says about the power of small acts of intimacy to unlock teams’ performance (she’s worked with some of the biggest names in sport and business). 

Well done, Simone Biles and Ben Stokes, for taking a break from sport to prioritise your mental wellbeing and have a rest. Physical health is mental health. 

👩‍🎤How the desire to maintain a personal brand may be harming your business. A deep-dive into the darker sides of having a personal brand as a business owner: distraction, burnout, cancel culture and the tricks that followers and algorithms play on you. There’s a lot at stake in the world of the digital entrepreneur. Ellen Donnelly on how creator culture is distracting us from our craft – “at least make your job your job, not talking about it.” 

🛣Remote, hybrid or in office? How to travel the (messy) road to the future of work. As we move to a ‘new’ normal where remote work is possible if not required, it’s important to recognise that the likely leaning toward hybrid work conditions will be a messy road to travel down. Minter Dial on what needs to happen to make hybrid work work. “Trust is the glue that makes remote work work – how trusting and trustworthy are you as a leader?”


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is your guide to running a successful minimalist business🚀 Start living and working on your own terms.

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Categories
future of work remote working work culture

The Shift: Why you need a work wife 🤷‍♀️

A birthday card arrived yesterday from my second work wife – it’s 20 years since our first shift together at Wine Rack in Dulwich. She taught me the ropes, and we bonded over ‘cups of tea’ (you can’t recommend a wine to a customer unless you’ve tried it, a few times.) Eight-hour shifts, so we had plenty of time for deep conversations about everything. I thought she was super glam: tall and blonde in her sharp grey suits (she worked 9-5 in a Japanese bank), and she’d bring in baked fish for supper. 

She was my north star and confidante and made me feel at home in London. I enjoyed those shifts more than my ‘proper jobs’ because we had fun and I had a tribe and community. Whenever I drink wine, I think about our ‘cups of tea’, and when we chat, we pick up from where we let off, no dramas. I’m happy she’s still in my life. 

Are work wives or husbands a good idea? Academic research finds risks and benefits. Katie Heaney has written a history of the work spouse and says we need to lay the term to rest. ‘That we’ve adopted this language for co-workers reflects an overidentification with our workplaces, the result of a culture that recast workaholism as ambition and asked us to lean in and work smarter and stay hungry.’ 

But I’ve found them invaluable. My work wives have kept me sane, made me happier and mentally healthier. After the basics are covered, food and shelter, we need to belong. And they’re not confined to the workplace either. I have a coffee shop wife – the owner of a vegan cafe I’ve been going to since it opened in 2007. I’ve watched her build her business, mother her kids, survive a health crisis, split up with men, and keep going, always a smile on her face. She’s a huge inspiration.

I’m curious to know how you find meaningful friendships when working remotely and doing project work? And in a culture that’s focused on busyness and burnout, leaving even less time for socialising. How do you do it and avoid being a work widow? Elizabeth Uviebinené has some great ideas in her new book The Reset‘we need to ‘invest time in growing our local, work and digital communities.’ 

My current work wife is virtual – we met while freelancing for a client. She’s a graphic designer, photographer and digital marketer, so we’ve teamed up to offer a package for clients looking for digital comms. We’ve hired each other for little jobs and passed work on. She’s a brilliant friend and advisor and challenges me to get out of my comfort zone, i.e. charge more! It’s a friendship I treasure and mostly digital now as we’re no longer in the office. She’s a mum of three and living in a different town, so I go over there to co-work.

Working remotely with friends has its challenges – you have to be super clear on communication, deadlines, feedback, and money when you’re both bosses and mates. It’s new territory to explore, a different way of working, but no less exciting. Good team energy leads to great products and services.

I’m also starting from scratch in a new field of work, building connections and starting small with virtual coffees and Slack chats to try and find common ground. Sereena Abbassi, former Head of Diversity and Inclusion at M&C Saatchi, has some great ideas👇 on networking and mentoring – giving and adding value, so it’s a two-way street. 

I admire Sian Meades-Williams and Anna Codrea-Rado’s working relationship – they’re good mates who have set up the Freelance Writing Awards to celebrate and champion UK talent. They seem to have a lot of fun working together and have each other’s back—lots of banter and silliness on Twitter. The awards ceremony is on 30 June – you can see the shortlist and book your free ticket here.

Have a fabulous weekend. It’s my birthday so I’ll be having drinks later with another work wife – my old boss. Ten years on, and we’re still mates. I’ve even forgiven her for introducing me to my ex 😉 

Nicci


Tools for thought 

👨🏽‍💻 Freelance and microwork platforms not fair to workers (Irish Tech News) Oxford researchers have been looking into labour practices like ‘cloud work’ and found these platforms don’t provide minimum fairness standards for their workforce. A good benchmark if you’re using platforms to find work. The report is a call for better standards as poor practices aren’t visible online, and many lower-income countries won’t push back. You can join the Fair Work Pledge here

📵 Reddit/NoSurf: ‘A community of people focused on becoming more productive and wasting less time mindlessly surfing the internet.’ I love the no-surf activity list: a comprehensive list of awesome hobbies and activities to explore instead of mindlessly🏄🏻‍♀️ like cooking, writing, reading and dancing. What did we all do before smartphones? I’m delighted to find this little corner of the internet dedicated to digital wellness – please share! 

🎧 Sereena Abbassi on how building inclusion starts with empathy (Hive Learning) and using the arts to create a sense of togetherness through feeling. Tips on how you can build inclusion by interacting with people you wouldn’t normally. Know everybody’s name. Do someone else’s job for a day. On networking and how using co-working spaces helped her to avoid becoming ‘institutionalised’ at M&C Saatchi (same applies if you WFH home full time!)

🏢 The problem isn’t remote working; it’s clinging to office-based practices (The Guardian). Alexia Cambon on how maintaining this way of working in a remote environment is causing damage to employees. ‘We need to stop designing work around location and start designing work around human behaviour. Employees will work better, stay at their organisation longer and keep healthier if they are placed at the centre of work design – trust me; we have the data that proves it.’

🦅 The rise of ‘third workplaces (Axios). People aren’t working from the office, but they’re not working from home either. We’re seeing the rise of ‘third workplaces’ — teleworking spots in cafes, hotels, or co-working spaces where you can rent space by the hour. I’ve signed up with Flown, the Airbnb for teleworkers. Book yourself into a remote-work-ready property in the UK, Spain or Portugal. Plus virtual co-working and a library of deep work resources.

Just don’t curate your day too much 🤔 


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter about humans, technology and wellness. Rethinking how we live, work + play. Weekly curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️

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To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups 🌍