If you’re feeling stuck at work, you can quickly fall into a vicious cycle. You know you should do something different with your life, but you’re not sure exactly what. The thought of changing jobs or careers is so overwhelming, and you’re so busy as it is, that it’s easier not to do anything. So there you stay.
Jenny Blake’s new book: Pivot, suggests an alternative: do a series of small moves to see what works and what you like. The volume of bets reduces the pressure on any one experiment to work. You’ll create momentum, and learn enough about yourself, that the right bigger move will be more obvious.
She calls these moves career “pilot projects.” In TV-lingo, a pilot is a test episode that a network evaluates before committing to a full season. It is not just an idea, it is an actual show. But it is pretty close to the “minimum viable product” concept from the lean start-up movement. You commit some resources, but not as many as you could. You put the product out in front of relevant stakeholders, and get their feedback. Failure is OK, because you haven’t invested much, and since you’re trying lots of things, something will do better than other things.
People who’ve read Tara Mohr’s Playing Big know that she talks about a similar concept of “leaps.” These are projects you can try in a two-week time frame that will get you feedback. It’s easy enough to “design at the white board” and have great ideas in your head, but until you see what the world thinks, it’s pretty hard to know the market.
When I interviewed Jenny Blake a few weeks ago, I asked her what sort of career pilot projects she had engaged in recently. She had several (of course!) A career coach herself, she trained several Pivot Method coaches to broaden the scope of people she could reach. She started a podcast — a pilot project that she’s liked so much that it’s become one of her major gigs. She’s also done more random things like learning Spanish so she could work in Argentina for a while next year, and see what comes from having a more international presence.
As I look at my work, I see that I’m naturally engaging in various pilot projects. I test ideas out as blog posts or articles that might later become book fodder. That’s how What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast came to be. While I have my basic time management talk, I’ve been experimenting with some other material within that framework to see what people react to. Reader time-makeovers are about testing the makeover concept, which could go all sorts of different ways (e.g. if I ever do a video series, that is probably what I’d do). I’m learning from various audience engagement activities, such as my time-tracking challenge two weeks ago, or the new weekly newsletter (“A Week’s Worth”). I have no special insight into what people like or don’t like until I put things out there and ask that question.
To be sure, not everything in life needs to be focus group tested. But I’m not really attempting high art here. I’m writing to be useful or pleasurable for an audience of real people with busy lives. Their feedback determines which directions I go.
What sort of career pilot projects have you engaged in? How did they turn out? Did you try anything that didn’t work? (I love the idea of a career book on “windsurfing in Schumpeter’s gale”… but no one else does).