Chosen Futures
  • Who's the New You Online?

    April 13, 2012

    I just responded to someone who asked, "If one were to move forward on a complete and total career change, and one has various online profiles such as Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. -- what should one do with those now 'old' profiles? Given that there would be virtually no one in the old contact list that would be interested in the new career direction, and the profiles are used for professional reasons only (i.e., friends would have no trouble finding you or already know about the change), is it safe/wise to simply delete the old profiles? Is there a waiting period that is recommended? Six months? A year? Two?"

    My reply:  I recommend revising/editing those profiles to make them relevant to the new career; I wouldn't delete them. Here's my thinking: I view any career change as being "a new true story" about oneself, including one's past experience. It may take some thought, and then a little work, to re-vision past experience as prologue to to the current reality, but it's well worth thinking through what is still relevant going forward.  As just one example, I had a client once who was moving from being a veterinary tech to being a computer programmer. I agreed that folks in IT were unlikely to be interested in her ability to give a cat a shot, but then we talked about her ability to make quick decisions in a criss situtation and to do that while highly emotional people were yelling at her.  Those are what we call transferable skills, which are valuable in almost any career and are skills you carry with you wherever you go.

    The so-called "soft" skills are the ones most likely to be transferable to a totally different field: judgment, communication, mentoring, reading between the lines, seeing the big picture, and on and on. On LinkedIn, for example, you can go through your profile and edit past experience to highlight parts of your background which apply to your new career and downplay or omit the more specific skills that used to be your selling points. And of course change your headline & summary to be relevant to your new field. That way your new contacts and colleagues will get an up-to-date message about the value you bring to them.

    Remember also that some percentage of your old professional contacts are also multi-dimensional folks, so updating your profile may give them just the right stimulus to introduce you to people in their circle of influence whom you might want to know - their spouses, siblings, neighbors, friends, old college roommates - who are in your new field.  You'll never know about those connections unless you get the word out through your existing (old) professional network, and even if it's only 10%, that's worth it.

    Twitter can be a different deal, especially if your old handle is specific to your old profession.  But on Twitter you can easily just start a new stream, with a new handle, and do some cross-posts from the old one over time to bring over whatever percentage of folks care to follow the "new you." There's certainly no harm in tweeting about your transition on both streams, and doing that may help you find-tune your new messaging.

    Bottom line:  Think about the message you want to convey now - your new true story - but let both your old and new professional circles know enough about you to give them a chance to think, "Ooh, So and So is even more interesting than I thought. I should pay more attention to her."

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  • Connected to What?

    January 16, 2012

    I still remember the phone number of my best friend when I was growing up, but I don’t know my husband’s cell phone number. Of course his number is in my phone, so I don’t need to remember it, but I also don’t have occasion to learn it by repeated dialing. Is this a gain or a loss? In Hamlet’s BlackBerry: A practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age (HarperCollins, 2010), William Powers brings the wisdom of an eclectic group of thinkers to the plusses and minuses of living in an age of increasing connectedness.

    The book’s title refers to the “tables” Hamlet uses in Act 1, Scene 5 to write down what he has heard from his father’s ghost. We moderns take no notice of this moment; we are used to keeping notes and reminders on pocket-size gadgets. Elizabethan theater-goers, on the other hand, would have recognized these writing tables as a popular new means of coping with the information overload of their time. Powers points out that these newfangled tables actually incorporated two much older inventions, wax tablets and handwriting, and he reminds us that new technology does not necessarily make old technology obsolete. His own favorite handheld device is a Moleskine® notebook, which warms up much faster than any electronic device and offers few distractions from the observation he wants to capture right now.

    Socrates and Plato, Seneca, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Thoreau, and Marshall McLuhan are the mixed group of advisors Powers surveys. The common theme is connectedness, especially how people in previous times of rapid, even chaotic change coped, grumbled, and experimented with new technologies of connection from writing (which Socrates distrusted) to modern media. Powers argues that it often took a generation or two for a society to incorporate a new technology so it would effectively help human beings connect with each without becoming overwhelmed by all the information coming their way. He gives examples of early adopters and proto-luddite skeptics in relation to writing, international mail (in Roman times), printing, railroads, the telegraph, and the increasing speed and density of cities from ancient Athens to the present day.

    Powers argues that we 21st Century humans can be happier and more productive by making choices about how and when to connect with the breadth of information and potential relationships in the world and when to go deep into actual relationship, including relationship with ourselves and our thoughts and feelings. He describes his own family’s choice to turn off their modem on Friday nights and leave it off until Monday morning and the positive results not only in shared family activities but in clearer thinking and greater creativity. His suggestions remind us that we don’t have to wait a generation or two to come up with solutions to our modern (electronic) servant problem, we can thoughtfully choose our own definition of a good life and take steps to live it now.

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  • Wild Voices

    October 20, 2010

    The parrots are wild, free, and noisy.  I usually hear them first, and then I look up to see them wheeling across the sky, calling to each other as they fly.  Is their conversation simply practical?  “I know where to find good berries.  Take a right.”  Are they keeping in touch, chattering about not much in order to let everyone know they’re still with the flock?  That’s probably the truth, but I prefer to believe they are happy, calling out about the sheer pleasure of flying, of being alive, of being together.

    They don’t exactly belong here.  There are no parrots native to San Francisco, but there are now breeding flocks here.  The original birds escaped or were freed, discovered they could do fine here, and they have made themselves at home.  Apparently they have even developed their own San Francisco parrot dialect, so the chatter I hear is distinctive and local.  They feed mostly on non-native plants, and they nest in non-native trees, all of which have been introduced by humans who migrated and settled here.  Parrots have fewer natural enemies here than in their home territories, but the young are certainly vulnerable to the local hawks.

    The first parrots may have been inadvertent immigrants.  By now they have become part of the fabric of this colorful and unpredictable city.  In a sense, we are all also inadvertent immigrants in the unpredictable world we now inhabit.  We live with uncertainty about the economy, about climate change and agriculture, about the safety and reliability of many products of our scientific and technological discoveries.  Too many of us feel isolated, dependent on our own slender resources and savvy, afraid to think too much about the future because we don’t know how we will find our way in this strange landscape.

    The parrots are not isolated.  I don’t believe I have ever seen a lone parrot.  Sometimes when I hear them, I look up and see only two or three parrots.  More often there are groups of five or eight or ten; every now and then I see as many as thirty.  At that point they are hard to count, flying too fast for my eyes to single out each one, but also making the count irrelevant.  They are many, they are together, and together they make an impact.  They make enough noise so I have to pay attention, but they are unconcerned about my opinion of them, attending to what matters to parrots.

    People are not parrots, but we also need our flocks.  The parallels are obvious, yet they bear repeating:  We humans also need each other – certainly for survival, but also because life offers much more pleasure with companions.  We too need to attend to what matters most to us, making noise as we go about our lives, commenting on what we observe, attracting attention from others who may choose to join us.  And we can be surprisingly adaptable, creating new versions of the good life in circumstances we never expected to live in.  The more unfamiliar the territory, the more we need kindred spirits as flying companions.

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  • Remembering Trees

    May 06, 2010

    I've always admired city trees.  Under conditions that are often way less than optimal, city trees do what they are meant to do.  They reach for the sun, they reach for water, they shelter birds and squirrels, and they produce blossoms, pinecones, seeds, fruits so that there will be a next generation.  From the trees' point of view, it's only incidental that they also provide us humans with shade, beauty, and oxygen, making the city a more hospitable place for us to live.

    Over the last few days I have been saying good-bye to three tall, old pine trees outside my office window.  We have been notified that the trees will be cut down on Monday, and I'm grieving the loss of shade and beauty.  When I moved to this office almost eight years ago, branches swept down toward the ground outside my window.  I loved looking out at them.  Then, some years ago, one of the trees dropped a huge branch onto the parking lot, making quite a ruckus as it came down and dented a couple of cars.   The cleanup afterward included pruning back the branches, which means my view now includes a great deal more of the backs of other buildings.  I keep my curtains closed a lot.  After next week I'll probably keep them closed all the time.

    I understand about change.  I understand about aging.  The dropped branch was a reminder that these trees are way too close to the building and to the parking lot, a reminder that we humans haven't given these trees much space or soil in our dense city.  I understand that building owners and their insurance companies worry about liability and damage.  But I will miss seeing green outside my window.  I will miss the big tall trunks.  I will even miss the crows who commented loudly from the branches, distracting me from whatever I was doing.

    Change alerts us, causes us to pay more attention.  Strictly speaking, there will be more space outside my window, but already I feel more closed in, less connected to the world.  As I say goodbye to the trees and thank them for what they have given me, I'm reminding myself to keep doing what I'm meant to do, whether or not conditions are optimal.  I'm reminding myself to keep seeking and creating beauty and connection, human and otherwise.  I'm reminding myself to be grateful for the friends and companions along my way and to thank them for what they give me.

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© 2020 Deborah Gavrin Frangquist, Chosen Futures