What is a radical career? And does it involve surfing? These were the questions I had when I met up with Sally Hogshead, a noted advertising creative director turned author and motivational speaker. (And yes, she recognizes the humor in her name, so I’m not going there.) Sally’s new book, Radical Careering, explores the 100 best ways to live your work life, all presented in a simple, yet startling original way.
“I come from advertising, so the format of the book to me was inseparable from the content,” says Hogshead. “I know how to communicate with people so they’ll respond. If you’ve been to the career section of the bookstore, you know how awful it is. It’s dark and scary and there’s all these losers hanging out there. I’m not one of those people! I needed something that reflected me.”
Hogshead started her career exploration path after her own ad agency, which opened on Sept. 10, 2001, faced a rough future.
“I learned a lot of lessons; my own path had been seemingly easy, but after 9/11, I realized I wasn’t charmed. Essentially, this is what I learned: you are driving your own train! You have to create your own path and be passionate about what you do; otherwise, you’re just a victim of circumstance. That’s radical careering.”
Get outside your comfort zone. ‘In college, I took a semester abroad in Nairobi where I lived with a tribe. I wanted to find an experience that was 180 degrees from what I was living. If you’ve only seen the world from your own perspective, you can’t get on the other side of the conversation. You have to challenge yourself ‘ taking a public speaking class if you hate public speaking, doing Outward Bound, do whatever you need to do.’
Forget your GPA. Go skiing. “After school, your GPA and your major do not matter, for the most part. What matters is who you become over the course of college. Take a year off, travel, become more capable as a human being, more experienced and bring that value to your job. Work on a ski slope for a season, do something that speaks to you as a person. It’s better than going to grad school.”
Figure out what you’re truly good at and love doing. “And not in an airy-fairy-follow your-heart kind of way ‘ you can’t be outstanding in a field you have no passion for.”
Pro-actively choose what you want to do. “Don’t stumble into something because your dad’s golfing buddy has an internship at Widget Corp., if you’re not interested in working in widgets. Even if it means you struggle more.”
Get an internship. A valuable internship. “If it’s just sharpening pencils, leave. You have to gain knowledge, and once you do, you’ll be able to get or earn more money when you do enter the job market.”
Experiment as much as you can. “One of the biggest mistakes of college kids is how they focus on SHOULD. People say ‘you should stay in a job for five years’ or ‘you should have an econ major (even if you hate econ).’ That’s wrong. Only stay in a job as long as you’re getting as much out of the job as you’re putting in.”
Don’t evaluate a job because they have dental insurance. “You need something that’ll get you results, a reputation and a network of people. Dental insurance can wait.”
Make mistakes. “First job, you’ll make SO many mistakes. You’re going from being a senior at school to being a freshman at your first job. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not putting yourself out there enough. Risk and opportunity go hand-in-hand.”
If you want to change fields, do it. “If you’re not happy, leave, and the sooner the better. It’s like a relationship; once you discover the fatal flaw, it’s only going to get worse.”
Keep breaking rules. “You can be more exceptional in your career by breaking rules than by following ’em.”
Be the dumbest person in the room. “You need to be around people who can teach you and make you step up your game. It’s like playing on the A-Team rather than the C-Team. You’re the star player on the C-Team? Big deal. But if you’re the lowest person on the A-Team, you’re learning, getting the insider scoop and moving up.”