Happy Sunday. April has been taxing with travel. Despite that, I've enjoyed more time in San Francisco. Depending on what you consume, San Francisco is either Mega City One from Judge Dredd or the Golden Age. My POV is it’s a bit of both with builder energy I haven’t seen since the early 2010s. I'm also doing a Deep Work Q2 and not taking any meetings unrelated to my current ambition (yes, I’m keeping it vague for now). Conversations in SF sparked conversations on setting parallel paths so that’s what we’ll cover this week!
I recently did a fireside chat with the Coho fellows about navigating non-linear journeys. There is no right or wrong way of thinking about it...only your way. When discussing career development, there are usually two types of people: the one that has the next 20 years planned out and the other who has no idea what they want to do right now. Your career is not represented of your life, though it’s a natural place where purpose, ambition, and mission meet in what you do with your life. In recent conversations with founders, designers, and builders, parallel paths come up. I’ll recap my POV on careers before discussing parallel paths.
Your career is an odyssey, not-linear path
Career ladders and frameworks are excellent guidelines to help you focus on the immediate, but the long game is the narrative you craft for yourself. When I think of my career, I simply ask, "What is the story I want to remember looking back on and outliving me?" No company you work for will write it all out for you (perhaps your own though). There will be steps forward, sideways, and yes, even steps backwards. The more of a long-term view of what you want to achieve, the less overwhelming it feels to know what's next.
Build career capital
The notion of career capital can feel cringe worthy; like when thinking about a personal brand. They are ruined by the try hards Twitter and LinkedIn, making the topics feel repulsive. That said, career capital is something you should start building if professional ambitions are important to you. A professional relationship is like any other human relationship. The best ones take time to bloom and are built on the foundation of trust.
Setting parallel paths
In my conversations, there was uneasiness about where to go next professionally. "How should I feel about all the massive layoffs?", "Is Artificial Intelligence going to replace me?", and my favorite, "I don't know WTF I want to do!!!"
When I was deciding on the path post-Webflow, I felt overwhelmed by all the possibilities. It's a privilege to be overwhelmed by different job opportunities and I will call that out. However, it makes things tricky. If I only had one path in one offer, the decision would be simple. What overloaded my mind was thinking about all the permutations of the end state vs. letting things build organically. If you're thinking of looking for a new role, you might feel the amount of work it'd take to even update your portfolio, and prep for interviews...it's a full-time job.
This is where parallel paths come in. Set opportunities in motion that invoke serindipity, but don’t overthink it. The advice I gave my designer friend was instead of feeling like you have to start applying to jobs, constructing your portfolio, and road shows it, let the parallel paths bloom organically. Find an hour or two a week constructing the portfolio or set up conversations with people, but don't feel like you have to brute force it. It's okay to "kinda" like your job as you figure out what's next. When the parallel paths solidify and become more clear, that's when you can hit the afterburners.
Define your paths
I want you to do a little exercise. It will take about 10 minutes. Grab a piece of paper or your software tool of choice. Plot areas like a map where you are interested professionally. Once you do that, list out where you're learning and growing in those areas currently. That's it. Keep this somewhere you can look at every so often to see how your parallel paths are doing.
Let these paths grow organically. I discourage excessive effort because it can detract you from your current work and focus. It’s important to keep doing great work. What you can do is iterate on the paths based on your continued learning. When I set a parallel path for investing, I started angel investing and advising for three years. I did not rush into it, and I still have heaps to learn.
Set parallel paths and see where they grow organically. Don't put additional pressure on yourself.
Tweet of the week
Check out jobs on my Pallet board
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On Non-Linear Career Paths by Mindaugas Petrutis
Poet.so. I used this to create the tweet image above. Seems like Substack and Twitter are still fighting and embeds don’t work. Awesome product.
Thinking Through the AI Hype by Eric Newcomer
Updating your portfolio does seem like a second job when your day job takes up all your time. I love the idea of parallel paths. Tackling the portfolio for a few hours a week to continually make progress towards getting it ready and to start applying. Thanks for the idea!
I couldnt agree more. Thanks for sharing