Monday, October 1, 2007

Career 2.0 (A Fish Story)

For those who don’t know, I am leaving EarthLink as part of its corporate restructuring announced in August. My last “official” day is at the end of the month. I’m entering a new phase I’m calling – Career 2.0 – to reflect my focus on social media. Whether I finally wind up working at another corporation, with an agency, or for myself, I know social media will be an integral part of my job.

As a sign of the times, I have created a new Facebook group called “Career 2.0“. I invite others to share their career 2.0 observations with others in this group. From the ridiculous to the sublime, I hope this forum will be a collective diary on a micro level of how we are adjusting or radically altering our career paths to embrace web 2.0. For another perspective, check out the career path of Jeremy Owyang who just started a new job with Forrester.  Feel free to post questions, provide answers or offer comments and suggestions.

I began my the next phase of my career 2.0 journey speaking to a classroom of undergraduate economic students at Georgia Tech here in Atlanta. A professor there generously set aside some time for me to address the topic of career reinvention.

One thing I quickly realized, 40-something may be the new 30, but standing before a bunch of college kids, I am still very much on the plus side of 40.

Undaunted, I started with two stats from a terrific video Shift Happens from Karl Fisch.

1. Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley has said that the top 10 ten jobs that will be in demand in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004. That means that students are preparing for jobs that don’t exist using technologies that haven’t been invented in order to solve problems that no one yet knows are even problems.

2. It is believed that the amount of technical information doubles every 2 years. Half of the technical skills students start learning as a freshman will be outdated by their junior year.

Depending on your perspective, the video is either sobering or exciting, describing a world that is both threatening and promising.

Now career reinvention may be an odd topic for classroom of students who are still working out the invention part. Selfishly, I wanted to learn from a generation more wired into MySpace than “Lost in Space,” who barely know what dial-up access is and who prefer texting to talking.

I handed out a survey to get a sense of how they use they web — from what sites they visit to how often they are online. The answers aren’t that surprising, but I did discover one thing. To them, technology just is. They don’t think about how their Internet habits are fundamentally transforming the way we market, advertise, and communicate. We talk about their expectations and assumptions; they don’t. We post blogs, write thoughtful white papers, conduct and speak on panels about the the power they are wielding; they just want to stay connected to friends and share their experiences online.

Now the Fish Story

To illustrate this point, I turn to a passage from David Foster Wallace’s monumental novel Infinite Jest.

A hoary old fish, hooks and leaders trailing like battle ribbons from his jaw, approaches a collection of loitering youngsters taking their ease by a coral reef. “Hey,” says the grandpa, “how’s the water?” The young fish smile, bob and sway their fins deferentially. “Fine, fine, fine,” they all say. When the relic has swum off and away, they turn to each other and, almost simultaneously, say, “What’s that all about? What’s water?”

Most of us are not yet grandpas, but we all know what water is. Swimming about in career 2.0, I invite you all to jump in — the water is great.

Let me get back to you.

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Posted by Dan Greenfield in 16:46:47

4 Responses to “Career 2.0 (A Fish Story)”

  1. My thoughts – 40 something may seem old compared to college kids, but it is only half way through a conventional career and being in the middle is a good time to think about what you have done so far and what you want to do with the next bit.

    I am in a similar place – done 20 years agency side and looking at the next 20. What I realised was that I don’t want to do the agency of big company thing anymore, I want to focus on the things I enjoy doing and am good at and have the flexibility to build my work around my life (not the other way around). I think it is useful to look at the first half of a career as being about getting to a certain place and gaining experience and the second half as being about cashing-in on this and creating something where you can be at the centre.

    My answer has been to set myself up as an independent – focusing on two things. See

    Don’t know how successful I will be, but I knew if I didn’t shoot for this now, I would probably wind-up on the agency tread-mill until retirement – travelling too much, not spending enough time with the family, enjoying only 25 per cent of the work that I do.

    So – go for what you want to do, with the next 20 years in mind, and don’t compromise!

    Good luck!

  2. Dan Greenfield says:

    Thanks for your insights, though these days 40 doesn’t seem like half way to retirement when everyone wants to retire early.

    I checked out your blog — your introduction sounds eerily similar. I would welcome your input into the career 2.0 discussion group — comments, ways to improve it, people to invite. I am trying to decide whether to have a random comments twitterlike section or should I just twitter my day to day activities and minor observations.

  3. Julie Squires says:


    Unleashed from the corporate corset, where you provided tremendous value and thought leadership to all of us, I predict your guiding voice will take an even more individual tone. The whole world is in transition; you have the platform, the authority and the thoughtfulness to add unique value. And, hey, IMHO it takes the wisdom and steadiness of people with life experience combined with the enthusiam and wild-horse-energy of emerging adults to make it work…just like a family! Eager to see what unfolds for you. Best, Julie

  4. Dan Greenfield says:


    Thanks for your kind words. it’s good to know people are reading my scribbles. :-)


    Like that description — corporate corset

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