Keep Portland Weird: It’s Good for Your Career

Signs of change are everywhere in the workplace. Few employers now offer the comfortable bargain of the old industrial economy: lifetime employment and a pension as long as you do as you’re told and you follow all the rules.

Even if you wanted to spend your career with just one company, fewer firms will offer that choice in the future. According to a recent Forbes article, 32.6 million Americans will work remotely by 2025, which equates to about 22% of the workforce.

These trends come as no surprise to Seth Godin, author of The Icarus Deception. Godin says the modern workplace habits introduced by the 19th century’s industrial economy – play it safe, keep a low profile, and wait to be chosen – hurt more than they help in today’s connection economy.

Weirdness wins the race to the top

According to Godin, the Internet has changed all the old career rules and brought two new dynamics, a race to the bottom, and a race to the top:

“The race to the bottom is the Internet-fueled challenge to lower prices, find cheaper labor, and deliver more for less. The other race is the race to the top, the opportunity to be the one they can’t live without, to become a linchpin (whom we would miss if he didn’t show up).”

“The race to the top focus on delivering more for more. It embraces the weird passions of those with the resources to make choices, and it rewards originality, remarkability, and art.”

Success goes to those who create art

To succeed in the workplace today, Godin says you must create art by generating ideas that spread and connect with others. When Godin talks about art, he doesn’t imagine a colorful artist like Salvador Dali or an eccentric in a Parisian garret. Instead, art is something anyone can do, no matter what the job.

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“Art is an attitude,” says Godin, “culturally driven and available to anyone who chooses to adopt it. Art isn’t something sold in a gallery or performed on a stage. Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another.”

The new habits needed to thrive

The path Godin outlines is not an easy one. It requires practicing habits – standing out in a group, speaking up in front of the crowd, picking yourself instead of waiting to be chosen – that our culture teaches not to do. But these are skills Godin says you must master to manage your career successfully.

By design this not a book of checklists or a toolkit. That’s okay: There are many other good tactical guides on informational interviews, job-hunting, and other career topics.

Instead, the work of art Godin creates with The Icarus Deception is to offer an insightful analysis of how our economy and workplace have changed and excellent ideas for how to thrive in this new world.