Ten things you need to know when building your ‘jigsaw’ career

Lizzie Hodgson is a motivational speaker who focuses on inspiring young people to start disruptive tech businesses - and to dream big!

The workplace - and even the idea of work - is radically changing. Much of of this change is driven by the impact of technology, and this brings both opportunities and challenges for everyone. But with this also comes life-long training, up-skilling and an agile approach to work.

Generation Z are unlikely to find a 'job for life'... they're more likely to enjoy a 'jigsaw career', made up of multiple jobs, perhaps in many different industries. We asked Lizzie about the changing business-landscape facing young people and how they can build a jigsaw career, using transferable skills to help them navigate the future of work:

Lizzie speaking at TED X

"At university I worked in the student bar to help with my bills. On graduating, I took a job in a care home to earn money then worked in a pub, before landing a journalist job... which I hated, much to my surprise. I swiftly went to work for Comic Relief. From there, I jumped into magazine publishing, then insurance admin, then web publishing. All this, and I was still only in my 20s.

It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t following the usual ‘graduate programme’ like my friends. Even when they said I’d never have a career if I kept jumping from job to job, I didn’t worry. Instead, I was building up my portfolio of experience. I loved it.

By my early 30s, I was onto job number nine. By the end of that decade, I had also been a speechwriter for central government, founded a tech startup, created a festival, and worked at a digital agency. All the while, I was up-skilling, learning and adapting: I knew I had to ensure I was not only employable but that I was also able to add value to whatever opportunity came my way.

Today I’ve got two more startups under my belt, as well as the imagination, experience, and ambition to go even further in the coming decades. I’m also now a public speaker, sharing my insight and experience on the future of tech, work and society with thousands of people across the globe.

I’ve coined my experience a ‘jigsaw career', something that won't be unfamiliar to Millenials and Gen Z alike! Because the workplace is no longer linear, you’re going to have to adapt and change as the workplace evolves. Huge swathes of jobs and industries are going to disappear or change thanks to the impact of new technology, while other forms of employment are yet to be imagined. But they will and must be imagined - by people like you.

The benefit of having a jigsaw career is that you don’t have to worry so much about finding specific jobs or 'pieces'; just putting the pieces together that fit.

We often feel pressure to find the exact thing that we think we’ll not only do for the rest of our lives but also love forever. What’s more, we tell ourselves that it MUST be the very first piece of our jigsaw.

But how do you know if you’ve found the thing you love or something that you’re great at if you’ve not tried out a range of different jobs? This is why I’m an advocate of trying things out. Give different jobs a go. Say ‘yes’ to new opportunities and hone the skills you never thought you had. All this will help you find what you love to do... or do not love to do! Doing things that feel a little bit out of your comfort zone is just as important as finding that dream job, or in the case of a jigsaw career, a number of dream jobs over a long period of time."

Lizzie's top ten tips for creating and managing a jigsaw career

  1. Your ‘dream job’ will change as you grow and evolve. You can construct the world around the work that you love doing - but be open to that ‘love’ changing.

  2. Have ambition: But try not to be blinkered to other opportunities that might come your way, or that you might create for yourself. You don’t know what you’re good at or enjoy, so put yourself out there to find out, even when it feels really difficult or you’re out of your comfort zone.

  3. When in a job, try to create a development plan with your employer: Tell them ‘I don't know how good I am at X, Y or Z, but I want to learn’. A good employer will want to see you thrive and grow, and it’s in their interest to invest in your skills' development, so seek out and ask for training courses. It’s also in your interests, not only for the job at that time, but future roles too.

  4. That said, don’t be surprised, or disappointed if you don’t enjoy a particular role or job, or if you discover you’re not very good at it. We can’t all be perfect at everything, and while it is a hard lesson to learn, it’s an important one. The trick is to address areas for development as soon as possible - and either work on improving them, or move on. This is an essential part of having a 'growth mindset'.

  5. Evidence your experience on LinkedIn or another CV-sharing online platform. If you’ve not got a profile, get one! The internet is the most important platform right now for all things work, business and employment-related. A jigsaw career depends on being visible to potential employers or customers in the industry in which you are working, or want to work in. This means you need to evidence what you’re good at, or highlight your ambition while building relationships.

  6. Be proactive: Some of the most amazing opportunities with a jigsaw career will come through your own efforts. They won’t magically drop into your lap, so reach out and connect with people, take evening classes, and re-skill yourself. This is where the entrepreneurial mindset comes in. See Richard Branson's tips for success!

  7. Keep an eye on the horizon, but your feet firmly on the ground. I think a strong characteristic of a jigsaw career is for the person building it to always be striving. It’s OK not to know where you’ll be in five years’ time, but keeping a realistic view on where you’d like to be going in the next 12-18 months is important.

  8. Fail, and then build on that failure: Nothing in life is as straightforward as we wish it was. Personal and professional events in your life will blindside you. You’ll get knocked down a good few times over time and it will feel horrible. But these are the things that will supercharge you for the next step, the next opportunity, and the next jigsaw piece. Read more about how you make failure work for you.

  9. A single role will not define you; the accumulation of your experience will. We often get caught up in the idea that we’re only as good as the role we’re in, or have done in the past. I don’t think this is true at all. We are far more than a single job - so keep that in mind when pitching for a new role, or plotting out your next steps.

  10. Finally, remember this: Your jigsaw career can be whatever you can imagine it to be - a fantastic collection of your life’s worth of experiences, insights, ideas, failures, triumphs. And it’s all for the taking.

So grab that corner piece, and start building out your phenomenal jigsaw career.

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