It became more and more obvious that our careers are not linear anymore. The world evolves, and we need to adapt constantly. The path towards a career is nowadays, as the book says, squiggly. 

 I found “The Squiggly Career – Ditch the ladder, Discover Opportunity, Design your Career by Helen Tupper & Sarah Ellis more of a guide rather than a proper book, as every chapter is full of exercises, questions, and even places where you can draw. 

Structured in 8 chapters, the book starts with an overview of the workforce today (and by the way, this doesn’t apply only to the UK). In the following chapters, you follow a journey to discover 5 essential career skills that will help you take control of your career:

  1. Find your super strengths – what you’re good at? What are your strengths (both the learned and natural ones)?
  2. Discover your values – what motivates and drives you? 
  3. Overcome your confidence gremlins – how can you improve your self-confidence and build resilience?
  4. Build better support networks – How can you build relationships in a way that works for you? 
  5. Future possibilities – How can you identify future possibilities and take action to explore them in the present? What’s your work ‘why’? How can it help “futureproof your career”?

The last chapters contain lots of pieces of career advice from about 100 people.

How did this book help me?

I spent a fairly amount of effort getting through the chapters and to as many exercises as I can. Not all of them worked for me and I don’t know if you shall follow this book in the order of the chapters, but it definitely made me more aware of my values, strengths, some gremlins I have, and what to look forward to.

Here are some exercises I invite you to do for yourself:

Discovering Strengths:

  1. Take a sheet of paper and a pen and set a timer for 1 minute. Press start and write 20 things you’re good at. Don’t stop until you have 20, even if you pass that 1 minute. It can be work-related, hobbies, or other activities. 

    It might be hard, as we tend to underestimate ourselves, but really, try to make at least 20. This sole exercise is powerful. 
  2. Get at least one family member, one friend, and one colleague and ask them: What 3 words would you use to describe me?

    If you find that you are internally challenged to ask this question, see it as an innocent question. I was scared to ask my mum, but she immediately responded, and the response surprised me.
  3. Think about things that come naturally to you. What do you think you do good, without too much effort? What feels simple to you?
  4. Looking at your past experience (including your CV, photos etc.). What skills have you learned? What did you become good at as a result of learning, effort and practice?
  5. If you did 1-4. Compare those lists, and pick 6 strengths that you feel apply the best to you. Only 6. These are most likely to be your super strengths. 

The Values chapter

This one is quite deep and I won’t be able to reproduce it, but one exercise that made me realise what I do and do not appreciate in the workplace, was this:

  • Take a sheet of paper and split the page into 2 parts.

    Think about your very first job. What did you do there and how did it make you feel? Draw on that paper where your feelings were during that period. Write down the different emotions you experienced and what made you feel that way. Continue this exercise for every position you had.

    It will take you maybe a few hours. But once you did it, note what do you want in your career/ job and what are the career must-nots. This will give you lots of insights about what you really want to look for that will make you happy.

Confidence gremlins exercises

  1. What are you most afraid of at work?
  2. What do you not do at work, but you wish you did?
  3. What negative thoughts do you have about yourself at work? 
  4. Do you see any patterns in the responses to the previous questions? These patterns are most likely your gremlins. What actions can you take to overcome them?

Future possibilities

  •  How would you define happiness for yourself?

    Happiness is ……….
  • If you would write your manifesto, what would that be?

Start with whatever feels right for you, but make sure you are focused when you do it. And if you take the book, my advice is not to hurry, but to go in your own rhythm. It can take weeks, months, or more. It’s a process, like our careers. And once you got what you need, pass the book to someone else.

In terms of rating, I would give this book 8/10.

If you want to explore more from the authors, do check on their website as well.

Enjoy your squiggly journey!