A dozen tips about work, jobs, and careers from the Purposeful Work Unplugged speaker series

With September considered an opportune time to consider a career or job change, and with the 2015–16 edition of the college’s Purposeful Work Unplugged speaker series kicking off on Oct. 7, here are a dozen Unplugged pearls of job and career wisdom from last year’s speakers. (More clips are on the Purposeful Work Unplugged site.)

Purposeful Work is a college-wide initiative that helps students identify and cultivate their interests and strengths and acquire the knowledge, experiences and relationships necessary to pursue their aspirations with imagination and integrity.

1. “Don’t work with [fill in the blank]”

Great advice and and even better wit in this exchange between JP Maheu, Twitter’s head of global branding and agency strategy, and George Gallate, CEO of RKG, on Jan. 29, 2015.

2. Careers only look linear in retrospect

President Spencer states a key premise of Purposeful Work, that our career paths are haphazard in reality yet appear sensible and linear in retrospect. The liberal arts education gives students the tools and mindset to make the most of the zig-zag nature of careers.

3. Lighten up on yourself

Jean Thompson ’82, CEO of Seattle Chocolates, interviewed on Nov. 10 by Steve Fuller ’82, chief marketing officer for L.L.Bean, on Nov. 10, says that if she could go back in time she would “lightened up” on her younger self.

4. Leave doors open

Recalling a decision not to pursue medical school, Carol Gaffney ’67, a consulting psychologist who provides professional coaching, tells students not to be dissuaded by how long something might take.

5. Use social media to advance your brand

“Social and digital allows you to create an awesome network,” says George Gallate of RKG.

6. No experience is wasted

Spencer says that her prior job experiences, like litigating cases as a federal prosecutor, aren’t directly applicable to running a college but they certainly inform her work today.

7. Ask questions

“If you do not understand something, just ask. I tell that to everybody,” says Maheu.

8. Add value by adding your perspective

“If you don’t know that it’s always been done one way, you can come up with a better idea,” says Thompson.

9. Have the humility to get better

“They were always looking to improve,” says Gaffney ’67, describing what it was like to see world-class orthopedic surgeons rigorously question each other on their techniques and decisions.

10. Seek out truth-tellers

“You need to find people in your network that will tell you the truth, even if it hurts,” says Maheu.

11. Have a plan to evaluate opportunity

Because the pace of change is dizzying, students should “have a personal plan” against which to measure their opportunities, says Gallate.

12. Accentuate the difference

Asked if she had advice for women who might be in a male-dominated environment, Thompson advises students to “sing the praises of being a little bit different. Different is what we want.”

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