THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Embrace instability: The opposite bogs you down

Did you know that frequently changing positions makes you a better prospect? "If a candidate has been at the same company for 10 years or more, you should take a red marker [to the resume], draw a big x through it, and throw it in the garbage," says Jason Davis, a blogger at

Most people, however, do not embrace instability. Even entrepreneurs, the people who you'd think would be risk-takers, are not, really. Most people are thinking of ways to mitigate the risks they're taking, according to Saras Sarasvathy at UVA's Darden School of Business.

So what can people do today to mitigate risk in the face of an inherently high-risk workplace? Make peace with transition. Here's how:

1. Have two jobs at the same time.

The old way to change careers is to quit one and start everything over new– extremely risky, extremely difficult. An easier transition is to start a new career while you're doing the old one.

Marci Alboher describes the nuts and bolts of having two careers in her new book, One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success. She moves between her own set of careers as author/lecturer/writing coach as she tells a wide variety of stories of how people maintain multiple careers.

"Today's strivers are learning how to take what comes before and overlay new experiences on top of that," says Alboher. "Today, a career can be a mosaic."

2. Be comfortable with uncertainty.

Eve Ensler, author of the play The Vagina Monologues and, more recently, the book Insecure at Last: Losing It in Our Security-Obsessed World, thinks one cause of insecurity in our lives is the expectation of being secure. "If you think you'll get to the point that you'll be secure, then you'll be chronically depressed," says Ensler.

Since we can never really be secure, we should instead get away from that myth and learn to be comfortable with that fact. Getting good at dealing with a world that does not provide security is actually a more healthy way to live than trying to find a perfect path.

3. Take time to explore.

It used to be people started exploring when they turned 40, and we called it a mid-life crisis. It seems clear now that self-discovery is something to do throughout life, not just when we're sick of mortgage and marriage.

But this process demands that we check in with ourselves during transition times. Jumping quickly from one thing to another is not as effective as taking time to figure out how you're feeling, and what you enjoy, each step of the way.

Mike Marriner was planning to go to medical school but realized he wasn't passionate about biology. He started Roadtrip Nation, which sends teams of students around the country to interview people about their lives and careers. The idea is to provide inspiration or cautions for people as they consider making a transition.

"Today, there is no transition period," says Marriner. "Everything is very quick, and we are trying to put the spirit of exploration back into American culture."

Roadtrip Nation has become a book, a summer program for college students, and a PBS series, all addressing the idea that transition is serious business, and part of moving into adult life is getting good at figuring out where to go next.


To many people, the continuously shifting workplace is disorienting and discouraging, but really, you just need to reorient yourself and develop personal tools for a new workplace. Transition is an opportunity, and life today contains more opportunity than ever before.