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What's Your Career Choice?

I want to tell you a story that might seem familiar to you. It is the story of George, a friend of mine. George graduated from Law School, found a job in one of the most important banks in the UK and kept working there until he retired. He wasn't passionate about his work; sometimes, he dreaded working there, yet he never considered quitting his job or starting his own business. His parents taught him that a reliable person must keep the same job for their entire life and earn a regular monthly paycheck. So, he showed up every morning, doing the same tasks because he was afraid to take a chance out of his work comfort zone.

On the other side, there was Laura, my cousin. She graduated in engineering and found a job at a tech company while still in college. She was paid well, yet she couldn't imagine spending years in front of a laptop stuck in a cubicle. Laura loved being outdoors, hiking in the forest, and planning trips. So, one day, she decided it was time to move on. She resigned, packed her stuff and moved to Norway, where she started working as a mountain guide. She didn't earn the money she earned from her previous employer, yet she felt happier and more accomplished working the way she liked.

What is the difference between George and Laura? George chose a traditional career, while Laura chose a protean career.

Traditional careers and protean careers represent two different approaches to the concept of work and professional development.

Traditional careers are characterised by a linear and hierarchical progression within a specific field or industry. Individuals in traditional careers typically follow a predetermined career path, often starting from entry-level positions and gradually moving up the ranks. The focus is on gaining expertise and advancing within a well-defined career trajectory. Traditional careers are often associated with stability, specialisation, and clear job expectations and responsibilities.

On the other hand, protean careers are characterised by flexibility, adaptability, and self-direction. Individuals in protean careers often navigate through various industries, sectors, and roles, driven by their own interests, values, and skills. Rather than climbing a hierarchical ladder, the focus is on personal growth, learning, and fulfilment.

Protean careers allow individuals to explore different paths, experiment with new roles, and make choices that align with their evolving goals and aspirations.

Both traditional and protean careers have their own advantages and considerations. Traditional careers provide stability, established career paths, and clear expectations, benefiting individuals who prefer a structured and predictable work environment.

Protean careers, on the other hand, offer more flexibility, autonomy, and the opportunity to pursue diverse interests and passions. They can particularly appeal to individuals who value personal growth, creativity, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Choosing between a traditional career and a protean career depends on individual preferences, goals, and values. Some individuals may find fulfilment and success in following a traditional career path, while others may thrive in a protean career that allows for greater exploration and self-expression. It's essential to consider your strengths, interests, and long-term aspirations when making career decisions.

A protean career might be considered less "fragile", if we apply the "fragility" definition made by Nassim Taleb in his book "Antifragile". Taleb compared two men, one a banker and one a taxi driver (pages 82-83).

Because of the variability of his income, [the taxi driver]” keeps moaning that he does not have the job security of his brother—but in fact this is an illusion, for he has a bit more. [. . .] Artisans, say, taxi drivers, prostitutes (a very, very old profession), carpenters, plumbers, tailors, and dentists, have some volatility in their income but they are rather robust to a minor professional Black Swan, one that would bring their income to a complete halt.

A taxi driver chose a protean career, while a banker is most likely in a traditional one. Maybe being a taxi driver is not so financially rewarding, but according to Taleb, he has more flexibility and is less fragile when opposing forces strike.

What's your career choice?

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