Sunday, July 25, 2021

Book Insights 1/3- THE SQUIGGLY CAREER by Helen Tupper & Sarah Ellis

It has been a while I have been contemplating with the idea of writing book summaries. Given the time constraints we all have, book summaries serve as a valuable resource as you can pick the key takeaways and learnings in couple of minutes of your reading. 

This blog is a only a summary note of the book and does not capture the full content and all the details. 
This blog is written for academic purpose, please do provide citation to the book The Squiggly Career, Authors - Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis, Publisher - Penguin Random House, UK.

I encourage the readers to buy the book for a detailed reading. 
It's available on Amazon: 

This book summary is of THE SQUIGGLY CAREER, authors – Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis, published by Penguin Random House UK, which I read (rather listened to it on Audible).

There are total of eight chapters in the book.

·       Welcome to Your Squiggly Career

·       Chapter 1: The Squiggly Career

·       Chapter 2: Super Strengths

·       Chapter 3: Values

·       Chapter 4: Confidence

·       Chapter 5: Networks

·       Squiggly Careers Summaries

·       Chapter 6: Future Possibilities

·       Chapter 7: Squiggly Career Conundrums

·       Chapter 8: 100 Pieces of Career Advices

Welcome to Your Squiggly Career Summary

Today’s careers are no more like Staircase/Ladders, rather they are Spaghetti like Squiggly Careers.

The five career skills required in this modern world of work are:

1.      Super strengths (things you are great at and applying these at work)

2.      Values (What motivates and drives you?)

3.      Confidence (Belief in yourself, build your resilience and support system)

4.      Networks (People help people, build a network based on giving)

5.      Future possibilities (Career plans are things of the past, explore the possibilities and take control)

Chapter1: The Squiggly Career (Summary)

1.      The career ladder analogy has lost it’s usefulness for describing today’s career.

2.      The Who, What, When, Why and Where of Work are all changing simultaneously.

3.      No size fits all approach to career development has become irrelevant and impossible.

4.      No one cares about your career as much as you do. Self-reflection, Self-awareness and Continuous Learning is a must-do and not nice thing to do.

5.      JD (job description) is no more stagnant in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) work environment.

6.      Rethink on your relationship with learning. Identify yourself  as a learner than being a knower.   

7.      9 am to 5 pm schedule is fast disappearing.

8.      Design your own operating system.

9.      Understanding your Why of work will improve your decision making at work and make you feel fulfilled at work.

10.   Five skills which will make you succeed: Super strengths, Values, Confidence, Networks and Future possibilities.


Chapter 2: Super strengths (Summary)

1.      Strengths are the things you are good at. Super strengths are the things you are brilliant at.

2.      Spent 80% of your time focusing on your strengths stronger and 20% of your time in mitigating any specific weaknesses relevant to your job.

3.      Strengths are the combination of your natural talents and learned experiences.

4.      Natural talents are what you are good at. We often underestimate them and the positive impact it has on work.

5.      Ask your colleague/friends/family for three words that describe you (feedback).

6.      Your learned strengths are combination of your work, knowledge, expertise and behaviour.

7.      You can find and evaluate your own super strengths vs strengths by four criteria success, frequency, openness and happiness.

8.      Know what you want people to say about you when you are not in the room.

9.      Ask for strength based feedback – e.g. can you tell me when I was in my best this week?

10.   Take practical action to ensure your strengths are visible and stands out. E.g. Job crafting, taking special projects, team-based strength identification, online presence.


Chapter 3: Values (Summary)

1.      Values makes you YOU. It motivates and drives you.

2.      Values are formed in three phases: spongy, copycat and rebel. They are fully established by the time you reach your early 20’s.

3.      Knowing your values helps you in three ways: a. Knowing your values at work, b. Using empathy and c. Using values as a career compass to make better decisions.

4.      You have 3 to 5 core values which are your strongest motivator, which are ultimately most important to you.

5.      You have a set of value which effects your work and personal life. Values are not for value judgement.

6.      Values can positively and negatively affect you. Hence knowing and making use of values positively will have a productive impact in your career.

7.      Careers must have and must not give clues to your values.

8.      Defining what your values means to you, will help you share them with other people at work.

9.      Understanding others values helps in creating teams with high trust, empathy and where everyone feels comfortable being themselves.

10.   Knowing your values and living them is a work for life. So do revisit them regularly.


Chapter 4: Confidence (Summary)

1.      Confidence is a skill. It can be learned, practiced and improved.

2.      Confidence gremlins holds you back at work and everyone has them.

3.      Work out  to identify the triggers of your confidence gremlins and when it holds you back.

4.      To test and overcome your confidence gremlins, take small actions.

5.      Reward yourself for taking actions towards your confidence gremlins.

6.      Confidence and success goes hand in hand. More successes you get, the more confidence you build.

7.      The three R of building a success mindset: Recognise, Record and Run your own race.

8.      Build your support system around with people who love you, understand you, challenge you and inspire you.

9.      Use confidence boosters to calm yourself down in tense moments.

10.   Our top three confidence boosters are: Watch your words, Be in your body and Practice makes perfect. 


Chapter 5: Networks (Summary)

1.      Networking is people helping people.

2.      In a Squiggly career, your network helps you to develop meaningful relationship, gain access to diverse perspective and build your brand.

3.      Everyone can build a network, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Best relationships are build with authenticity and which is right for you.

4.      To build a brilliant network you need three Ds: to be Discerning, to be Deliberate  and to be Diverse in your approach.

5.      Access the strengths and gaps in your networks by identifying the network you have which supports your current role, future possibilities and personal development.

6.      The best network is build on what you can give, without expectations of immediate gain.

7.      To identify what you can give to a network, start with your strengths and passion and how these can be helpful to other people.

8.      Not everyone will say yes to networking request. So don’t get disheartened and take it personally.

9.      Know what role you are playing in a network: Consumer, Connector, Contributor or Creator.

10.   Developing a network takes time, energy and it is a work in progress.


Chapter 6: Future Possibilities (Summary)

1.      The stage life of education, work and retirement is getting replaced by multi-stage, multi-transitional squiggly career.

2.      Ditch your career plan in favour of exploring future possibilities.

3.      Define your obvious, ambitious, dreams and pivot possibilities.

4.      For discovering a future possibility, be specific what you need to know and who can help you.

5.      Future possibilities focus on your What and career vision focuses on your Why.

6.      Use a vision board (manifesto) to point out what is important for you.

7.      Treat yourself as work in progress to future proof your future career.

8.      People with high CQ (Curiosity Quotient) are better placed to work effectively in ambiguity and uncertainty.

9.      Feedback should be regular.

10.   Grit is more important than talent as an indicator for success.


Chapter 7: Squiggly Career Conundrums (Summary)

Seven common career conundrums:

1.      Should I start a side project?

2.      How do I find a mentor.

3.      What should I do if my organization does not invest in training?

4.      How do I achieve work-life balance?

5.      Should I stay? Or should I go?

6.      How do I build my personal brand?

7.      How can I be a leader, when I don’t have a team?

Should I start a side project?

Starting side projects is becoming mainstream.

Side projects can be related to your passion (hobby), problem solving (unmet needs), or idea testing side project (pilot).

Tips for starting your side projects:

·        Start your side project and don’t wait for perfection.

·        Collaborate with others on your side project.

·        Share your side projects with many others.

·        Learn and leap-frog.

·        Have fun.

One book to read: Do Fly: Find Your Way. Make a Living. Be Your Best Self – Gavin Strange.

One video to watch: Don’t Complain, Create – Tina Roth Eisenberg.

How do I find a mentor?

Don’t limit yourself to one type of mentor (e.g. seniority). Find mentors based on their expertise and not on their age.

Mentoring relationship can be short term or long term, depending on the career needs.

Become a mentor yourself.

While reaching out for mentoring, don’t make it too formal. You can request for informal conversation time on specific areas where you are looking for advice.

It’s not necessary to know all your mentors personally. You can learn from distant learning mentors.

Three self-reflection questions before seeking for a mentor: What do I want to learn and why? Whom I already know who can help me learn what I want to learn or can get me connected to someone? How can I ask for mentoring in a way which is interesting and meaningful to me.

One book to read: Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast Track Your Career. – Sylvia Ann Hewlett

One video to watch: The secret to great opportunities? Tanya Menon

What should I do if my organization does not invest in training?

Take ownership of your own career development.

Apply for grants for funding your own learning, Seek support from your manager/organization (flexibility in time for pursuing learning).

Create your own curriculum from MOOCs.

Create your own learning style and learning community.

Be a learning advocate.

 One book to read: Mindset: Changing The Way You Think – Carol S. Dweck

One video (YouTube channel) to watch:

How do I achieve work-life balance?

What balance means to you, requires self-reflection.

Consider Work Life Integration.

Focus on two inter-related aspects: Feelings and Choices.

Strive to have some control on the time you spend and make conscious choices and decisions.

Choices to make: Get good sleep (7-8 hours), Do exercise, Take a break (have a downtime), Turn off notifications and stop overuse of technology, Make a friend, Don’t be apologetic/guilty.

One book to read: Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder – Arianna Huffington.

One video to watch: How to Gain Control of Your Free Time? Laura Vanderkam

 Should I stay? Or should I go?

Are you Happy? And Are you Learning? (your answer should be yes)

What’s the job after the next job? (think new possibilities, take your time and don’t feel pressurized to take up a role if it does not suit you).

Apply your strengths and your values at work.

Enjoy the journey rather than the destination. (in squiggly career destination is unclear)

Work on improving your working relationship with your manager.

Consider are you running from something in your old role? (if you are running away from something it will impact your quality of decision) Or Are you drawn towards something in your new role? (positive drive will have a long term positive impact).

One book to read: The Start of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career – Reid Hoffman

One video to watch: Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career Larry Smith Ted Talk

How do I build my personal brand?

Build your authentic personal brand so that interesting opportunities and possibilities come to you.

Make your brand visible.

Five personal brand principles: Start with your strengths and values, Being mindful your personal brand is everywhere, Make a positive Impact, Win-win: your personal brand should benefit you and your organization, Invest your time and energy in building your personal brand.

One book to read: The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion through the Art of Story Telling – Annette Simmons

One video to watch: How to Build Your Personal Brand

How can I be a leader, when I don’t have a team?

Time is changing. Organizations are adopting more agile ways of working and are looking outcomes rather than functioning out of organizational chart.

Many organizations are experimenting with Holacracy (a method of decentralized management and organizational governance. Self-governance by team themselves).  (Look up

Successful Leaders have the following qualities in common: Good listener, Self-aware, Stay Curious, Ability to Influence and Persuade others, Invest in self-learning and developing others.

Think laterally.

Lateral leadership ideas – Volunteer yourself, Take up a problem to solve, Become a Mentor, Look for opportunities for gaining exposure to leadership activities, Focus on your strengths and lateral leadership experiences.

One book to read: Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones

Chapter 8: 100 Pieces of Career Advice (Summary)

This chapter has 100 career advices from people who have inspired the authors in their career journey.

Learning Resources from Squiggly Careers authors:

Visit Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis website: Amazing If

Tune into Squiggly Careers Podcast


Happy Learning by reading, watching and listening! 

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  1. Thank you Abhishek for all your efforts in getting the summary readable. Keep posting new book summaries.

    1. Thank you Rajesh for your encouraging comments.

  2. Wonderful content with some amazing insights !!

    1. Thank you Sreeparna. Yes indeed Squiggly Careers is a new paradigm.