The Dot Theory of Your Career

Note: This is Part 25 of the Ruminations for Aspiring Designers series.

There’s nothing to connect unless you choose to explore the dots.

Just like innovation, creativity or life itself, a career is about “connecting dots” at times. In fact, a lot of times.

When I was in the university, my dots were like this:

Figure 1: I didn’t have many dots in my university years.

When I was on my first few jobs as programmer and software developer, my dots were like this:

Figure 2: An early career in software added a few more dots.

When I quit my IT job and went into a publishing house as an editor, my dots proliferated:

Figure 3: A job in publishing brought along a lot more dots.

My post-publishing career in UX design and design management fermented yet another bunch of dots:

Figure 4: Dots are thriving in the design field.

When, for the first time, I was working in a huge corporation, other dots appeared:

Figure 5: Big corporation gave me very different kind of dots.

When I was working in the creative industry, totally unexpected dots were added:

Figure 6: Unexpected new dots further broadened my experience.

When I joined the public sector, strange new dots were added again:

Figure 7: Public sector offers quite a few profound dots.

The point here is that dots don’t come to you naturally – they won’t be waiting anywhere for you, unless you choose, intentionally or not, to explore them.

The simple fact is:

Connecting dots doesn’t work if you don’t have many dots in the first place.

So connecting dots actually implies two actions: add the dots; connect the dots (and maybe say it exactly like how Skittles commercials say their slogan).

When you think about your personal growth and career path, it almost always makes sense to ask yourself:

  • How many dots do I have right now?
  • How many do I want /need?
  • How many do I plan to have? In 3, 6, 12, 24 months?
  • How many are connected? And in what way?
  • What connections could be there? Why?
  • Which connections might be useful or fulfilling to me?

Making important choices is not often easy. Not all choices are “equal.” Therefore it also makes sense to ask yourself:

  • What’s unpredictable?
  • What are the risks?
  • How do I measure and manage the risks?

Those are pretty hard questions to figure out. And sometimes you can’t – that’s okay.

However, what’s absolutely NOT okay is NOT thinking critically about your dots.

Those famous dots are like data of your career – you derive insights from them and you explore and develop them creatively.

Just like design, your career can also be driven by data, insight and creativity.

What are you dots?


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