Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Refuse to Choose! Barbara Sher

I normally stay away from self help books, especially those with “!” or “NOW” and even worse the combo “NOW!” in their title.

But I suspended my disbelief to read Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose!, after it was recommended by Sarah Wilson.

Sher argues that when it comes to careers, there are two types of people out there: scanners and deep divers.

And each type is fundamentally motivated by different rewards:

  • Deep divers are happy with fitting into one defined career path or profession. They seek specialised knowledge, financial security and recognition.
  • Scanners finds it difficult to choose one career and be defined by it professionally. Instead, scanners need to do lots of different things, are always interested in what else is out there. They seek different rewards and often end up having a series of careers and spend their time "scanning the horizon, thinking about their next move."

For someone who has dabbled in a lot of different things and rarely feels completely satisfied in one career, this book really resonated with me.

I have often had the "it's time to buckle down and chose one thing" inner dialogue with myself. Or worse yet, the morally destructive comparing myself with my friends and their seemingly straight forward career trajectories.

Sher writes:

“Almost every case of low self-esteem, shame, frustration, feelings of inadequacy, indecisiveness, and inability to get into action simply disappeared the moment they understood that they were Scanners and stopped trying to be somebody else.”

In her book, Sher breaks down scanners further into different types of scanners and maps out career/life strategies for each one.

I found the advice and strategies quite helpful, moreover it was the sense of relief that I could be put a name to my feelings.

I guess that is what self-books are all about, putting a name to our problems and making us feel understood and part of a community.

I'm still working though some of Sher's advice, which must of course be tempered by the reality of our current economic climate.

While, googling about scanners I came across a great article by Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon who puts Sher’s ideas within the context of the market place.

He notes that the contemporary workplace favours Divers and there are very few employers willing to take risks in terms of hiring practices. Interstingly, he observes that:

“Australia employers in Melbourne are more conservative and less likely to take a risk and hire on talent rather than track record compared to employers in, for example, Sydney.”

That's bad news for this Scanner living in Melbourne!

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