We all have our routines, our events and networks, our ways of making sense of the world. It all kind of makes sense in our little patch, we know where things are, and that is why we like it. Nothing new happens here.
I am going to propose something different: Go somewhere else (this might well be virtually). This research is absolutely crucial if you are looking to make changes in your life and your work, as part of your research and networking and exploring where you might fit.
Find out where your field of interest is gathering and playing, and go where they are. Dive into what matters to them. Embrace the discomfort of too many abbreviations and half-forgotten theories from way back when, in a different time and country. See who their luminaries, gurus and hotshots are. Who they like and don’t like, and why. How they see the world and what significance they attach to the same outside reality. Suspend your snappy inner judge for a bit and just roll with it.
I’m updating this post in early spring of 2021, where life is still largely virtual. That actually makes this a lot easier as there are plenty of opportunities to join a webinar and you won’t have to take a half day off from your current job to go somewhere. Find more of these opportunities. Use the flexibility that this online world gives you to research. A lot of this is free. Make the most of it.
Curiosity and genuine interest are always a good look, so whoever you are, and whoever they are, go for it. Get yourself in there. You will be fine. Listen and learn. Whatever you are interested to find out more about – find where people meet, go to their (virtual, for now…) events, conferences, and consume their media, hang out on their platforms. Meet some new people. Network magic is in the weak links, not in the folks who know your jokes and finish your sentences.
The way things are going, these boundaries between disciplines will soften, and we are likely going to work in more portfolio-type of setups. We might have several different careers altogether, as one path weaves into the next, or a disruption resets the dial. You are going to need this, so get your practice runs in. It is also a whole lot more fun to work like that anyway. There are good people everywhere. They might be completely different from you in every way, but you’ll find they are people who care and who want to do something good that makes sense, and who have a craft they hone and that they use to make things better. I always take great comfort in that realization, it makes me appreciate the diversity and vastness of the human family.
What is something you are curious about? Anything that tickles your curiosity? An industry you are curious about? A hobby you are looking to take into something bigger? A passion waiting to become a potential business? Or a friend or colleague with a hobby completely different from your own?
Get your antennae out. So much is happening online and a lot of this is free. Take that time as your R&D time, immerse yourself, make some new friends. If everything goes wrong, you will have stories to tell. If everything goes well, things to read up on and lots of new friends. And even better stories. In every case you will learn more about the new space, the rules there and the people in it.
(I wrote the first version of this in 2018 where most things were face to face and doing this kind of research was time consuming and expensive. 2020/21 is offering much more opportunities to start putting feelers out at a much smaller scale, to learn, meet, mingle. Go use it!)