Do Your Red Threads Match?
When we’re in the middle of a job search, we often get fixated on a single question: “What should I do?” But this can get us off track, and distract us from asking ourselves what will make us feel truly comfortable, powerful, and strong in that job search. This is where your Red Thread comes in.
When Diane von Furstenberg was asked about what she did in her early days before her career took off, she said that she didn’t know what she wanted to do, but she knew the kind of woman that she wanted to be. When you’re eyeing a career shift, you can use the steps of the Red Thread to guide you.
If you’re looking at where you are right now and you’re not sure if you should stay, look at the concepts of problem, idea, and change, and see if they match up between you and your employer.
What does a job search, the Red Thread, and my celebrity crush, Diana von Furstenberg, all have in common, other than me? Stay tuned to find out. I’m Tamsen Webster of TamsenWebster.com and this is Find the Red Thread.
I was on Jay Acunzo’s great Unthinkable podcast the other week and afterward, I got a question from one of Jay’s listeners, and the question was, “How can I use the Red Thread in a job search?” Now, I get that frustration because all of us have been in a position where we are deciding whether or not to stay in our job or leave it, whether we want to stay in corporate America or become an entrepreneur, and whatever that answer is, there’s still that other question that comes afterwards, “Well, what should I do? What jobs should I apply for? What business should I start?” It can be pretty stressful.
The problem is that “What should I do?” can be the wrong question. It can take us off of what will truly make us comfortable, and powerful, and strong in that new job. Now, what do I mean by that? Well, this is where Diane, as I like to call her, comes in, because she said that in her early days before her career really took off, that she said that she didn’t know what she wanted to do, but she knew the kind of woman she wanted to be.
That idea that the movement off of what you want to do to the kind of person you want to be or even the kind of person you already are is an important shift when it comes to what your long-term happiness is going to be, either in a specific job or your career.
I’m not purporting to be an expert at career advice. I have switched jobs a lot in my life, and that’s probably why the Red Thread is so important to me because I wanted to figure out a way to tie all of those seemingly disconnected jobs and positions together. How did I go from working in exhibition planning at a museum to working on fundraising communication strategy at Harvard Medical School? It all comes down to the kind of person I wanted to be, and the answer to that lies in looking at your own personal Red Thread.
When we start with that question of, “Who am I for? Who are the kinds of people that I’m drawn to?” We could also sub in for that question, “What are the kinds of companies that I like?” And I don’t mean just what they do, are they consumer packaged goods, are they a consulting company. I mean, what do they stand for? What do you love about them? What do they do and why do they do it in a way that resonates with you? And if you can’t immediately figure that out, start to look at the pieces of your Red Thread and theirs.
Of course, this means you need to go back and figure out what some of your answers to your Red Thread might be. Start with that question of, “What monsters am I drawn to? What monsters do I slay? What problems do I love to solve?” Do you love to solve the problem of getting things started? Can you solve efficiency problems? Do you solve optimization problems? What about innovation problems? What do you love to do, and what have you consistently done as you look back over the course of your career?
Second question, usually ’cause it’s the easiest one to answer next when we’re talking about the personal Red Thread is, “What are the swords you carry?” What are the skill sets, the approaches, that you bring to bear? Now, this is a place to make sure that you’re not focused just on the nature of the sword.
In other words, don’t focus just on the fact that you’re in communications. If I had focused just on the fact that I had started school thinking I wanted to be a museum director, I wouldn’t be making this video for you right now. It took me a while to figure out that it wasn’t the environment that I was drawn to, it was the solutions that I was drawn to. I loved figuring out how to talk about what made a person, an individual, an exhibition, a medical school powerful. That’s what I loved.
And then the third question is to ask yourself, it’s the one that serves as the idea in the Red Thread, but in a personal Red Thread it really comes down to, “What are your core beliefs, your values?” Those create the maze in which those problems and those solutions make unique sense to you.
So, you don’t have to have a specific answer to any of those questions. You don’t have to have just one answer to, “I only solve this problem.” You can look at the range of problems, the range of approaches that you bring. And that allows you when you’re having a conversation with someone in an interview for instance, to really focus which of the problems you’re going to focus on, on what they do, help match it up, help weave the Red Threads of your problem together with the problems they solve.
And this is where the Red Thread can be diagnostic, as well. If you’re looking at where you are right now and you’re not sure whether or not you should stay, look at those individual pieces of Problem, Idea, Change, and see whether or not they match up, whether or not they align between you and the company that you work for.
If they don’t, your experience might be different, but my experience was if there was some gap, some fundamental gap on any one of those three, Problem, Idea, or Change, that was not some place that I could ever give my best effort to, and therefore it made sense for me to try to figure out where could I be. Eventually, that led me out on my own.
That’s not the right answer for everybody. It’s really about figuring out what works well for you and your Red Thread. So when you’re trying to figure out how do a job search and the Red Thread work together, it’s really a question of how does your Red Thread weave together with the work world around you. And go back to Diane and remember that thing that she said. It isn’t so much about what you want to do, it’s about the kind of person that you want to be. I’m Tamsen Webster of TamsenWebster.com. Now, go find your Red Thread.