”In the old world of work, we described specific career paths, such as doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur, or writer. In today’s world of work, due to either personal choice or circumstances outside your control, there is a great chance that you will change your work mode at least once in your career. More likely multiple times.“
—Pamela Slim, Body of Work
That means cultivating the ability to adapt. But more than adapt, we can go a step further and find overlooked treasures in our personal and work history to weave a whole new narrative.
In Pamela Slim’s new book, Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together, you are likely to locate yourself on its thoughtful question-filled pages. Award-winning author, business coach and speaker, Pam has touched a nerve at at time when people are eager to use all of themselves in their work.
• What will I regret not doing?
• What dragons do I need to slay?
• What strengths come naturally to me?
• Who are the key people in my circles?
• Is there a good model out there for what I want to do?
• What kind of legacy do I want to leave with my work?
Over the last few months, I’ve found myself recommending Body of Work to nearly everyone I talk to. I did have the pleasure of doing a workshop with Pam, but no, I’m not getting any kickbacks! Something is in the air.
• An HR manager quits her job at a relief organization and returns to her art that she had shelved long ago as she figures out her next move. Despite new job offers, she’s not leaping too quickly. Instead, she’s wondering how she can bring more of herself into her work.
• A food product developer-turned-facilitator is thinking about her work legacy, and is also considering how to find fulfilling contract work that plays to all her strengths, now that she’s gathered quite a few.
• An arts council director quits her job to pursue a love of video and storytelling, weaving it into food, another passion.
Too often we define ourselves by one role here, one role there. In the past, we’ve been almost encouraged to leave our personal life out of our work, creating self-made silos. As such, we might not see a connection between our volunteer life, our hobbies and our work life. Missing those connections means overlooking opportunities for more rewarding work.
• Economic realities are forcing people to rethink and redefine how they work and what they bring to the table. And for many, there’s a growing desire to leave a positive mark on the world.
• In turn, many people want to craft their own role(s) rather than fit into a neatly defined, and limiting, one.
• It’s far easier to create a business or have side gigs, from self-publishing to selling handmade goods on Etsy to offering online workshops.
• Training that used to require a lot of money or being on location is a thing of the past.
• People expect more authentic experiences from businesses, both from their own and businesses they interact with.
Finding your threads
All of these elements and more drive what Body of Work is about. Throughout the book, Pam guides you through various exercises (so grab a comfy chair, a pot of tea and a pen and paper). You’ll take inventory of all the roles you’ve played, define your roots to see how your skills and interests came to be, learn to eliminate fear of embracing something new, and craft a new narrative of your work self. By doing these exercises you can:
• Get personal satisfaction by having a more complete picture of your contributions.
• Have a richer story to use for crafting your own enterprise or getting more of the kind of clients that allow you to use all of you.
• Better sell yourself to prospective employers, not to mention be more clear about who you want to share your gifts with.
Two parts of the book really resonated with me. One was the section on identifying your roots to get a sense of some of your qualities you might be overlooking and how they can be weaved into your work life. For me, reflecting on one grandparent on both my mother’s and father’s side made me realize that my focus on food and my tendency towards making/crafting things goes back to these sources. Only recently have I been more deliberate to remove the walls between those activities and what I call “work.”
The other was embracing the side hustle. “The side hustle is a form of career insurance,” says Pam. “It’s also a way to experiment with new ideas and fields, keeping your brain fresh and active…”
A great example of a side hustle is an architect I met recently. I was familiar with her felt artworks though. After being laid off, she took a job working at West Elm. When they found out about her artwork, they gave her gallery space in the store. Now she’s working at an architecture firm again, but because of her side hustle, where she still works once a week because she loves it, she was able to get valuable exposure for her art.
I can imagine many professionals not wanting to work in a service position, but her open mind opened doors.
Body of Work is a great read for anyone feeling the pull to document, reflect on and put into service all or most of their gifts for a thriving future.
Despite Pam’s many successes and accolades, she is decidedly down to earth, often sharing stories of her own challenges. It’s rare to find someone who speaks with authority, generosity, humor and practicality all at once. This book is very hands on, clearly structured and you are left with a satisfying whole picture of how the parts of you come together. My guess is, you’ll dip into this book over and over.
Pam, who is also a mixed martial artist, is known for encouraging people to embrace “full color, full contact living.” Body of Work asks us to do just that.