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Golden Guide Career Advice: Be Curious

Lydia Lazar

man sitting atop hill under dark purple night sky

Golden Tip No. 21: Cultivate Your Curiosity

Golden Guide Career Advice is a series from the AMA in partnership with Lydia Lazar, author of Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People. A new tip in the series will be posted each Tuesday—all tips are available here.

Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Everyone always says you need to pursue your passion, but what if you aren’t sure what that is? Don’t worry about trying to define your passion; instead, cultivate your curiosity! Always be learning and engaging the world on your own terms, and you will make yourself into an interesting and successful person.

“Always be learning” is by far the most effective strategy for staying ahead of workplace unpredictability. Even as you continually update and refresh your skills and knowledge in your industry, you should also be giving yourself opportunities to explore completely different fields. Once you are out of school, no one is going to tell you what to study—you’re in control. Read comprehensively in multiple domains, challenge yourself to learn difficult subjects and push yourself to master new skills.

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Consider Elon Musk, who developed four multibillion dollar companies in four diverse fields by his early 40s (software, energy, transportation and aerospace.) How did he do it? By not following traditional guidelines for developing expertise (and, of course, by working incredibly hard).

What is the impact of reading across multiple disciplines? Compared to other experts in a particular field, Musk was able to bring insights from his cross-trained mind to bear on new challenges. This is called “learning transfer” and it enables you to take what you learn in one context and apply it to another.

By giving yourself the lifelong habit of curious investigation of more than one subject at a time, you will give yourself an edge in your own main discipline when compared to others in your field. You will be able to apply insights learned from diverse books or training courses, which can foster your own breakthrough creativity and help you stand out from other competitors.

We know that professionals in the 21st century need to constantly reinvent themselves to surf the waves of change that globalized markets are creating. Why not start now to prepare for the likelihood that you will shift your professional focus multiple times across your working life? You may as well study what you find of interest, and remember to always keep an eye out for changes in the market that may signal possible employment opportunities off the beaten path.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash.


Dean Lazar's Golden Guide

For more career tips, read Dean Lazar’s Golden Guide: Pragmatic Career Advice for Smart Young People, available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. Do you have a career question? Contact Lazar at deardeanlazar@gmail.com—the answer may appear in a future post.

Lydia Lazar is founder and president of LHL Consulting. She is the former associate dean for recruitment and career services at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and previously, dean of international law and policy overseeing international student admissions (LLM) at Chicago-Kent College of Law.