Career Advice for Uniquely Ambitious People:
A Decision-making Guide for Uncommon Success
By: Eric Jorgenson
Eric Jorgenson’s Career Advice for Uniquely Ambitious People: A Decision-making Guide for Uncommon Success is a quick booklet (only 26 pages) for any person seeking upward mobility in their career. Jorgenson describes his self-published work as a “living document” to be expanded
upon and revised over the years, corresponding with the development of his own professional insights, as well as the feedback of readers.
The goal he sets out is to provide counterintuitive and unconventional career advice that stands apart from tired adages. Jorgenson gets right to the point and his ideas are easy to digest. His suggestions are categorized into nine minimalist chapters, descending from most to least salient by his determination.
A disclaimer, in the beginning, notes that his advice is certainly not for everyone, given Jorgenson’s personal and professional background is of course, unique to him. At no point, however, does he reference what exactly the specifics of his background are or even provide an “About the Author,” section which would be helpful for the context of his perspective. A quick search uncovers Jorgenson to be the co-founder of Zaarly (now Airtasker), an online marketplace
for companies to discover local service providers. He has since gone on to invest in and advise other startups, host a podcast, and run the business blog, Evergreen. With this context, the limitations of his perspective are better understood. Jorgenson writes with the authority of an experienced friend giving advice, and much like advice from a friend, it is coated with opinion and unsupported by research, which in all fairness, is admitted in the aforementioned disclaimer. From this arises sweeping, unfounded claims like, “Social status is what drives most people, whether they realize it or not.” He confidently asserts the craving for social status to be the reason why employees put up with less-than-ideal professional circumstances. Except for casual mentions of vague life challenges, at no point does he consider the myriad of factors for an individual’s level of perceived ambition, such as the financial stability a job provides regardless of poor working conditions, or the difficulty of self-advocacy, particularly if the employer has an apathetic history. Throughout, Jorgenson presents his ideas as easy enough to implement, without acknowledging the very real barriers a person can face when navigating the workplace. His leading piece of advice is to “choose your manager, not your job.” This idea is compelling. A good manager, from whom an employee experiences reciprocated trust and respect, sets the stage for a more harmonious, fulfilling career, even if interest in the job itself is lacking. If the freedom of choice is there, then following the path of interpersonal compatibility is meaningful advice. However, not everyone has the luxury to wait for the best fit, when the urgency to simply land a job, any job, is of singular importance.
Underscored in chapter three, is the significance of making oneself irrefutably valuable. To be willing to help and or provide solutions is a great baseline approach for any work environment, but the unspoken message Jorgenson puts forth is to manipulate empathy. To make yourself relevant by endearing yourself to employers, thus creating a means of advancement. Perception is the game, rather than possessing a genuine desire to be a team player. Further, still, he writes, “The more ways someone can pick apart your contributions and call you “lucky”, the more ways they can find to underpay you or pass you by.” In theory, sure, but, once more, Jorgenson does not account for biases against marginalized peoples or reference the existing pay gaps between men and women, and that between white women and women of color, where demonstrated value is not rewarded equally. The disadvantage, he posits, is not in systemic barriers (which again, are not acknowledged explicitly), but in “subjective-evaluation environment[s]” like education. This heavily defers responsibility for advancement onto the field of work, rather than onto the discriminatory subjectivity of the humans behind the corporations. The idea of being useful to an employer is better explored in his advice to specialize, to “find a uniquely valuable niche to prosper in,” as conventional career paths are overflowing with prospects, reducing opportunity. Despite his inclination for upward advancement, Jorgenson recognizes that big names in business and flashy careers are highly competitive. As a specialist, you become the source of rare skill and expertise, putting yourself in demand, widening your options, and then improving your ability to “choose your manager.” Unfortunately, some of the author’s better advice was the least expounded upon, like finding a career that will give you autonomy and “let you be proud of your work.” For someone uncertain of their path, he invites the reader to just get started, anywhere. Interests are discovered by doing.
If you are hungry for mobility, then there are worthwhile insights Jorgenson has to offer. His portrayal of ambition, however, is narrow: become undeniably the best to climb the ladder and maximize your pay potential. Yet, ambition is so much more varied. It can be lateral, with goals stretching outward from where you stand. It can be seeking to positively impact hundreds, or even just one person, with little regard for salary. But, again, that is not the ambition of this book: Career Advice is a compact guide for playing the corporate game – with little interest in changing the rules.
About the Author:
Eric Jorgenson is an author, podcast host, and entrepreneur. Ten years ago, he co-founded the startup Zaarly, an online database for companies to source local service providers. Jorgenson runs the blog, Evergreen, which is hub for all things business and startup.
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