Career Leapfrog: Interdisciplinary Practices

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February 5, 2020

Following my career path may seem like a chaotic game of leapfrog.

In my life of nearly thirty years I have been a(n):

  • painter
  • writer
  • draftsman
  • nanny
  • quality assurance and compliance manager
  • fine art educator
  • teaching assistant
  • salesperson
  • records manager
  • editor
  • roofer
  • tutor
  • program manager
  • house-cleaner
  • human services provider, and a few more things.

Many of these jobs were and are concurrent.

Maintaining an interdisciplinary practice was a key tenet of my formal education and has followed me into my professional life. I have spent more than a decade thinking about the virtues (and failures) of working in the space between disciplines.

To see the connections between my previous jobs, you have to look past job titles and instead take a skill-based perspective. Titles may come and go, but as you progress down your career path, your skills follow you. Often, it is your skills that direct you to a new job.

When it is time to take the next step on that path, it is helpful to have a solid understanding of your skills and how they may apply to a new role (or career). As I began my career as a User Experience Designer, I took an inventory of my previous jobs to find the skills that would make me an excellent UX designer.

This exercise was not only helpful for me, but it is helpful for potential employers, recruiters, etc. For example, it may be obvious to me that as an educator, I developed skills important to UX. This may not be as clear to a potential employer. Articulating how your experience makes you a good candidate for a new job is crucial!

I believe in the merits of a cross-disciplinary team, but I think that interdisciplinary practices drive innovation. Practices such as these rely on adaptability and diversity without sacrificing expertise (there is a difference between an interdisciplinary practice and being a generalist).

If you are interested in taking an inventory of your skills from an interdisciplinary perspective, I developed a worksheet for you. If you're transitioning to a new field or if you want to leverage different skills at your current job, this worksheet will help.

Download the Interdisciplinary Skills Worksheet

In conclusion, following my career path isn't really like a game of leap frog.

Let's instead call it a career pond and watch the ripples.