A ‘Braided’ Lifestyle

The other day I came across the idea of a “braided” career on Penelope Trunk’s website. Penelope is a founder of multiple start-ups including her most recent one Quistic, a site dedicated to helping people discover their next career moves. She now lives on a farm in Wisconsin with her husband and kids. She has a graduate degree in English, played professional beach volleyball, and taught herself to code. Umm…awesome. I was so impressed by her wide range of experiences and ability to not be pigeonholed by one experience.

About seven years ago, she wrote an article on her website in which she coined the term “braided career.” I so wish I had read this in 2007, when I was 24! I would have been three years out of college, and so in need of this advice.

In this article, she says unequivocally, “The most important thing in your life is the people you love, so you need to figure out how to create a work life that will accommodate that.” It’s an obvious statement, to me at least, but I think a lot of people neglect the nitty-gritty of what this actually means.

She goes on to coin the term “braided career,” writing:

“The best way to make sure you will have time and money to create the life you want is to have what I am going to start calling a braided career. Intertwine the needs of the people you love, with the work you are doing, and the work you are planning to do, when it’s time for a switch.” – Penelope Trunk, Letter to new graduates. And how about a braided career?

Can I just tell you how much I love this term? It’s such a perfect descriptor of this new career landscape many of us are navigating.

I get the impression that this post was tailored to millennials having quarter-life crises, BUT it’s absolutely applicable to anyone at any stage in their career. A key takeaway of this article is that a braided lifestyle is almost always going to be in transition because our needs and the needs of our loved ones are always in transition. It means we can’t be afraid to ditch a 70-hour a week job when it’s not aligning with our values for, let’s say, time with friends and family. We need to not let fear guide our decisions, and instead put our values first.

“It feels like you’re all over the place, it feels like you have no plan, it feels like you’re always about to spend your last cent. But you are learning to create stability through transition. You can become a master of transition and you are achieve the thing you want most: A work life that supports the values you hold dear – time, family, friends, community, passion, and fun.”

For me, the key takeaway is that we must learn to be okay with a constantly evolving career.  Like she says, stability through transition.

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