Late Fragments and careers
I’ve just finished Kate Gross’s intensively poignant Late Fragments. Kate died of cancer in 2014, aged 36, and wrote the book as a memoir for her little twin boys. She manages a wonderful balance between huge sadness for the life, and family, that she is leaving and affirmation that even the short spell she had left to live was something to appreciate and enjoy – not by doing a bucket list of activity but just in itself.
Kate was highly ambitious. She had been Private Secretary to Tony Blair in No 10 Downing St, and was running a high profile NGO called the Africa Government Initiative when the cancer struck. She certainly already had a career well launched. I found the following passage particularly illuminating, as she reflects on how careers are shaped:
How I ended up spending my life in this way is really a series of fortuitous accidents. As Steve Jobs said, the difficult thing about careers is that you can’t connect up the dots of your future in advance, only with the benefit of hindsight.
That kind of perspective should help us get away from the rigidity of the ‘vertical ladder’ model of a career which still dogs us. Kate goes on:
My selection of dots – part choice, part chance, part a product of the mental landscape created in my early years – led me to a career in public service. But if I have learned anything in my working life, it’s that virtues and vices are not conferred on you by your job title. The dots that really matter aren’t the ones where you decide what you want to do, but how you want to be.
I’m still not sure if that notion that I push in the PP of a ‘mosaic’ career is really appropriate. One thing I like about it is that mosaics can be designed and redesigned as you go along (I think – tho I sense that some mosaic-makers might shoot me down in flames). What we need to accept is that the dots in the design can have quite sizeable gaps between them; and as Kate says, the design may only appear in retrospect. Even then it might not really make overall ‘sense’ – whatever that means; it’s just that each step needed to be taken at the time it was taken.