The Pond: or how not to drown in the huge digital career pool

lit up water sculpture

When you start out as a digital professional there is always the one question you need to ask yourself: Do I want to be a big fish in a little pond or a small fish in a big pond? It doesn’t matter what career you choose, these are basically the two options you have. Whether it leads to happiness and success is completely up to your own personality and background.
What you have to realise first off, is that it’s not a black or white question. There is a wide grey spectrum that you can choose from and it can even depend on the topic of a project. But it’s a choice you will need to make in your career. I wish it would be as easy as taking the red pill or the blue pill, but life doesn’t work like that.

T-shaped skills

This term was first referenced in 1991 but it still is very valid. The horizontal bar of the T is the ability to cooperate with other people across different fields. The vertical bar is how deep your expertise goes in a field. The ideal person for an employer would mostly be a giant T where both lines are as big as the can be.
If you want survive in the pond, it’s best for you to know what kind of shape you are and play to those strengths. So do a bit of soul searching and find out where you get your energy from and where you can demonstrate your skillset the best way.

Big fish

Being the big fish in a little pond will be good for your ego. You will need to develop skills that no one else has and people will praise you for it. But it’s situation that has the effect of turning you a little complacent pretty quickly because you don’t have to work hard to impress or even educate yourself in your field of practice. Since there is no one to challenge your opinions, you will be the only source of truth for a while. Being in an information bubble is comfortable but will eventually lead to the popping of the bubble. Sof for a time this position is very comfortable but will demotivate you after wwhile or even lead to burn-out if you’re not careful.
The only way to keep this up, is to educate yourself in different fields and keep yourself challenged, after all, in the small pond, no one else will. Traditionally, this is a career path that is steady and will take you pretty far but also pretty slowly.

little fish

On the other hand, the little fish in the big pond will keep you on your toes. You will be constantly challenged by the other fish and will need to be up to date on anything that is thrown at you. In the beginning, you will feel underappreciated and will have to prove yourself. After a while the constant battle will become second nature. Whether this is a good thing, is something that you will need to work out for yourself.
The upside of the little fish option is that you will get a lot of self-worth from bettering yourself constantly. This is hard, but it will make you a better professional in the end. Not only because you will elevate your skillset but also it will train you to go further, harder and higher than your competition.
The pitfall to watch out for here is the fact that you will need to get your motivation from yourself.

Personal choice

What you will do with this information is of course your personal choice. Or you can do what I did and not choose, or rather choose both. In my career, I have had the pleasure of swimming in a lot of different streams. Frankly, I don’t feel comfortable in any of them, so I want to do everything. This means that I need to have a healthy combination of both crazy ideas and far fetched theories but also have both feet on the ground, which has served me pretty well. Whatever you choose, just remember you are awesome!


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