Fabian Pfortmüller on How to Rethink Career and Find Fulfilling Work

In Chapter 6 of 19 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller shares why he challenges traditional career planning thinking.  He feels careers are built upon societal norms and ways of thinking.  He offers instead non-linear options built on modular experiences and a stronger embrace of uncertainty and the unknown.  Pfortmüller finds this approach more fulfilling and in line with his passions and interests.  Pfortmüller is co-founder of Sandbox Network (www.sandbox-network.com).  He also co-founded an innovation think tank, Incubaker (www.incubaker.com), and is part of the group's first spin-off, Holstee (www.holstee.com), an apparel brand for people who would like to wear their passion.  Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its School of General Studies. 


Erik Michielsen: Why do you encourage others to investigate nontraditional careers?

Fabian Pfortmüller: I really believe in nontraditional careers because I don’t believe in careers. And already saying ‘Do a nontraditional career’ means do not the thing that you should be doing or the normal thing and I believe that’s totally wrong. You know the career that is laid out for you and has the several modules where you start at school and you go to university and you have a job and you have a better job and you go from there… I’m not sure if that’s what life’s about.

I encourage myself to really think hard, is that something that I actually want because career the way we know it and I think that’s very prominent here in the US is not defined by yourself, it’s defined by society. And I’m not sure if I want to have my life for the next thirty, forty years laid out by society values, I’d rather have them laid out by my own values. And I can see – I can give you an example that I believe being at Columbia I’m surrounded by lots of really smart kids who – they have the talents the skills to do anything in the world.

So, my question is why should they do exactly that, why should they go and go into classical ibanking, and consulting careers and legal and medical if they have the skills for everything? And I believe it has a lot to do with stability. Career has to do with stability, it’s kind of a widely accepted way of leading your life and I just, I’m willing to take the instability of not knowing exactly what’s coming next and looking at it in modular ways of ‘Well you do first this and then maybe this and then this and then maybe something else afterwards’ and it might not be linear of just going up, it might be up and down and sideways and so on, I think that’s more fulfilling for me personally.