Lessons from Darwin

In the midst of the current downturn, there is a cause for celebration in academic circles: Scientists and historians are raising a glass to the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, the evolutionary biologist who brought the concept of "survival of the fittest" into popular culture.

As companies and countries across the globe struggle to find their economic footing, the commemoration feels like a strange reality tv show event to me: Will the outcome of this current market be a changed job market in which only the strongest and most compelling candidates can survive?

In this market, does the process of self-assessment and "finding your fit" fall by the wayside: Does necessity trump career exploration? Is it best to take a job--any job--that comes your way? I don't think so.

I'm no evolutionary biologist by training, but it seems to me that you are more likely to survive in any given position if it allows you to play your natural strengths. Career exploration--and knowing what you do well is a key component of any job search. So is having a great mentor.

Want proof? Take a look at how Darwin's career evolved: before he became known for his groundbreaking research on the H.M.S. Beagle, he made attempts at medical school and studied to become a minister.

How are you positioning yourself to survive the downturn? Will you involve others in your search process? Or will you go it alone? Is your current approach working for you?

Let me know if I can help.

To your success,

(I learned of Darwin's experience through my former supervisor, Patricia Rose, Director of Career Services at University of Pennsylvania, who has been a mentor to me and countless students and employees. Thanks, Pat!)

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