We all need a Career Rumspringa
Friday was a day like any other except I was interviewed for a magazine based in Sweden about inclusion. Towards the end of the conversation, I asked the journalist a few questions to better understand his history in the field. He shared that one of the key reasons for his success at the global publication is the strength of his English. After university he spent time living in the United States for fun. Tampa, Florida was where he sowed his wild oats and built his English fluency. I asked him if he was familiar with the Amish concept of “Rumspringa.” He was not.
How about you? The Amish are one of a set of communities that adhere to some lifestyle choices including simple living, plain dress, and a rejection of technology. Broadly speaking, the “Rumspringa” is a period of time where Amish youth (14-16 or 17-21 depending upon the church) are given the choice to explore contemporary society, fully away from the watchful eyes of their community. At the end of this time away they can decide to join the church, which 85-90% ultimately do.
This inspired in me a modest proposal about work. What if we had a Rumspringa in our careers?
I wish we created something intentionally for people when it came to work. Imagine a time after you’ve completed your high school or college career when there is a norm to try different kinds of work in an effort to distill what might fulfill you. I’m recognizing that some people have financial obligations to their children or family even at that point, but still far more people could be happier with the work they did if we changed how we conditioned and pressured young people in considering what work to pursue and when.
Even if we didn’t create a cultural movement towards a vocational rumspringa there are ways that we can show up better for the people we know to enable them to be more fulfilled by their work. Here’s how we can offer the Rumspringa feel for others.
Grant to yourself and others that you should take some time away from ‘the elders’ in your life to figure out what will be a fit for you.
Recognize that it is extremely normal to not yet know what the work future holds, and that many people who express certainty have done so more out of a social posturing or pressure than actual understanding.
Create acceptance in society that it is the norm not to know. You shouldn’t be expected to have much more than curiosity as a graduate. Ideally this means that employers have a better time in locating serious candidates when they conduct a hiring process. They know that those who chose to take time off are making more informed decisions about what they are going to pursue. It isn’t viewed as uncertainty and held against you but respected as an intentional choice that led you to the role that they are trying to fill.
Share the understanding that unlike dating we don’t get to really have similar experiences with work. Much of the work we know firsthand from youth is from a small set of ‘young people’ approved roles. How can we reasonably be expected to make a longer-term selection when (a) so much of what’s possible hasn't been made available and (b) the vast majority of roles and professions are unfamiliar.
It is still incumbent upon each of us to own the building blocks of fulfilling work for ourselves. So, while this is permission to engage fully with your imagination it nonetheless is essential that you allocate time to figure out what you want to explore aka what are the criteria of what would be the best fit for you. For example, a non-desk-oriented role, with flexible hours where I can do something physical or positions that require travel, use my public speaking skills and with a great financial upside if I’m successful. This helps you consider what you might do during your rumspringa.
You make better decisions if placed in the workplace, if not the role, that intrigues you. I’m an advocate for having conversations with people working in the roles or industries that intrigue you. They can offer answers that provide clarity. However, the best way to figure out the culture of a place and begin to get a better understanding of fit is to be there yourself.
There is no bill that’s going to come out that attempts to create such freedoms for the citizenry, but I would ask each of you to consider for yourself and those you care about greater latitude and kindness in making these decisions. By the way, one of the best things about learning how to make such a decision is its utility for the time when your preference changes and you need to make your next informed career decision. They will, and you will be better if you believe in your capacity to make a good pivot.
—Russ Finkelstein [linkedin.com] is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and was chosen as a Generation Z Influencer by LinkedIn.