Career Advice To 20-Somethings: Create Value As A Mobile Creative

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Finding work that fits who you are is rarely easy, especially if you don't fit into the mainstream, and usually it requires a lot of compromises, hard work and dead-ends. But that’s the process.

Establishing a satisfying career is difficult in today's economy, doubly so for those who find life within hierarchical institutions (corporate America and government) unrewarding, and triply so for those burdened with student loan debt and college educations/diplomas of uncertain market value or those re-entering the job market with skills that have been marginalized.

Given that I wrote a book entitled Get a Job, Build a Real Career, and Defy a Bewildering Economy, it's unsurprising that I get emails from young people asking for career advice.

I've also written essays of friendly advice such as A Teachable Moment: to the Young Person Who Complained About Her Job/Pay at Yelp and Was Promptly Fired.

Here is my response to a recent email from a 20-something in a familiar place: burdened with student loan debt, aware that the self-serving institutional shuck-and-jive is false (get a college degree and your future is secure), and uncertain how to proceed.

Here is my correspondent's email:

I wish my faith in our conventional institutions had faded sooner, but I borrowed a lot of money in my early 20s only to find out that most of what I was learning was utterly useless.

But I can't go back. Only forward. So with thousands of dollars in debt aside, and limited experience in the professional world (food service, retail, and industrial construction), where in the hell can I start? I get a lot of the concepts you are proposing. I get the need to create value for people. I've just never really seen it done in a "professional" environment. I've scrubbed floors, calibrated thermometers, bent tubing and made coffee. But intellectually this is obviously not satisfying.

I want to create value, I want to solve problems. Not just for altruistic reasons, but because it is the only thing that seems challenging.

So what would you tell a late 20 something, who's not used to wearing a suit and tie, starting from the bottom, with the intellectual capacity to do more than scrub floors? Because I guarantee you... there are plenty of us waiting in the shadows to exercise our inalienable human right to achievement, collaboration, and freedom.

A lot of us just resent the monstrosity that centralized thinking has created. But we need to put that bitterness aside and come out of the shadows to contribute.

Extremely well said. Here is my response:

You’re right--there’s often very little value created in “professional” environments, which is partly why so many people are dissatisfied/frustrated with their jobs/ work life.

My book Get a Job, Build a Real Career has some suggestions, which I will summarize here.

1. Lower your cost basis (cost of living) so you can live a satisfying life while earning comparatively little money. This starts with the usual drill: cook all your own food, waste nothing, etc. The first bit of advice a successful artist tells people is “get accustomed to poverty.” But low income doesn’t have to mean unhappiness/destitution.

Focus on the highest expenses where you have the most leverage, which is often housing. How can you create value? Lots of small apartment owners can’t find anyone responsible to maintain their building, so becoming that person could drop your rent a lot. Another possibility is rent a house and then rent rooms to responsible people at rates that lower your share of the rent to very low rates. You’re in charge, you keep the place tidy, you select nice, responsible people to share the house and that’s why people will pay to rent rooms in your house. You’re creating value by taking care of all the stuff most people won’t do or can’t do.

2. Find ways to get satisfaction/meaning /purpose in life regardless of the income generated. This could be a community garden, volunteering at a church or school, or pursuing some project of your own that doesn’t rely on others’ approval or money for its success. If “work” isn’t satisfying, at least you have multiple sources of satisfaction/purpose outside of work.

3. As for work, the cliché is, find an endeavor that you would do for fun or after hours regardless of the pay. This “work” will align with your character, aptitudes, interests, strengths and subconscious/unconscious drives. As Carl Jung observed, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

And as Jerry Garcia said, "You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only one who does what you do.”

Finding work that fits who you are is rarely easy, especially if you don't fit into the mainstream, and usually it requires a lot of compromises, hard work and dead-ends. But that’s the process.

4. Trust your network. I’m not good at networking, far from it, but the more people who know you’re a responsible hard-working person who will do what you say you’ll do, and the more people who know your interests, the greater the chances that somebody will offer you some apparently tiny opportunity that might turn into something larger with time.

5. As Drew Sample points out in our recent podcast, sometimes the best way to create value is to work on ourselves, i.e. develop the eight soft skills I list in my book that are applicable to every field of endeavor and are thus always in demand. They require dedication, self-awareness, humility and hard work to acquire. They create value in every field because all fields are now collaborative, networked, global and fast-changing.

6. Set a goal of creating multiple income streams/ways of creating value for others. In terms of living an anti-fragile, fulfilling and relatively resilient life, the ideal arrangement is multiple income streams/value creation in disparate (unrelated) fields, so if one field of endeavor is disrupted then others will still continue since they're not connected to the sector that's been overturned by technological innovation, globalization, etc.

This is what I call the Mobile Creative class--not necessarily mobile in terms of physical movement between locales but mobile between sectors and ways of generating value.

The New Class: Mobile Creatives (May 1, 2014)
The Mobile Creative credo: trust the network, not the corporation or the state.

The Changing World of Work 3: "Full-Stack" Skills (April 15, 2015)

To be honest, I’ve struggled for decades to reach this understanding. I didn’t have any mentors, so I had to mentor myself, which given my lack of experience, was difficult. Sometimes we have to mentor ourselves from the perspective that we’re going to become successful at being ourselves and adding value, regardless of our income. As our own mentor, we seek to advise and encourage ourselves just as we would advise and encourage a close friend.

This advice is not age-specific. The Mobile Creative approach to creating value applies equally to people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and yes 70s.

Drew and I discuss the process of creating value from the perspective of those working outside "professional" institutional environments: The Sample Hour 184: Creating Value.

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My new book Money and Work Unchained is $9.95 for the Kindle ebook and $20 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format. If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via


HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Mon, 02/26/2018 - 23:10 Permalink

"[T]here are plenty of us waiting in the shadows to exercise our inalienable human right to achievement, collaboration, and freedom. 

A lot of us just resent the monstrosity that centralized thinking has created. But we need to put that bitterness aside and come out of the shadows to contribute."


Lose the attitude, first.  What the hell, did someone lock you in a closet?  Part of the problem is no  one made you do anything until you were in you late 20s?  Too late to teach someone how to work by that age.  If you haven't acquired that skill by then, you probably never will.

Katos HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Mon, 02/26/2018 - 23:36 Permalink

THE first step for people into GET OFF their DEAD ASSES and start something! You'd be surprised at how easy it is to find another job, when your already employed! Sitting around waiting for your perfect opportunity WILL have you waiting for life! Get out and start working  , then make your own opportunity! Look for places to rise in the company your in! Every company has a hierarchy! Work towards s management position! Or take your experience you earn and look for companies that pay more for the same or similar work! THE only thing holding you back IS you! 

In reply to by HRH of Aquitaine 2.0

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Katos Mon, 02/26/2018 - 23:41 Permalink

I agree. And this broad sounds stuck up, too. I made good money with a residential cleaning business as my first business. I also learned a lot. I have been self employed for 18 years. The only way I will work for someone else is if I like them, they are a friend, and I have a skill they need.

I am an online reseller. Is it fun? Does it make me jump up and down and feel like a genius? Not really. It's boring but not that hard. I don't have to ask anyone for permission. I live in an area with unlimited potential for mining used stuff (thrift stores and yard sales). If you can type, take a picture, and use a computer you can be an online reseller. I am not up to the level of Craigslist Hunter, but hey, he quit his corporate job and sells both on eBay and at a local shop and is making enough to support four people. Not bad if you show up every morning and get er done.

In reply to by Katos

mkkby vaporland Tue, 02/27/2018 - 15:43 Permalink

What a bullshit article.  Mobile creator???  WTF is he saying.  Everyone should blog for google ads?  Most will make about 10 bucks a year doing that.  Multiple income streams from e-books.  But if you have no experience at anything, what value is your book?

All of my friends made it on HARD WORK.  They started at the bottom and for years did sweaty, dirty work.  With a good attitude and lasting longer than all the whiners who couldn't show up on time, or quit after 2 months.  After years of hard work they were the obvious choice for management because they knew the ins and outs better than anyone else.

College is not a scam if you do it right.  Forget the liberal arts, politics, communications and fine arts.  Get a business degree or STEM.  And if you can't hack the math, don't even start to spend that kind of money.

What many don't understand is working hard is how you pass a test.  99% slack off, complain and quit.  That manager is testing people to see who cuts it and who is just another run of the mill loser.

Network by asking people how they started out.  If you want to be an airplane mechanic, find a few and talk to them.  Not to ask for a job.  Just to ask for information.  Many will help out.  I had fortune 500 executives take 15 minutes to meet with me and offer advice.  All I had to do was ask.

In reply to by vaporland

PT Sonny Brakes Tue, 02/27/2018 - 01:50 Permalink

Oh, I know this wun!  Here, can I haz a turn?

Dear Millenials

Since all money is BORROWED into existence and you have to pay it back plus interest there is not enuff munny to go around, even without you here.  The only answer is to borrow your own munny.  Want a million dollars?  Borrow it.  Then it is yours.  It did not exist before you borrowed it so how can anyone else lay claim to it?  Without your borrowing, it did not exist.

Now you could use a million dollars to build a cheap, new house or buy a Ferrari and that would create jobs.  Tradesmen have to build that house.  Workers have to build that Ferrari.  And that work did not exist until you borrowed imaginary fiat money so you could pay them.  Unfortunately, it does not work like that.

Even though you borrowed the imaginary munny and you will get everything repo'd if you don't pay it back, you still have to work too.  Or you have to convince others to work on your behalf to pretend to pay back the money that did not exist before you borrowed it.

The proper way to do this is to buy some real estate and rent it out to some no-hopers- I mean tenants - so you can get an income stream, pretend to pay down some debt and then you can get permission to borrow moar munny.

The other proper way to do this is to use the money you borrowed to build a business, hire lots of people and then whenever you are on the verge of going bankrupt call the media and say, "Please somebody help these poor helpless mums and dads who work at my factory and are about to lose their jawwwwwwbs!!!"  Use the income stream to pretend to pay down some of the debt, then borrow moar munny and build / buy more businesses and real estate.  Remember, the moar people who work for you, the better the "jobs for mums and dads" excuse works.  Never mention single people.  No-one cares about single people.  The correct order is babies, children, mums, "mums and dads" and nothing else exists.  Single people and ex-es will never help your cause.  Never mention yourself either, although you can mention your family, especially if you have a / some baby/ies / small child/ren.

Also:  banksters, accountants and lawyers are valuable members of your team.  Make sure they all get a decent-sized cut of the loot you "borrow" from the banks.  And don't hire the honest ones.  Honest banksters / lawyers / accountants are for losers and will send you bankrupt faster than you can say "Maybe you should launder a little of that drug money through here so I can pretend to the banks I am solvent this month".  Political connections and charities help too.  Nothing like donating some of that borrowed munny to a nice charity and, oh looky, a govt contract becoz you are a genius, what a surprise!



P.S.  Gentle Reminder / Disclaimer:  You should get your advice elsewhere becoz PT knows nothing becoz sour grapes and PT is a loser.  But PT does know how to add up.  Let that be a warning to you.

P.P.S.  DO NOT try to work and save munny and use those savings to build a business.  PT tried that three decades ago.  It didn't work.  But I might get lucky this or next year ...

In reply to by Sonny Brakes

PT OverTheHedge Tue, 02/27/2018 - 06:00 Permalink

The world started going mad back in the early 2000s.  I could mathematically prove it was certifiably mad back in 2004.  I was freaking out because:

1.  It was not getting any saner - the numbers simply did not add up.
2.  No-one else seemed to notice.  And if I showed the numbers to anyone they truly did not care.

Things are possibly(?) not quite as mad as 2004 but they have one hell of a way to go before the world becomes anywhere near sane.

In reply to by OverTheHedge

Pernicious Gol… Mon, 02/26/2018 - 23:16 Permalink

Be willing to keep working rather than look at Facebook again.

Be willing to work late even when Game of Thrones is on tonight.

Be willing to do what your boss tells you to do without arguing.

There are more but nobody will pay attention anyway.

Katos Pernicious Gol… Mon, 02/26/2018 - 23:41 Permalink

When we were children, our father HAD IS out on the stree selling donuts or candy DOOR to door from the time we were 8 YEARS old! Work is a MENTAL attitude! My father grew up during the great depression, and he knew a "work ethic" wad mandatory for survival! There are 6 of us an all of us have been successful.  Our family was poor, but we turned out 3 doctorates! Work isn' about having a good time, it's about building a life! 

In reply to by Pernicious Gol…

Pernicious Gol… Katos Tue, 02/27/2018 - 00:07 Permalink

I forgot to add... when there's a problem, nobody goes looking for a package of creative. The author means 'creative' in the sense of finding new ways of solving expensive problems. To most young people 'creative' means designing logos, comic books and video games. That kind of creative doesn't put food on the table.

In reply to by Katos

Son of Captain Nemo Mon, 02/26/2018 - 23:20 Permalink

"Career Advice To 20-Somethings: Create Value As A Mobile Creative"

If you want to change it kids... Bring your AR-15 with plenty of ammo to your Nation's Capital that are making all of your hopes and dreams on the back of all that student loan debt "DIE"... And make it the largest open air parking lot in North America with no trace of the "cocksuckers" that brought you there!!!

NoDebt Mon, 02/26/2018 - 23:25 Permalink

What a load of shit.  Here's how you become a problem-solver and make a career for yourself (because I've actually done it multiple times):

1.  Work a shit job.  In fact, work a bunch of shit jobs.  You don't know what needs to be fixed until you've seen the problem.

2.  Figure out a way to fix it.  Doesn't need to be ALL of it.  Just some part of it that you can do better.  

3.  Gather up some money (doesn't take much to start) and turn that into your business.  If done correctly, this will be somewhat of an organic process.  Most important- DON'T do it within the confines of your employer's firm.  They'll own it and pay you nothing if you do.  You MUST strike out on your own.  You will never EVER achieve financial independence working for somebody else.

4.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  You will fail multiple times in all likelihood before you succeed.  Doesn't mean you can't get your clock-punching day job back again if you fail in your first (or first several) endeavors just to keep the bills paid.

5.  Do enough loops through this and you will find your way.  Usually by your mid-30s if you're stupid, like me.  Faster if you're smart.




Son of Captain Nemo NoDebt Mon, 02/26/2018 - 23:40 Permalink


You're a dreamer.  I like what you write a whole lot, but you're my vintage talking to kids that don't have a clue what you and I once had. Worst of which making the choice to ignore the most important signs ( instead of doing the right thing to "protect" what is now completely "GONE"!

Had 17 years to turn the clock back... And instead we allowed these cocksuckers we send to D.C. to replace the "laws of the land" with Section(s) 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA 2012 after they DID "IT"!...

In reply to by NoDebt

Yen Cross NoDebt Tue, 02/27/2018 - 00:00 Permalink

   Sage advice my friend>" You will never EVER achieve financial independence working for somebody else."

  The problem with most people is that they have the attention span of a rock lobster. We both know that hard work and dedication is the recipe for success.

  When you get knocked down, you pick yourself back up and re-adjust your approach. If that doesn't work, you're probably chasing the rising Sun west, and it's time for some "self reflection".

   Libtards always UNITE WHEN IT'S DARK. Just like a hive/nest of vampires.

In reply to by NoDebt

Hongcha Mon, 02/26/2018 - 23:39 Permalink

Very good NoDebt.  Young Amerikans are already learning the efficiencies of tribal life.  Young white men ... your heritage has been taken from you.  You live in a village without walls and without tribal support.  You're doomed if you don't learn how to circle the wagons.

RozKo Tue, 02/27/2018 - 00:28 Permalink

Don't be afraid to clean the nastiest shitter you have ever seen and do it with a smile on your face, you will learn everything you need to know about yourself and nothing will ever be beneath you...

Twee Surgeon Tue, 02/27/2018 - 00:47 Permalink

Dear Charles Hugh Smith ,

        I was vaporized by a shell in Belgium in 1916, all they found was my boots...

        Blown up on a Victory ship in the middle of the Atlantic in 1943........

        Shot out of a ball turret in 1945......

        Shot in the neck in Palestine in 1946

       Corpse left behind and lost in the snow in Korea at the Chosan reservoir in 1950.....

        Went missing after being shot in the surf at the Bay of Pigs in 1961..

       Body left behind under a very rare Mahogany tree in Vietnam , 1966..

       Just went missing in Cambodia in 1973 because we were never there anyways....

       Stepped on a mine in Iraq 1....

       Got captured and decapitated and fed to the vultures in Iraq 2...

      "How can we parlay our current predicament into a brighter future, Mr Hugh-Smith ?"

       Mr Charles Hugh Smith . 'Well Chaps, the first thing you need is a positive attitude, don't let past misfortunes get you down!

      Chin up lad's. Buy a van and a few Chisels, you could easily become a Chiseler, my family did it for generations and I'm alright


      Add value to the system by becoming better Fertilizer for the trees and bushes around you that will benefit passing immigrants

      who are on their way to consume the lands of your fore-bares and Consume all the advancements and and advantages your

     elders built. Think of the berries they will eat on their long voyages.' Best wishes chaps and better luck next time.

      Sincerely yours, Charles Hugh Smith





I Write Code Tue, 02/27/2018 - 00:54 Permalink

The economy is hideous because of globalization and automation.

The job situation is hideous because of the economy.

Millennials have been conditioned to be hideous spoiled brats.

There isn't nearly enough opportunity for millions of "mobile creatives", and only one in ten (at very best) could ever do it anyway.

So what about the rest?

OverTheHedge I Write Code Tue, 02/27/2018 - 05:37 Permalink

I would strongly recommend any youngster today, male or female, get a plumbing apprenticeship. People always pay cash up front when shit is running where it shouldn't, and when water is destroying what it shouldn't.

It is the most appalling job; nothing works, there is never any room to fix / replace anything, and all the parts are crap plastic from china, with never enough spare thread, tolerance or quality, but none-the-less, be a plumber. There will always be water, even if there isn't electricity.

I do all my own plumbing, and I actually have dispensation to swear as much as necessary whilst attempting the job - my offspring have  rich and varied vocabularies, all thanks to plumbing. Despite all of that (or because of it), I say, be a plumber. Hard to find a plumber without any work.

In reply to by I Write Code

Yen Cross Tue, 02/27/2018 - 01:22 Permalink

  The 10 year is going to tag 3.00% next month. Don't be fooled by this buyback hoopla.

 At this point rates are already destroying P/E and P/book ratios.

 This is the last gasp, before the gates get slammed shut.

 The sell side is drunk on fake money, and the credit markets are showing the divergence

Nuclear Winter Tue, 02/27/2018 - 01:32 Permalink

There are only two skillsets that matter in the pre-AI strangulation of the workforce universe:

1. Being creative

2. Problem solving

So pass the word on that reading spreadsheets, drinking lattes, and wetting one's bed are no longer needed.

Panic Mode Tue, 02/27/2018 - 03:18 Permalink

I am amazed that I am still employed for all these years, never one day out of job. I just treasure this job and be prepared one day I will be joining the queue.

Donate Moar Panic Mode Tue, 02/27/2018 - 07:36 Permalink

"...never one day out of job."

Well done slave.  Provide the grease for the war machine.

I averaged 6-12 months between 14 different salaried/contract software jobs.  I always left them smiling and never burned any bridges.  Spent the time on 9 acres fixin' stuff and watching nature till I felt like going back to the machine.  Refreshed, I was always glad to get to work and glad to get the hell out-of-there.

I successfully learned how everybody is a fucking slave and they hate their work.

Now, as I meander around 'between jobs', I am again saddened to see everyone rushing to work and rushing home, and always pissed.  I feel so sorry for them.  Maybe today I'll change the belt and pulleys on a mower while the mad world rushes off to their hated jobs.

If you ever step outside the mad world of work, you will look back at others with pity and wonder...

...what the fuck is this all about?

Many of my retired friends carry the scars of a life long carrier and are simply waiting for death since they are all ill prepared for freedom from the machine.

Decades of dreaming of being free....yet once no longer have the energy to do anything.  And besides, all your friends work.

...what the fuck is this all about?


In reply to by Panic Mode