The value of being an outsider

By Neil Patrick

The desire to conform to the expectations of a group is a primal urge for most people. Tribalism is underpinned by conforming to group norms. So being different sets us at a disadvantage – or an advantage if we choose to make it one.

This week I was delighted to be quoted by Marc Miller of Career Pivot in Austin Texas in a post he put together with predictions from several career experts (and me) about the world of work for 2017. Mark had asked us all for our thoughts and I was happy to provide mine.

You can see Marc’s post here:

I was intrigued to see what others had said. My co-contributors were mostly well known to me and I have Skyped, emailed and collaborated with Marc and many of them in the last couple of years. I respect them all and value their friendship towards me - the oddball.

I am the odd man out for at least three reasons:

  • I am a Brit not an American
  • I am not a careers coach, HR person, or recruiter
  • I have no officially recognised accreditations in this field

In fact my day to day ‘normal’ work has nothing to do with careers at all – I am by profession a marketing person.

I chose to set up this blog about the world of work because it interested me. No more. No less. Yet conventional wisdom is that a marketing person who blogs should blog about marketing.

Perhaps I made an elementary mistake. Or I didn’t…

I confess this is post-rationalisation (a dodgy habit at best).

But here’s the thing. I have ventured beyond my comfort zone, I have been stretched. I have learned new things. I’ve not been constrained by years of immersion in a topic. I have come at it like an over-excited kid for whom everything is new and interesting.

I have made many fantastic new friends along the way that I would never have encountered by sticking to marketing. I ask questions that if I knew better, I probably wouldn’t. My personal network has been enriched and diversified. My mailbox is constantly full of interesting things people send me for discussion.

And because I don’t share the same background as others in the field, I come at the subject from a different perspective. And as a marketing person, I know that being different has a special value of its own.

When we are young, it makes sense to focus our network building on our field of specialism. But when we are older and perhaps looking for something fresh and inspiring, we benefit more by venturing into new fields and delight in the discovery of new people and new things. And this restores the excitement in our work which we may have lost way back when.

All it takes is the courage to risk ridicule and rejection. But my experience is that like most fears, this terror exists only in our heads.

On reflection, I have no regrets at all.


  1. Neil,
    You have a wonderful perspective and that is why I included you. BTW, I am not really a coach, recruiter or HR professional and I have no credentials other than I have changed careers so many times that ... I come from the school of hard knocks.

    THANK YOU for participating and being who you are.


    1. Thank you Marc. Being a part of your community is just great. Makes me want to say something about the value of diversity, but that's probably a risk I don't have the inclination to take. at least not today. :-)