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Are you a digital nomad or a new Danny MacAskill?

© Dan Vojtech
Just graduated? Or looking to move on in your career? It can be daunting but here are some tips.
Written by Harry DaviesPublished on
As you leave university, it may feel like you’ve spent the last few years of your life getting yourself into debt just to find yourself at the other end of it all feeling more lost than when you started.
Sure, it was nice getting access to the family fridge again and the dog was happy to have you back but your chest tightens every time some well-meaning neighbour or elderly relative asks what the plan is now.
The original excitement of returning home is rubbing off, your parents’ affection is waning and they’re starting to resent the fact you've not taken their advice and got yourself a job, a house, a partner and pension plan yet.
The world may have been different in their day but while it may not be all sunshine and job offers today, there’s no reason to lose faith.
New opportunities and pathways are being created all the time, and the digital nomad lifestyle which is fast becoming a phenomenon shows that people can travel to – and work in – exotic locations around the world so long as they have a laptop and a decent wifi connection.
Danny MacAskill openly admits his career wouldn't have been able to exist even a decade ago.
"The internet didn’t exist back then. I would have probably got into a trade, whether that was a joiner or a plumber back in Skye.”
This article – written in English, from Barcelona, using interviews that were done in Scotland and America, then edited in Salzburg – wouldn’t exist without it.
It’s becoming easier than ever to get your work out there and carve your own path.
Industry after industry is developing means of going remote and allowing digital nomads to find success wherever they are and whatever they’re doing, whether that’s as an extreme sports star or a journalist, a social entrepreneur or a designer.
It doesn’t have to be the dog-eat-dog world people make out either, with each development comes unchartered ground to explore and make your own.
For Danny, conventional bike races didn’t appeal. “I’m not really that competitive. Competitions didn’t appeal to me.”
Person working at desk above swimming pool with swimmer inside
You can work at a desk without being in an office
So he took a different path. He identified exactly what it was about biking that appealed to him and exploited it.
“It’s ideas that I enjoy. Coming up with one and working at it until it comes off, or it doesn’t but you gave it a good shot. Coming up with something that almost seems impossible at the beginning and then you try it enough times and somehow you land it in the end.”
It's this attitude has made Danny one of the most successful viral video extreme sports stars in the world and while that might not be the your chosen occupation, persistence and innovation stood the Scotsman in good stead.
We spoke to Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of Business Psychology at the University of London and the University of Columbia. Dr Chamorro-Premuzic is one of the world’s most prolific experts on talent and how graduates can find success once they leave university – whether that's as a digital nomad or in something else that matches their strengths.
What is waiting for graduates out there?
They have a future, which is pretty much the most valuable thing ever. High achievers in their 70s or 80s would give up everything they have built in order to have a future. The main other advantage is that the world of work is much more comfortable and enjoyable today than it was 100 years ago (which is how it still looks like for many people who aren’t lucky enough to live in industrialised nations).
Jobs today can pay well. They can also be interesting. They can also require creativity and fulfil multiple life needs.
Competition is fierce though and qualifications are only a first pass filter. Without them, you can do very little; but without personality, experience, connections, and self-awareness you're not going to get very far either.
Person with laptop at level of trees in a forest.
Tree's company when you're a digital nomad
How can someone ensure their degree takes them places?
We live in a talent economy and the main talent passport is your reputation. How are you different and better from your competitors? I don't like the idea of cultivating your personal brand – it sounds trivial, vacuous and narcissistic – but if your reputation doesn't stand out in a crowded market you’ll only make it if you are lucky.
What’s the most important skill a graduate can develop to flourish after university?
Find how to be more rewarding to work with, capable, and willing to apply yourself. That's not easy, but it's your main competitive advantage precisely because it isn't. The tests we’ve set up on Wingfinder give you tailored feedback as to how you can do this.
What’s the most common mistake graduates make as they begin their career and assess their skills and prospects?
Thinking they're better than they actually are. In contrast, modesty, self-awareness, the right career choices, and hard work will open many doors.
Expect less and give more.
You’re at the beginning of your learning curve and understand that this journey is probably not going to be a straight line. Nothing will open more doors than performing in your current role and being valued by those that you work with.
There’s no one-size-fits-all plan, but are there uniform recommendations you would give to someone trying to work out their next steps?
Self-awareness can go a long way. The better people understand their own strengths, limitations, and interests, the smarter their career choices will be. They’ll end up liking their jobs more, performing better, and staying put longer.
Self-awareness, in other words, is a sorely undervalued talent enhancer because it can help people identify jobs that actually match their values and skills.
Remember: talent is largely personality in the right place. Most talent management problems are solved once you get the right person into the right job. But organisations can’t assume the whole burden of finding those fits.
For individuals to make better choices for themselves, they’ll need some data. In recent years, initiatives like Wingfinder have democratised personality assessments to offer people free, career-related feedback.
The war for talent is partly personal: If organisations want to turn current trends around and start unleashing human potential, helping individuals understand their own talents – and limitations – is a good place to start.
What do you wish you knew when you graduated?
That, from now on, life will only get harder and more complex but the rewards feel even greater.
In a real sense, you’re not ever graduated. It’s a constant flow of learning and adapting and gaining more insight into yourself. Learning how best to leverage your curiosity and creativity, drive and ambition and how to work with others will be the greatest way to put your university learnings into practice and find success.
Take the Wingfinder assessment to find out your strengths and the things that you’re naturally inclined to be good at, as well as the tools and coaching to be even better.