[Geek Pride welcomes guest blogger Katrin Schumann, co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middleborns Can Harness Their Unexpected and Remarkable Abilities, which recently came out in paperback. Read her Geek Pride post on "Sex, Love, Marriage and Middle Children" here.]

This election, all the talk is about jobs: out-of-work Americans are worried about how to find jobs--but what about doing well once you've snagged one? Turns out, at this time of high unemployment and continuing lay-offs, middleborns can teach us some invaluable lessons about success in the modern workplace.

Since the 2008 recession, the employment landscape has been radically transformed. More people are working in jobs that didn't even exist ten years ago than ever before, leaving many college students and older job-seekers confused about next steps. What skills are critical to landing that coveted job? And what tricks can help you hold onto that job once you've got your foot in the door?

Here are some surprising insights we can learn from middles about how to navigate the workplace of the future:

1) In the New Economy, Being a Trailblazer is More Important Than Ever

Did you know that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is a middle child? Middles have the reputation of being wallflowers with lower IQ's than their older siblings, but this sells them short. They are, in fact, more likely to be open to new ideas than firstborns--and more likely to plow on through hard times than lastborns. This fosters the desire to try new and different things, which leads to innovation in fields such as science, technology, and business.

Consider outside-the-box thinkers--and middles--like Bill Gates, or Michael Dell. These trailblazers have created innovative workplaces, and they encourage job growth. It's no longer about being the smartest person in the room, but about being willing to stick your neck out every now and then.

2) You Need Flexibility and Perseverance to Build a Happy and Durable Career

Studies show that people in their 20's change jobs every 18 months; the days of 30-year long careers at places like Ford Motor Company or Bank of America are long over. Middles are not only more able to go with the flow than other birth orders, but also more willing to persevere and stick to their goals. Why? Because being the "neglected middle" encourages their independence and creative problem solving--invaluable skills in today's changing work world.

3) Emotional Intelligence is Critical to Flourishing in the Workplace

Middleborns develop great empathy; in order to get their own way as children, they have to learn to "read" the room, negotiate and compromise. These skills are paramount in the modern workplace of diverse cultures. In this era of information overload, it's not enough to come up with ideas anymore, you have to know how to communicate them and get people behind you. Middles' social savvy and bargaining power make them great team managers.

4) Self-Starters are Far More Successful than Rule-Followers

According to the Kauffman Index, more entrepreneurs launched new businesses in 2009 than at any other time in the past 14 years. In today's market, entrepreneurial energy is the key to a great career. Middles become independent adults because as children they have to search for their niche in a family structure in which they're not sure what their role is. Today at work, unless you have the self-discipline to see things through, know yourself and lead with confidence, you'll have a hard time distinguishing yourself from the pack.

5) Work Involving Caretaking is Among the Fastest Growing Segment of the Job Market

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, over half of the top ten new jobs in coming years will involve helping others, such as being a home health care aide or a medical assistant. Because middles have traditionally been overlooked and underestimated, they have a strong desire to help the underdogs, which often leads them to work as justice-seekers or in the non-profit world. If you're looking for a growing field to focus on, take a page from the middle's playbook and turn your attention on how to help others--thereby ultimately helping yourself.

We need to be increasingly creative when we consider the role of work in the future and how we fit into the grand scheme of things. When old paradigms are overturned, it helps to go back to basics. What do we want and need from work and what do we bring to the table? Consider the qualities middles develop thanks to their position in the family. They are open to experience and think outside-the-box. They persist in the face of obstacles. They are empathetic and generous toward others. And, perhaps most importantly, they are self-starters. These are attributes we'd all be wise to develop.


Katrin Schumann is co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children (Penguin, 2011) and Mothers Need Time Outs, Too (McGraw Hill, 2008). A founder of Every Day Matters: Open Conversations on Modern Parenting, she has been researching and writing about family dynamics for the past ten years. In addition, she works as a freelance editor and book doctor. An instructor at Grub Street Writers in Boston, Schumann helped design and run their program for debut authors, "The Launch Lab." Through PEN New England, she runs writing classes in the Massachusetts prison system. She is a recipient of the Kogan Media Award for her work at National Public Radio. For more info: www.katrinschumann.com.


About the Author

Ethan Gilsdorf

Ethan Gilsdorf is a journalist, teacher, poet, geek, and the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks.

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