Nonlinear Careers
The Squiggly Career

Nonlinear Careers

Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis present a charming, amusing point-by-point tutorial for those starting out in today’s confusing job market.

In this number one Sunday Times bestseller, Amazing If executives Helen Tupper, CEO, and Sarah Ellis, chief learning officer, maintain that the traditional workplace is no more. They say that a confusing career maze has replaced linear career ladders. With ease and humor, Tupper and Ellis explain how to use technology, lifelong learning and networking to build career success in the modern workplace. Their insights will help newbies, freelancers and traditional office workers discover fulfilling, engaging career paths.

The Financial Times chose The Squiggly Career as its Book of the Month and called it, “Logical, practical and based on tried and tested models.” Stylist explains that it’s “about navigating work in a way that suits you…a timely and brilliant handbook for now.” And Marie Forleo, author of Everything Is Figureoutable, said, “Read it and get the tools you need to thrive in your career now and in the future.”’


Tupper and Ellis recognize that many people find the modern workplace baffling. They warn you to expect to encounter a wide menu of career opportunities and complications over the course of your working life.

Jobs for life are a thing of the past and our career expectations have changed.Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis

They suggest looking into a mirror and asking yourself if you have planned every step of your career and if you are moving up the career ladder? Can you see yourself at your current company in five or 10 years? And, do you plan to retire at the same life stage as your parents?

The authors believe most people will answer “no” to each question and that, depending on your answers, you should make a work-life to-do list with two simple goals: 1) seek professional happiness, and 2) seize control of your career path and future.

To that end, they suggest you list your strengths and spotlight them at work; know and articulate your core values; act and be confident by focusing on your past successes; build your network by cultivating relationships; and invest in your professional development.


Tupper and Ellis entered the workforce fueled with ambition, and both achieved professional success. Yet they recognize that once-linear professional paths have become “squiggly” – following a twisting, circular course rather than a straightforward climb up the corporate ladder.

We realized that careers weren’t really linear anymore; they had become more complicated and complex than that…We realized that the career ladder was gone and in its place was the squiggly career.Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis

Sharing their insights to help people negotiate their own squiggly paths, the two executives launched career-development workshops and created a series of tools to train and motivate modern workers.

Seismic Changes

Tupper and Ellis cite earthshaking changes in the workplace that demand resiliency and adaptability, including automation and the presence of five different generations ranging from age 75 to 25 working together. They report that the new longevity of careers portends that a 30-year-old employee will remain in the workforce for another 40 years and spend about 90,000 hours working amid constant change.

Organizations are looking to hire people who are resilient, adaptable, curious and can demonstrate their ability to learn quickly and succeed in a fast-moving world.Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis

Tupper and Ellis argue that you must turn into “a learn-it-all” to own your career, explore opportunities as they arise and customize your careers path to your unique abilities and interests. The authors suggest that if you are brilliant at something or possess specific talents, those skills and abilities are your super strengths. Your strengths and super strengths, they detail, develop at the intersection of your natural talents and your work experiences.

Super strengths, Tupper and Ellis believe, fuel squiggly careers. To build your super-strengths, the authors recommend seeking stretch assignments, volunteer opportunities and side projects that increase your professional value.

Along with evaluating your strengths, the authors want you to assess and identify your values, which represent your core self and the energy that drives you forward. Knowing your values, they insist, helps you maintain authenticity, build networks and navigate your career path.

Tupper and Ellis stress that the modern job market demands networking, which involves mutual assistance and a pay-it-forward mentality. If you help others, they simply state, others will one day help you.


Tupper and Ellis reveal that confidence is the foundation of your squiggly career and that you can acquire and improve your confidence. They admonish you to reject all self-doubt.

When you are confident, other people will trust and believe in you too.Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis

The authors clarify that confidence makes you more resilient, gives you momentum to make changes and leads other people to believe in you.

New Formulas

Tupper and Ellis teach that traditional workplace models linking employee loyalty to career longevity no longer function. They debunk the formula of “hard work + loyalty = promotion” as antiquated. The authors repeat that your career will involve multiple transitions and thus, you must learn to self-reinvent.

Ditch the ladder, discover opportunity and design a career that works for you.Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis

In this new work universe, they report, expect to maintain fluid relationships with past and present employers. Perhaps, they posit, you might leave one company and later return as a “boomerang employee.”

For Beginners

Tupper and Ellis write with relatable, intelligent charm, which is a good thing, because they offer slight new or groundbreaking content. Anyone participating in the workforce for more than a year has likely already garnered the insights the authors offer. Their insights are best directed toward those still in college, just starting their first jobs or anticipating their first work transition. That audience will find that this provides an amusing, if light, overview of some basic facts of today and tomorrow’s work life.

Other contemporary, irreverent takes on shaping your career include The Career Toolkit by Mark A. Herschberg, Invaluable by Maya Grossman and Pivot by Jenny Blake.

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