I love observing people.
Often, I am looking for inspiration: How are others doing things? Is there anything I can learn from them? Especially in new settings, foreign countries or when I am with people I think highly of. But sometimes, I simply get lost watching and then my brain takes me places.
Recently, I was at a beautiful, sumptuous breakfast buffet. Enjoying a slow morning, I started observing and bucketing. Let me introduce: the breakfast typology.
- The decisive, efficient one: Comes into the breakfast area, grabs a plate and goes straight to his usual choice. Porridge, scrambled eggs, fruit, or whatever else, often the same as at home. He knows what he wants and does not waste any energy on looking around and getting inspired.
- The decisive collector: Knows what he wants, too, but likes to have several items. Collects the desired food while on his buffet tour and ends up with a crowded table with 3-5 dishes on it (imagine if your company does the same!). The freshly squeezed juice and coffee must be ready to go as well, and only then he starts eating.
- The browsing collector: Has no clue what he wants to eat and returns to the table with a crazy mix of food. Curry, dim sum, fruits, croissant, eggs, smoked salmon – all on one big plate. Might repeat the favorite item, or, take another random walk for more inspiration.
- The experimentalist: Takes a tour to see all food on offer first, and only then decides. Likes to try new things, but on the contrary to the browsing collector, likes to keep some structure to his food selection.
- The wanna-be-experimentalist: Takes a tour to see everything, and then ends up taking his usual at home choice.
- The minimalist: Satisfied with a cup of coffee. Can be a temporary minimalist, just taking a day off breakfast after a big exotic meal the previous day.
The next half an hour I spent guessing the type of each new breakfast guest. Yes – I had a really slow morning that day.
Keeping a mental score on my right guesses, I started thinking about the jobs of the breakfast guests and about careers in general. In some sense, how you go about career choices is not so much different than how you enjoy your breakfast. Do you know in advance which job you want? Or do you screen the market first? Do you interview with many? Do you stay in your industry, geography or function? Or do you switch careers, and how many of the dimensions at once?
You might wonder, what is my breakfast type and does it match my career choice type?
In some sense, it does. I am a disciplined “experimentalist” – I like to see the options and try some new things, but I also know what is best for my body and mind. In the morning, it’s fresh, cold things. I save deep-fried fish or miso soup for lunch or dinner. My experimentation comes from trying new things within my “breakfast domain.”
Similarly, in my work: I am a consultant. However, I can try many different geographies, industries and functions with so many different clients – all without ever quitting my employer. Experimentation within the boundaries of consulting.
Finally, happy with my personal insight about breakfast types and my congruent behavior in both breakfast and career, I finished my coffee and left.
What is your type?
Note: The typology is far away from being “MECE” – in reality, it could be a matrix or a cube, maybe even a multi-dimensional one (x: number of plates, y: level of experimentation in the type of food, z: browsing behavior, v: …). Also, behavior would most likely change over time. I leave matrixes and cubes for when I go back to work.