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Write the next chapter in your career story

(MoneyWatch) I've been reading through Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children" at night lately before I fall asleep. It's a magnificent novel of the first years of India's independence, told through the lens of magical realism, but the complex web of subplots and characters has sometimes had me scratching my head, pondering how exactly this master storyteller will weave it all together.

There's a parallel with the modern career. Many of our work histories are as complicated as Rushdie's novel (if admittedly a bit less exciting). The subplots are all over the place. Characters come and go as you struggle to keep track of names and figure out how they might play a later role. But as with a novel, there's nothing so satisfying as coming to a later chapter that -- almost magically -- makes it all make sense.

If you're in a career transition, why not think about how you might write that chapter? How could you weave the different plot points of your working life into a story that seems obvious in retrospect?

One of the more interesting cases I've seen of this lately is the career story of entrepreneur Durval Tavares. He was born in the Azores, a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that gave him a "deep appreciation for water," Tavares told me.

After coming to the U.S. at age 10, he studied electrical engineering in college and developed an interest in robotics. He went to work at the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center, spending many years working on submarines and related projects. Then he completely switched careers and spent a decade at Fidelity, where he learned about finance and serving customers.

It's a complicated narrative. Looking at his background, it would appear that Tavares is, as he says, "sort of a jack of all trades and a master of none."

Yet he did find a way to combine technology, his interest in the ocean and business skills. Tavares started Aquabotix, a Massachusetts company that makes technology for underwater observation. Its AquaLens product is a live underwater video system that lets boat owners check their craft below the water line. Another device, the HydroView, is a remote-controlled underwater vehicle -- a robot of sorts -- that can stream videos and photos to your laptop.

Tavares started the company in March 2011 at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center, an incubator. After a few months, the company needed more space, and today is now based in a 10,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Fall River, Mass. It has two dozen employees and customers around the world. In other words, it's a satisfying chapter that pulls everything together.

How might the subplots of your own story unite? Take a look back over your resume and write down the parts of each job you loved best. Does any sort of job or entrepreneurial venture suggest itself from that list? What about something that hits the majority of them? Show your list to friends -- post it on your Facebook or LinkedIn page -- and ask them to "crowdsource" career ideas suggested from the subplots.

The upside of sharing your list with friends is that they'll probably introduce you to people who might become key characters in the next chapter -- people who help you weave the threads of your life into one satisfying and coherent whole.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Frederic Potet
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