MacGyverize Your Career

I know it’s shocking, but I’ve never watched a single show of MacGyver—until last month.  I remember hearing about it, and it sounded like a show I’d enjoy.  However, my first child was born six months before the pilot show of MacGyver (September 29, 1985) and my free time suddenly disappeared.  When MacGyver aired its final show (exactly 17 years ago, on January 13, 1992), my third child was eight months old.  Those six years were, for me, a blur of sleep deprivation, disposable diapers, and memorable “firsts” (e.g.. baby’s first step, first word, first trip to the Emergency Room, first use of ipecac syrup, etc.)

With the help of, I recently reclaimed some of those lost years and experienced my first episode of MacGyver.  Now I finally understand how the verb “to MacGyver” and the noun “MacGyverism” found their way into the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

One of the key elements of the show is MacGyver’s inventive use of his Swiss Army Knife to solve every conceivable problem.  ( has a fun list of the problems solved by MacGyver.) [ ]  Every week, he demonstrated that you can meet most challenges successfully, if you have a few basic tools, a storehouse of knowledge, a flash of creativity, and a lot of determination.

That got me thinking about what basic tools (i.e., skills, talents, experiences) I carry with me every day to help me meet my career and professional challenges.  If my metaphorical Swiss Army Career Knife consists of only five tools that I can have constantly at hand, what are they? 

After a good bit of self-reflection, I came up with a list.  My Swiss Army Career Knife includes:

·         The ability to communicate effectively through writing

·         Contacts in the chemistry community (many developed through the ACS)

·         A curiosity that prompts me to ask lots of questions

·         A broad knowledge of chemistry  (As the “central science,” chemistry gives me a ticket to travel freely throughout the world of science and technology.)

·         A love for researching information on the Internet         

You’ll note there are plenty of aptitudes and assets that aren’t found on my Swiss Army Career Knife—either because I don’t possess them at all or they are relative weaknesses for me.  Noticeably lacking are talents and skills such as:

·         physical prowess

·         managerial skills

·         computer programming skills

·         advanced degrees in business or law

·         extroverted personality

Any or all of those assets would be great to have, and I’ve developed some capability in these areas over the years.  But I must admit that these are not my strengths, not my core skills.    When faced with a professional challenge or problem, I know what to do—I MacGyverize and reach for my Swiss Army Career Knife.

What are the five tools on your Swiss Army Career Knife?

Randy Wedin blogs from Wayzata, MN. After spending a decade
working for the ACS and as a Congressional Science Fellow,
he launched a
freelance science writing business,
Wedin Communications (, in 1992.

3 Responses to MacGyverize Your Career

  1. Well, I have never really watched the show, but going by this write up, it surely has a lot to say. I think it basically talks about how simple things can make even the most difficult tasks possible, provided you have the knowledge to use with the tool

  2. John says:

    What a fantastic set of career tips. One should learn this thing while planning for his or her next job.

  3. Really good post you shared. Surely will follow your blog to get update regarding career field.

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