When so many of us identify strongly with what we do, reinventing our career inevitably means reinventing ourselves or at least parts of who we are. And as exciting as it may seem, it is no piece of cake.
How do you go about changing direction? Where do you start? How do you know if another career or job will truly make you happy? What if you make a mistake (or a few)?
First, you’d have to have very little self-awareness and the actual desire to sabotage your life to “screw things up”. When you decide what the rules are, what you want for your life and the kind of work you want to be doing, there’s no actual “error” to be made.
Now, you may want to work in a new industry or start a new job in a company that aligns with your values (our specialty) or maybe you want to enroll in a new degree or launch your own start-up. Whether you find yourself currently exploring new ideas, are chasing down coffee dates with people whose career trajectory you admire, or starting to consider what else you can do with your life – or maybe you’re not even sure what to do next – the following six and a half tips will help guide you in your journey.
Before you begin there is one absolute thing you must do. That is, you must be open-minded and think out of the box (a valuable skill in itself). In other words, put yourself in complete EXPLORER mode. Did Dora the Explorer just pop into your mind? Whether this Nickelodeon-cartoon-turned-hollywood-adventure-film did or didn’t, the point is that Dora, a young Latino girl who ventures into the wilderness with her monkey, has the attitude you need to adopt when reinventing your career. Dora uses her tools (in your case, skills, knowledge and network) to overcome challenges and reach her goals. No matter how out-of-reach and crazy they appear. Maybe you think alluding to a children’s cartoon is irrelevant, but trust me, channeling your inner Dora will be helpful in the journey that is reinventing your career. I’ll be honest, the child in me definitely identified with her, because like Dora, she’s braver than I can be, goes after what she wants and she fiercely believes in herself. So, here’s what I learned on my latest career-change adventure
On the career and skills side
1. Learn. Fill in the unknowns.
Aside from the skills, experience and knowledge you can transfer, there are plenty of opportunities today to learn and complement what you already know. You won’t know if a certain career is for you without dipping your toes and testing the waters first. So, why not try something out? Enroll in an online course or a couple, and if time and bank account allow you can even consider a new degree. Online courses are great because they’re usually cost-effective and if you’re unsure which one to pick, remember that many online platforms even offer one-month money-back guarantees and free versions of the course.
Whatever you decide, trust me when I say that the act of learning will not only help you feel like you’re taking action but it can also help you connect again with a deeper sense of what it is you are truly seeking from a fulfilling career.
I’d also suggest here the possibility of investing in some kind of self-development course, especially if you’re searching for a new purpose. This is the time when you get to rediscover what makes you tick. When you get to be an architect of your life and design the career path you want to pursue next, everything that can help you on this journey is valid and necessary.
2. Connect the network.
Reach out to your friends and network – who do they know working in a position, company or industry that you are interested in? Having honest conversations with them where you show up with a curious and an open mind will make it enjoyable for you both – you will gain valuable insight into how you can make a dream or interest a reality, and they will experience a feeling of reward as they share their wisdom and career journey with someone who’s genuinely curious about them.
Say you are keen on transitioning to a new company or into a tech role but perhaps you don’t consider yourself a techie yet, your awesome biz dev or branding and writing skills are exactly what your contact’s company needs – how would you know if you don’t ask and try to find out? Go ahead and strike up a conversation because asking about what they need and offering the value you can bring can open many doors.
Talking with mentors, colleagues, bosses and friends about your aptitudes can also give you a sense of what you’re good at as other people recognize qualities in you that you may not recognize in yourself and which can help usher you in the right direction.
3. Just do it.
The only way to create something out of nothing is by doing it. Want to practice and apply your new skills, gain experience or even meet industry professionals? Then, help others, offer advice or volunteer your time and skills to start doing the kind of work you want to transition into, especially if you are new to an industry or want to develop a new skill-set.
Whether it’s a friend who needs help in her business or there’s a cool socially-aware tech start-up you know of, then there is an opportunity for you to do something you’d love to do IRL (not just in your dreams) by offering to assist them, (and trust me, they can almost always do with the help). You will not only be contributing to the world by creating value but you’ll also develop a solid experience which you can add to your CV and portfolio. Or maybe create a new position with them for yourself altogether!
On the personal; the INside
You’ve decided this, you know that a change is what you want and by now you’re hatching out a plan for what to do next. But if you want more flow in this career move, get out of your head for a moment and into your soul. What are you searching for with this next game-changing move? What are you hoping to fulfill? These and other questions are keys to unlocking the challenging questions that come with a remake of your career.
4. Set your priorities and values.
What is important to you professionally? What matters to you in a career? For example, what kind of team or culture do you want to be working in? What type of environment do you thrive in? What do you value most? Is it flexibility, a higher salary, career progression, creative expression, agile teams, diversity, impact? Project-based work? Interacting with clients or focusing on developing a product? Would you be happy working part-time so you can dedicate more time to your own projects? Would you like to travel often? Would you want to live in the countryside or prefer to commute less and live closer to work?
Take the time to do some soul-searching, dig deep and reflect on what you need to be fulfilled personally and how you want to live your life. Where do you want to add value? What kind of impact do you want to have? Write down what you love, the activities and situations that make you feel alive and the tasks and projects you’ve most enjoyed doing. Keep a spreadsheet, a journal, notes on your phone, or scribble in colorful post-its and plaster them on your wall as I did, and write about the activities you enjoy, the skills you want to continue using or new skills you want to learn.
There is no right or wrong answer for either of these, which gives you the freedom to truly be open and honest with yourself about what you want. Don’t worry, no one will see what you write, so be authentic about what you value and need to feel fulfilled in your life too. You may find you are flexible on some, while others may be deal-breakers. Take the time to write and identify what is important to you. The answers may not jump out at you straight away, and that’s okay. So, give yourself some tender love and care too. It’s a time for you to reconnect, reflect and write the script of your next chapter.
6. Be like Dora, go explore.
Attend events, meet-ups, networking drinks, shows, exhibitions, hackathons, information evenings. You can find some of the best community events in Switzerland here. Venture into different worlds. Surround yourself with different ways of thinking, explore new interests. Adopt an open mind. Read on different topics. Take the time to step out of your comfort zone. This will be incredibly inspiring and will be a rewarding experience as you expand your mind and you discover yourself and your place in the world in a more meaningful way. How and where you meet new people, create new contacts and even friendships could lead to some interesting collaborations, projects or that opportunity that spins your career into an entirely new direction.
Reinventing your career may be challenging but it can also be one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have – if you make it so. You can decide how and where you’re going next, you just have to put in the work to make it happen. Do the research, invest time in yourself, in your skills and put yourself out there and network. You can have a plan, but I’d warn against having a very detailed one as you might miss out on golden nuggets of opportunity that lead to an exciting career path.
Reinventing your career will test your patience, so remember to also trust yourself and trust the process.
6 ½. Do what scares you.
After all has been said and done, and you’re still undecided about which path to take to reinvent your career or riddled with fear and self-doubt, think about this. If you were not afraid, what would you do?