As both an academic who studies identity development in adulthood and someone who knows first-hand how our career identity can evolve over time, I am excited to share some of the lessons to be learned from Dorie Clark’s new Reinventing You book:
01) In the event of a (non) emergency, reinvent. Consider reinventing your career not just when you have been laid off or are seeking a promotion, but when you are thinking about changing careers as a result of feeling dissatisfied or not using your full potential
02) Escape from the everyday. If you are burned out, but not sure what to do, take time off if at all possible. Time away from the source of our frustration and disappointment is necessary to see things more clearly, to create an objective pro/con list of our current position, to be creative about solutions to current work dilemmas, and/or to explore potential careers.
03) Tweak the weak. Take a moment to find out how others see you, work on what they perceive as shortcomings. That is, if you begin to realize others think of you as competent but impatient, learn from their feedback so you can work on waiting before emailing follow-up missives. As Clark aptly points out: “If three people say you’re a horse, buy a saddle. In other words, whether or not you believe a perception about you is true, if enough people share it, you’d better take it seriously.”
04) Buy lunch. When exploring career possibilities and asking others if they are willing to spend their valuable time to answer your questions, respect their time by being prepared with a list of well-informed questions (e.g., “What is a typical day like for you?” as opposed to “How do I get a job here?”) to get the most out of the interview. And be considerate – offer to buy lunch.
05) Seek and ye shall find. Explore opportunities to shadow someone in your career(s) of interest. If this isn’t possible, volunteer or intern, because going beyond asking others about their work – and actually doing their work -- helps us gain experience and insight into whether or not the work we are considering is really right for us.
06) Know the proper care and feeding of mentors. When seeking mentors to help you achieve your goals, ask yourself how you can give back. If people agree to be your mentor and meet with you regularly, make that time worthwhile to them as well – be prepared with good questions, be appreciative, and be willing to help them meet their goals, whether it be a project, technical issue, and/or errand.
07) Leverage your outsider status. If you are planning a move to a drastically different career field, find out what skills and abilities the employer needs, and that you already have. As Clark illustrates with the case of a former investment banker who began a fellowship with a non-profit that needed someone who could talk to people on Wall Street, being an outsider can be an asset.
08) Ponder your identity. If you have burned out as a nurse, consider law school and becoming a personal injury attorney; when interviewing with law firms, make clear the value you bring and the reason for your transition into a new field. Clark offers many helpful suggestions in this area, including the importance of building networks in everyday life and online, as well as being in charge of your narrative.
09) Be strategic. The 21st Century world of work means that we must be proactive about our careers, given that the days of pensions and lifelong employment at one company are pretty much over. This means we need to be planning ahead, acquiring new skills, and exploring options, whenever we are reinventing our career identity.
In the words of Buddha, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
10) Think jungle gym, not ladder. As Clark mentions, professional reinvention is not a one-time deal, but a lifestyle that allows us to grow and stay open to possibilities. This appreciation that our career may not always move up, but sometimes down or sideways, means that we can better contribute meaningfully to the world of work no matter where we are in our career – and be better psychologically prepared for our next move.
This is just a précis of Dorie Clark’s new Reinventing You book, and I strongly recommend that you consider it to be one of the many helpful guides to the 21st Century world of work. Enjoy!