Reinventing Your Career: 5 Practical Steps to Take
Reinventing your career can feel scary. Just two years ago, I experienced that sense of overwhelm. I’d successfully built my career to the point where I was in the C-suite of a fast growing technology company and had a hand in shaping the organization through many exciting phases. From the outside, it seemed like I’d made it. Inside, however, I felt entirely different.
In my gut, I knew it was time to consider something new. I no longer wanted to lead HR teams because it felt old and tired, but it seemed like I had no other options. However, once I moved past the fear of reinventing myself and broke it down into steps that were easier to tackle, I truly saw the potential for my future.
I found there are simple things you can do every day to help you progress toward your goals. All you have to do is be open and willing to take the leap. Here’s how.
Recognizing the Need for Change
It’s easy to get sucked into the hustle and bustle of growing your career. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you make your way up the career ladder without even realizing it. For most of us, blink, and suddenly your career path veers off in directions you might not have expected.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve accomplished in my career, and the knowledge, skills, and relationships I’ve built along the way. However, something didn’t feel right about it anymore. At first, it was a quiet humming from within. A muted sense of feeling unsettled, yet I didn’t know why. It was subtle enough to ignore, but as the months wore on, I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t there any longer.
As I explored the reason behind it, I found the courage to admit I wasn’t happy in my big job. I had done all I needed to do, but the next step on the same path didn’t excite me. It didn’t motivate me. And it certainly didn’t align with what made me feel good. Truthfully, I felt bored, but wasn’t sure how to get out of the rut I’d found myself in.
Eventually, when that unsettled feeling got stronger, I knew I needed to do something about it.
Finding Your Why and What Truly Motivates You
You can’t make a change without getting clear on what you truly want. Sure, it’s much easier to identify what you don’t want to do, but the hardest part of this process is identifying why you want what you want.
Many people give up quickly when they don’t see instant results, and it’s likely because they didn’t go through the process of understanding their why. Yet, those who uncover this will find the motivation to keep pushing forward even through the frustrating, disappointing, difficult, or slow moments.
This was the first thing I needed to figure out. Why did I need to make a change? I knew if I didn’t have my change anchored to something that was purposeful, it would fall flat and feel soulless. I didn’t need my why to be something magical or flashy. It just needed to mean something to me.
Knowing your why is the most crucial part of this transformation. It will help you lead from your heart, have more meaningful conversations, ensure your actions are aligned, and keep your motivation and hopes high (because nothing ever worth it is easy).
Your why will keep you nimble. It promotes confidence in your ability to pivot and stay in control when challenges come your way. It’s your anchor for when your inner critic tells you that you can’t do it, it’s too risky, it’ll take too long, you’ll never make enough money, and so on.
Brainstorming Different Ideas Based On Your Why
Once you’ve gotten clear on your why, you can then play around with different options and tracks. Suddenly, all sorts of possibilities start opening up. You’ll see things clearly again, and think of possibilities you haven’t considered before.
For me, this was the point where I felt “alive” again. The process was now more exhilarating. I was going somewhere new, and I believed it was going to be great for me. There was no turning back.
This mind shift was exactly what I needed to get over my fear of starting my business. Once I got clear that I’m motivated by having autonomy, taking risks, mentoring and coaching leaders, and having choices in my work, my passion for building a coaching and consulting business—especially one focused on emerging leaders and women—helped me to carve my own path.
It was this epiphany that allowed me to have the right conversations so I could put things into motion quickly. I didn’t have to be the traditional executive coach that everyone else wanted me to be. I could do it differently and on my terms.
Steps You Can Take to Make Your Transformation
Again, making progress for your career reinvention doesn’t need to be massive. Small steps will help you push forward day by day.
Whether you’re choosing to make this change because you were thrust into it (which is expected with the pandemic disruption) or because it’s of your own volition, these suggestions can lead you in the right direction.
1. Read What Motivates Me by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. During a period when I felt lost and stuck, this book called to me. In reading it and taking their simple test (a similar concept to StrengthsFinder), it helped me get clearer on my why and uncover what motivates and demotivates me. This was a turning point for me because it showed I was getting further away from what I loved doing.
I’ve suggested this book to so many people, all of whom felt it to be a great first step on their path of transformation and figuring out their why. The gist is that you don’t have to quit your job if you feel unfulfilled. You can ask for special projects or an internal transfer that better aligns with your motivations. Your change doesn’t need to be a huge overhaul, and that idea can be comforting for those who are worried about big adjustments or just want to test things out to find what speaks to them.
2. Create a career pivot worksheet. At the top of your document, write “My Next Career Pivot.” This allows you to be unattached to what it is, which helps immensely with the brainstorming. Then, add columns for “Things I No Longer Need to Experience” and “Things I Want to Move Toward.” Write down all the things that motivate you and bring happiness in your work life. Also, list things that make you feel icky and bored (this is usually easier to tackle first).
As you go through your day, note joyful moments and things that felt off to you. Over time, you’ll see a trend. This tool will help you get a deeper sense of what you value, which is an essential step in finding the meaning in your why.
3. Create your “enough list.” It’s great to have big aspirations, but it can feel defeating if you don’t hit all your goals. This can be detrimental to your progress. Your enough list will help you understand what you’ll be content with, even if you don’t reach these aspirations. It gives you a reasonable threshold so you feel comfortable in the direction you’re heading, improving your confidence. This tool helps you get realistic about the degree of change you actually need to know you are on your way.
Make your goals more digestible so they aren’t too hard or overwhelming. Give yourself stepping stones to progress, but be ready to pivot. There’s no one-size-fits-all path to success, so this gives you permission to not be perfect while still celebrating your wins.
4. Find your intention behind your why. This is a big area I work on with my clients. It focuses on their values and helps them figure out what’s purposeful to them. It’s not about saying things like, “I want to be a CEO” or “I want to be an architect for my next career.” It’s more about finding what truly fulfills you or what you yearn for.
For example, clarifying the reason that you want to become more courageous in voicing your honest opinions is because you want to have greater influence on big decisions at work.
Here’s a simple exercise to help you. Try completing this sentence to get succinct and clear: I want to become more (insert personal quality) so I can (impact statement).
5. Find the right tools to keep your goals at the forefront. My client recently suggested a tool called woopmylife. You can access it on your desktop or your mobile device, making it easy to have it on hand at all times. Woopmylife helps you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, what outcome you want, what obstacles you’ll face, and create a plan to make it all work.
This is a great option for breaking it down into digestible to-dos, setting milestones, and tracking your progress.
Now, It’s Up to You
No matter your situation, this is as good a time as any to consider your career reinvention. Everything we took for granted is changing due to the pandemic, and life might look very different when we make it through to the other side. Whether you’re pushed to this change or it’s your choice, building these skills will help you have more control over your career and your everyday life.
Additionally, it will allow you to apply it over and over again whenever you’re ready for a change. After all, we grow and evolve regularly, and life is anything but predictable. Shifting to this mindset will help you take action sooner so you don’t feel stuck.
Need help making your career transformation? Pivotal Moments offers coaching services to get you started. Click here to learn more and contact us with questions.