Many people arrive at a need for career reinvention at some point in their life. This can be a very difficult time emotionally.
I experienced this personally when I made the decision that practicing as a lawyer was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The problem was that I didn’t, at least initially, know how to make a change, or even for that matter, what alternative career I should transition to.
Here are some common scenarios that trigger a desire for career reinvention:
- The current career / job that you have doesn’t feel authentic. You aren’t motivated to pursue it all the way to mastery. You don’t feel pulled, or any feelings of intrinsic satisfaction in what you do. You basically have a 9-5 that pays the bills but deep down inside it is eating you up because you know that you have more to give and you don’t want to spent the rest of your working life this way;
- You lose a job that you loved to unforeseen circumstances. Even though you liked your job the prospects in this area are bleak (at least at the moment). You wonder whether you will ever find something fulfilling again and you start the mental process of what that might be, and how to transition into it;
- You feel the pull away from being an employee to becoming an entrepreneur. You’ve dreamed of owning your own business for quite some time, but you are a little uncertain of how to go about making it a reality. Also, you are nervous because to leave a steady paycheque could be a financial disaster for you; or
- Your last business venture failed, but you haven’t lost hope of the dream of being a full time entrepreneur and business owner; however, you are now battling a wave of self-doubt and external criticism that often follows a business failure. You want to start again but this time make it different.
Each of these scenarios involves a “career reinvention.” Personally, I experienced a combination of numbers 1 and 3. In charting my own course for reinvention there was a critical first step that I took, which I believe to be the foundation for any successful reinvention. It is a personal value analysis.
We all arrive at the need for reinvention for different reasons, but a common thread is that we were motivated to pursue our initial career (the one we are wanting to transition out of) because of a factor that wasn’t related to an expression of our most authentic self.
Examples include a desire for money, status, significance, or a hedge against financial difficulty (choosing a career because it is a “good thing to fall back on”). While these are not objectively bad motivations, they rarely trigger the type of long term motivation that leads to a desire for subject mastery and intrinsic fulfillment. In order for the latter to occur we have to be “congruent” in a sense that we are doing what we value each day.
So before you start down the path of “career reinvention,” take the time to understand yourself by taking an inventory of the things that intrinsically motivate you. This is your personal value analysis. Then use this statement as a compass, or a “clarifying lens” to evaluate the possibilities that will soon present themselves.
A simple specific strategy is to start with a blank piece of paper, and one at a time, list all the things that “make you come alive.” Once that exercise is done, turn the paper over, and write the values that underlie each of the activities that you wrote down. For example, if “hiking and being in nature” makes you come alive then on the backside of the paper you should write “freedom” and “beauty.” If team sports makes you come alive, then on the backside of the paper you should write “positively interacting with other people” and “competition”. If playing chess makes you come alive then on the back of the paper write “strategy,” “solving problems,” and “complexity.”
The list of values from the backside of the paper creates your personal value lens and once this is done you have a great filter to use to evaluate your reinvention opportunities.
The careers or jobs that allow for a day to day expression of the greatest number of values on your lens are likely going to be intrinsically motivating for you and will likely lead to long term fulfillment.