Your skill, effort, and even a little luck will influence your career success.
They are important, but there’s one factor that trumps these. It’s your willingness and ability to reinvent yourself.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
Bob Dylan had it right when he sang:
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
First Job after College
Early in my life, I followed what I believed to be the normal path for career success. I studied hard in school, got good grades, and went looking for an appropriate career-launching job.
The mid-80’s weren’t exactly a hot job market. I took an assistant manager job at Pizza Hut. I even remember being happy about it. I dreamed of learning the business from the bottom up and then moving to headquarters and conquering the world of fast-food. In just eight months, my aspirations went poof after one too many 60 hour weeks and an hourly wage that was less than I was making as a grocery store stock guy in high school.
A Different Direction
I got a new plan. It was to find an entry level job in a cool company, do good work, and grow into something that suited me. Not terribly specific, but it worked.
The company was Dataserv. The job was time and expense report processor. After the mandatory nine months in my first position, I applied to be an assistant to a vice president. That was the first time a man ever applied for one of these jobs at this company. It was a good move.
In the next eight years I jumped from one position to another at Dataserv. Most of the time I was the first person to hold it. I usually wrote my own job description. I loved the variety. It’s where I learned to roll with the changes and reinvent as necessary.
Open for Business
Dataserv was sold, and I was out the door. I left late on a Thursday afternoon. By Monday morning I was the proud owner of a consulting business called Team Creations.
My original plan was to recruit an army of facilitators and together we would help our clients by running the world’s most productive meetings. Well, I quickly discovered that I preferred to lead the meetings rather than lead an army.
Some people within my network knew me as a marketing guy. I had my MBA, and had done some marketing jobs at Dataserv. They wanted help, and I could provide it. My facilitation business now included a marketing services business.
Much of the facilitation I did was for public sector clients. Political winds start to blow from a different direction and suddenly my clients’ consulting budgets disappeared.
No problem because my training business was building. At first it was a lot of customized training programs for many clients. That eventually morphed into mostly standardized training for one client.
While that was happening, I noticed lots of infighting that was pulling apart work groups. My mediation training and natural interest in helping people work through their conflicts pushed my business in that direction.
Looking back, it’s no wonder the question, “What do you do?” was always kind of tough to answer. There were too many choices.
Reinvention in Progress
These days I’m in transition again. One of my key markets took an unexpected turn, and it’s time to respond. I can already feel the excitement of all the unexplored possibilities.
If you haven’t reinvented yourself for a while (or ever), you should join me. It will be an adventure. Start by answering these questions:
- Who do you serve?
- What value do you bring?
- What needs are going unmet that you are uniquely able to fill?
- What is it that you most like to do?
It would be easy to say all my reinvention has been the result of necessity. That’s only partly true. A good deal of it has been my choice. I’ve liked the change. I’ve liked being the one in charge of who I am and what I do. I’ve liked matching my skills to market needs.
Do you want more success and satisfaction? Reinvent yourself.