The last few years have been hard for a lot of people. The Great Recession, the Great Reset, whatever you want to call it. Times like these cause a lot of change, at a macro and micro level. We’ve watched whole industries radically change. And I love talking about that change here on this blog. But it’s easy to overlook or forget the impact that change has on the individual.
I’ve had an interesting career path. This was just the last 10 years:
Retail Manager >> Restaurant general manager >> Mountain bike tour guide >> Skateboard shop owner >> PR intern >> Partner at a grassroots marketing agency >> MBA student/graduate >> Launching a startup >> Social media manager at HP >> EIR at a VC firm >> Social media consultant
I’ve learned a lot over the years but one of the most valuable skills I’ve learned is how to reinvent yourself. I’m not just talking about evolutionary career changes but revolutionary, disruptive, life altering career changes.
Big changes can be scary and very difficult. You have to learn a whole new field. Your livelihood and identity are tied to your job. When I was at HP I watched a lot of my coworkers get laid off. These were employees who started working for HP right out of college and spent the next 30 years working on nothing but LaserJet printers. When they were laid off they had almost no marketable job skills.
I don’t blame HP or any of the other companies who make the same decisions everyday. Blaming a big company for laying people off is like blaming a restaurant for going out of business. To me “job security” means being able to find employement or employ yourself. The illusion that your employer is responsible for your career no longer exists.
So for those of you who find yourself in the need for a little reinvention I thought I would share with you my three tips for reinventing yourself. There simple but not easy.
Going native means you go all in. This is not a spectator sport. You don’t get to watch from the sidelines. You don’t get to pretend.
Anthropologists (of which I often count myself) know that it’s all about sub-cultures. Every career is really just a different sub-culture. You need to completely submerge yourself in the culture of that profession. Read everything you can get your hands on. You don’t have to understand it all but you have to learn the vocabulary.
I hated vocabulary in school. I hated it because it was always presented as route memorization completely out of context. There is very little difference between almost any profession, it’s 90% vocabulary. We’re almost always talking about the same things, we just use different vocabulary. Vocabulary is one of the defining tools of a culture. It’s how we know who’s in and who’s faking it.
When I bought the skateboard shop I read every skate mag I could get my hands on and watched every video I could. I made a point to learn the names of every trick – which is not easy to do from those videos, good thing slow motion is so popular in those videos.
When I started in “new media” six tears ago I made sure to read as many blogs as I could and always stay up on the vocabulary. Even if a lot of it is BS.
Follow Your Passions
Life is way to short. If you’re reading this you most likely live in the developed World and there is no reason to do something you are not passionate about. You either need to find something about your job you can be passionate about or find a new job.
You cannot reinvent yourslef unless you are passionate about what you will become.
Don’t chase money or opportunity. Chase your passions and money and opportunity will present itself.
This will also lead you to proactive reinvention not reactionary reinvention.
Be the Best in the World
Being the best is not a 9-5 job. 40 hours a week is part time. Being the best is a choice you have to make everyday. But being the best in the world means creating your world. You can’t be the best of someone else’s world. Be the best in the World at being you. When I was at HP and the layoff were starting people used to ask me if I was afraid. When I very confidently laughed off the question and people questioned me further, my answer probably wasn’t reassuring to my coworkers:
“If you don’t think you could go out there today and find a job, why would your current employer want to keep you?”
The trick of it is, you get to define the “world” but you don’t get to define “best.” You get to define exactly what you want to be (your world) but your customers, coworkers, employees, friends and family (your mom doesn’t count) get to define whats best.
The New You
That’s it really. To summarize this entire post in one sentence: If you want to reinvent yourself you have to submerge yourself in something you care deeply about with the single goal of being the very best at it.
But one final question I get is how do you know when to strike out into something new or when to stick it out. Chances are if you’re reading this you have already made that decision but if not, the best book I can recommend on the topic is Seth Godin’s The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). It’s really quick and well worth the read.