We all want to grow in our careers, but sometimes we can’t help feeling stuck miserably. It’s never too late to reinvent your career, says Richard Cowley.
Mr. X found himself following a trend — it’s called IT. It made all the right noises when he was younger — people went overseas, got cool salaries and benefits. So, Mr. X became a programmer. This job, like all jobs, came with its set of accountabilities, including sitting in front of a computer screen and pumping code all day long. Once the reality of the job sunk in, Mr. X realized that he was bored and unfulfilled. Later, in his early 30s, Mr. X ‘saw the light’. What seemed like a great career move turned out to be career stagnation in the early stages of his career journey. With a life of only programming (or managing a team of programmers) lying ahead of him, this fellow decided to take the bold step to reinvent his career.
Passionate about reading, writing, and meeting people, he made the move to the Media industry. He is now very happily employed in a Public Relations company. I felt his energy and contentment the moment I met him! Now settled in this industry, he is beginning to take control of his career growth, by finding opportunities to educate himself in his chosen field and obtaining the experience to build industry credibility. Reinventing generally sounds like something major is about to happen. You reinvent your marital status, your religion, or a product that has been around for a while — such that it appears to be entirely new. However, the reality is that it does not have to be something so drastic. I suggest we use the term to mean the actions that you might take to put yourself on track, focused on long-term career growth.
It’s never too late to reinvent your career
Whether you are early in your career or in your 30s or 40s — there is never a specific time to consider career growth. Of course, the earlier it is, the better. But frankly, it does not matter. Let today be ‘the day’ —with 2016 just around the corner, this is as good a time as ever. With the expected working age already extended from 60 to 63 or 65 in most countries, I would not be surprised if this is extended further to 70, in the future. Especially with new medicine in the world, plus the obvious need to fund yourself into your old age — with many pension or saving plans not sustaining us in the lifestyles we are becoming used to.
Career growth begins with you
It starts with an understanding of what you enjoy doing, what you are good at doing and then matching this with the local or global career opportunities out there. From there on, it’s simple — follow your career aspirations with all the passion and energy you have. Passion and energy alone will help you reach your career nirvana, your ‘happy place’. There are many tools out there — both online and offline — that can help you grow in your career. There are many books and videos that can help, too. Remember: you are the best person to define and grow your career. However, getting career guidance from a professional or asking a close friend to help you by asking tough questions or letting you know what they see, will contribute too. I am a true believer in the motto of “go slow, to go quickly.” Take the time now to really understand yourself and then the next 30+ years will be relatively easy as you follow your career aspiration, not having to look back or re-invent yourself a second time but simply going forward with clarity.
What about family responsibilities?
Somewhere, career growth and family life will potentially collide. This is normal. If you are single, ensure that you have kept your fixed costs and trend-following purchases to a minimum. You are then in the best position to find your ‘happy place’ as you are not weighed down with the challenges of personal gratification, the need to fit in or the needs of your partner and children. If you are like the rest of us, then believe me, there is hope. Realigning expectations, reducing fixed costs at home, a period of adjustment, and you will be on your way.
I am doing this right now and I can honestly say that at 51, with many years of work ahead of me, I have found my happy place – one that will sustain me for years to come. It has been built on 30 years of successfully considering my career growth, taking difficult jobs, persevering when times are tough, moving between companies, between geographies, between different types of leaders and career levels but never disrespecting the companies I have worked for or leaving without a suitable period of career growth.
I have passionately absorbed the great opportunities that are out there and count all my past experiences as a blessing. Here’s hoping you can say the same in your future! Good luck on your journey, we are only here once!
A version of this article first appeared in The Tribune.