I admit it: part of me wishes I had woken up on my fourteenth birthday with a steadfast desire to be a nurse. Or an astronaut. Or anything, really. It would have been mighty convenient to make every career-related decision from a single, unshakable point of reference. Since that enlightenment didn’t occur at 14, 24 or even 34, I find myself cheerfully embracing the necessity, every few years, of reinventing myself. I’ve got past the point of beating myself up about my indecisiveness, and now prefer to think of it as rotating my crops.
Emily Wapnick calls this being a multipotentialite; others use the term renaissance careers. Or, you might be facing reinvention because of lay-off, retirement, divorce, an empty-nest or simply for the heck of it.
Here are my well-tested tips for reinventing yourself
- Remember you’re in great company. At age 30, Julia Child was a government spy and Andrea Bocelli was a lawyer. Enjoy a list of more famous people in the wrong jobs at 30.
- Don’t take advice from anyone you’re not 100% sure is 100% on your side. This might, in fact, mean you shouldn’t take advice from anyone you know. Instead, check out these pointers from author Claire Cook: “Life is tough. Decide to be tougher” and CFA Linda Descano: “Change is frightening for most of us.”
- For clues on what/who you should be, consider what activity you would do without being paid and which part of a large weekend newspaper you read first. But don’t stop there: watch this great tip from Stanford professor Tina Seelig, who argues that your passion and skills are not enough: you must bring the market into the equation too.
- Register your name as a domain name. Now, you can simply design your home page to tell the world you are anything you want to be. Don’t forget to do the same on LinkedIn and any other social media accounts. Simply present yourself as you wish to be seen: it’s the modern-day equivalent of dressing for the job you want.
- Even if you’re changing direction totally, you probably have a rainbow of skills which still apply: dealing with difficult people, influencing, critical thinking, project planning… whether your next mission is as the nurse or the astronaut, you know more than you think.
- Define your goals, visualize them by all means, but stay open to other possibilities.
- Give it time. If reinventing yourself affects your main income stream, this is a marathon, not a sprint. James Altucher reckons you’ll need at least two to three years to be successful in your new field.
- Worrying what other people will think is natural, but work toward making that matter less to you. In general, others have so much going on in their own lives, they’re not sitting around waiting to judge you. And in any case, discomfort is the currency of your dreams.
- Eat well and get plenty of rest. Emerging from a cocoon is hard work.
When was your last reinvention, and what further tips would you offer?