This is Part 1 of a two-part series on career reinvention for senior-level executives. Part 2 explores various reinvention options.
If you’ve had a “Peggy Lee” moment as a senior executive, in which you asked yourself, “Is that all there is?” with regard to your life or career, you are far from alone. Though author and teacher Regena Thomashauer writes, “reinvention is always initiated by unhappiness,” this unhappiness is sometimes more like a low-level discontent, a feeling of wanting something more or different.
Reinvention may be sparked by changing priorities or a desire for something new. Sometimes it’s reactive – in response to losing a job, for example. Other times, it’s a proactive decision to make a radical change. Blogger John Mashini writes about a third kind of reinvention – one that springs from failure. This one is reflective reinvention, which Mashini says “occurs when you fail at something, but you still have a strong desire to continue in that particular endeavor.”
Whichever type of reinvention is pursued, the stakes are higher for executives as they have more to lose in terms of reputation, income, and self-worth.
That’s why it’s helpful to consider some key actions if you feel like you might be ready to reinvent yourself:
Own your grief at ending a phase of your life. Acknowledge the feelings of loss that come from no longer enacting your career in a certain way for what may have been a very long time. Prepare yourself to let go of what no longer fits your goals.
Determine your reinvention purpose. What do you hope to accomplish by reinventing yourself? Clarify your goals.
Assess your skills and values. Immerse yourself in self-discovery. Now is the time to determine what truly motivates you, drives you, and keeps you engaged. What do you highly value in your work? What skills do you want to keep using, and which ones are you sick of using? Are new skills required for your reinvention goals? How will you acquire those skills? How can you re-package those skills for new opportunities?
Evaluate your risk tolerance. As mentioned, executives have a lot to lose if reinvention goes sour. How much are you willing to risk? Your degree of risk-averseness may temper your reinvention plans.
Engage in proactive learning. This time of uncertainty provides an opportunity for learning. If you are unsure which direction to take with your reinvention, additional learning can point you down the right path. And if you know exactly what your reinvention will look like, learning will help arm you with the skills and knowledge you need for the New You.
Enlist your support team: Don’t try to go it alone; gather a team to support your reinvention. That outside perspective can be critical to your efforts. Your team might include a career or transitions coach. Including one or more mentors also makes sense. Identify where you need extra support, for example, with gaining the skills needed for reinvention. Your greater network is also a vital asset in your reinvention. You may need to add a significant number of new contacts to your network if you are changing fields.
Define the new you. Having executed preliminary exploration, clearly articulate exactly what your reinvention looks like. Be able to tell people about it with pride and optimism.
Write your career story, culminating in your clear vision of reinvention. Reviewing the highlights of your career will show trends and patterns. Ideally, your story will show a natural progression to your reinvented self.
Break it down into smaller steps. Reaching the goals of your reinvention may be a huge and daunting undertaking, but you can keep from feeling overwhelmed if you break the process down into more manageable pieces.
Experiment. Your reinvention is not set in stone. You can try some temporary explorations if you’re not completely ready to commit to reinvention. If you have lingering concerns, you can experiment while still holding onto your former life. If you want to learn more about roles, companies, and industries that are different from what you’ve been involved with, consider informational interviews. While these are usually conducted by job-seekers closer to entry-level, there is no reason executives can’t partake. You might also consider a “side-hustle,” such as consulting while hanging onto to your current job/career. Volunteer work and teaching also give you an opportunity to stretch your muscles, deploy unfamiliar skills, and explore new arenas without giving up your livelihood. See more about these options in Part 2 of this series.
For accountability, communicate your goals. Tell as many people as you can how you’ve reinvented yourself. Doing so will reinforce and strengthen your commitment.
Say no to anything that does not serve your new purpose. Once your reinvention is under way, don’t get derailed by engaging in activities that don’t support your new life. Take on only the “mission-critical” tasks that support your reinvention.
Unquestionably, reinvention is especially challenging for senior-level executives. Remember that you have the advantage of having built both knowledge and networks over a long career and thus have copious resources to guide your reinvention.
As a career coach, I’ve helped numerous executives transition into more fulfilling careers. Schedule a call with Beverly today for a complimentary discussion https://www.harveycareers.com/discussion.
Executive Career Coach
Forbes Coaches Council Member
Credentialed Career Manager
Certified Career Management Coach