After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Re-inventing Your Sailboat

Fortunate are those professionals who select the perfect major in college, land with a series of great employers who provide generous amounts of mentoring and opportunity, and sail through their careers with the sun overhead, a case of beer (and a bottle of sunscreen) in the cooler, and the wind always at their backs.

I’m sure these people do exist.  Well, pretty sure. 

Most sailboats encounter a few rough waves, a storm or two, or the dreaded “getting-nowhere-fast” calm along the way. Similarly, most professionals encounter some obstacles, some slow motion, and some unanticipated setbacks over the course of a career.  The economic downturn of the last four years has definitely capsized the plans of many in the work force, leaving all kinds of formerly forward-directed individuals adrift in unfamiliar waters.

Over the holidays, I happened to encounter multiple individuals who had to re-invent their careers completely.  Allow me to mention a few:

A woman named Monica helped fill my prescription at the local pharmacy.  She lost her position in customer service during the recession and couldn’t find another.  While her peers happily accepted their unemployment checks and made half-hearted efforts to find new jobs, Monica took classes to become a pharmacist’s assistant.  She is happily employed now, and making more money than she did before.

I also met a woman named Ellen. Ellen re-invented herself several times.  Originally, a financial analyst on Wall Street, she started her own successful mortgage closing company.  After selling her business and moving to the Midwest for family reasons, she became the COO or a large mortgage lending company. When the housing meltdown led to her company’s demise, she went out on her own, finding a niche need in the financial services field.  She now is able to generate a nice income and maintain a great work-life balance.   

A friend named Tim had worked in the home building business for twenty-plus years.  When residential construction died, his job ended.  After a period of unemployment, recently he was able to secure a position as the Building Manager for a Senior Residence.  His position includes new responsibilities and a new skill set which has entailed some on-the-job learning. Tim has accomplished this with minimal difficulty.

In each of these cases, re-invention was brought on by necessity, not choice.  Job loss and/or economic slowdown forced the need for change and preparation for an unexpected future. Other re-inventions are chosen.  In my case I turned my back on the CPA track and set course on a wild ride as a headhunter.

Most of us have had or will have our boat rocked at some point – in both life and career. Sometimes, to survive and flourish means charting a completely new course.  Try to look at life-changing events as opportunities to set sail in a new direction.  Then start paddling, work smart, and enjoy life.

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