Over lunch the other day with a business associate, I was discussing my rather eccentric career and offering them a bit of advice as they tried to make the transition from one career path to another.
Then I remembered that I had a written an article for The Globe and Mail about this exact topic, for which I coined the term "career reboot", way back in 2004. I dug up the article this past weekend and have decided to share it via my blog since I know a lot of people these days are considering, or are being forced to consider, a career reboot.
For me, the timing of sharing this article is perfect since I did a second career reboot myself two years ago this month. After over a decade of working in the digital marketing space, I walked away from a great job at a big ad agency to pursue my passion for the domain name investing world. I don't regret that decision for a moment, but I won't pretend it was an easy one to make at the time.
That was career reboot number two for me. The article you are about to read discusses my first career reboot. I hope you find it helpful.
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How to Reinvent Your Professional Self
In 1991, I had what many would consider a dream job: I was a producer at a popular television station working alongside a talented bunch of people in a fun environment. Then I did the unthinkable. I handed in my notice.
Friends and colleagues were in shock. Some were convinced I'd lost my mind. "Did I have a new job lined up somewhere else," I was asked. Nope. Instead, I was about to embark on my "career reboot," the toughest - but ultimately wisest - decision I've ever made.
Where is it written that you can only have one career in your life? Nowhere! Who says that once you've been trained in one profession you have to do that for the rest of your life? Not me!
Lots of people head down a career path and then, after years or even decades of working in their chosen profession, realize that it's no longer the right fit for them. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with this. We're humans, not robots, and it's normal for our interests and priorities to change over time.
The only thing worse than being unhappy in your current field of work is doing nothing about it. Whine and complain all you want, but that's not going to solve the problem - although it may lead to you being fired. That's where the career reboot fits in. If you'd rather be doing something else for a living, then get out there and do it. Reboot yourself and start heading down the path to a new career.
My journey began in 1990. I was working in television but had begun to notice how computers were increasingly being used as creative tools in a relatively new communications medium known as "new media" that gave the viewer control over the media. The interactive nature of new media fascinated me. The more I investigated it, the more I realized I was witnessing the birth of something new, much like I imagined film and television had evolved in their early years. And I wanted to be a participant in this revolution, not just an observer.
Before you dive headfirst into a career change, make sure that it's not just your current job that you are unsatisfied with rather then the field as a whole. It's a lot easier to switch jobs than to change careers!
Assuming you still want to execute a career reboot, the biggest hurdle you are likely to face is you. I'm not going to pretend otherwise; this can be scary stuff, and you'll probably resist making the switch. I know I did. But don't give in to your fears.
So, what does it take to perform a successful career reboot?
You need to focus on the task at hand, stick with it, and be willing to learn a ton of new things. You should be financially stable enough to be able to survive with little or no income for at least six months. And you should be prepared to make some short-term sacrifices in your life. Most importantly, you will need to project and maintain a positive attitude throughout the reboot process. Believe in your objective, which means believing in yourself.
There are also a number of things I recommend you have in place before you press the big, red "reboot" button.
To start with, you need to develop a game plan and have (or make) the time to execute it. My first goal was to learn as much as I could about the new media industry. Keep in mind that something like this can be done while you're still in your "old" career.
Since there was were so few books written about new media at the time, I started by conducting information interviews with people who were working in the new media field in Canada. I asked them how they got started, what they liked and disliked about the field, and what sort of skills and training would be required for me to make the leap. (I was surprised to learn that many of them were career "rebooters" themselves!) I also scoured the library, read trade publications, attended trade shows and events, and joined a recently-formed new media association where I began to network with others already in the field.
You may want to surround yourself with a team of supporters and trusted advisors, people who understand why you're doing this and will be there to support you when (not if) the going gets tough. Other career rebooters would make excellent candidates for your team!
A word of caution: While you might think that your colleagues, friends, and even family would automatically support your decision, don't be disappointed if some do not. People have different agendas, not all of which are apparent at first, and your plans to reboot may reveal a side of them that you've never seen before.
My wife was my biggest cheerleader (thank you), but some people did not understand my goal and tried to dissuade me. In retrospect, I realize they may have been jealous or felt threatened. Listen to what others have to say, but don't be pressured into doing what doesn't feel right for you.
Finally, after you've done all your research, mapped your plan of action, and assembled your team, you will be ready to walk away from your "old" career, which in most cases means resigning from your current job. Welcome to the most terrifying - yet wonderful - day of your life!
Once you've made this courageous first step, be sure to take a moment to celebrate your accomplishment. You've just done something that many have dreamed of but few have been able to.
Now is not the time to panic. Shortly after setting out on my own, I got very antsy about money and made the mistake of accepting a contract in my "old" field. This addressed my financial concerns at the time, but it also distracted me from my main objective, which was to move on to my new career. Remain flexible, however, because sometimes the best opportunities come from the most unlikely places.
It actually took me several attempts at my career transition before I got it right. In my first attempt, I tried pitching my film and TV expertise to the new media community. That approach didn't work, and I retreated to the world of television to plot my next move. Turns out I had gotten my approach backwards! When, on my second attempt, I started to help my film and TV colleagues understand new media, my career transition gained momentum. Over a decade later, I am no longer observing the new media revolution; I am a participant.
A career reboot doesn't happen overnight - it's a gradual transition. If you are patient and willing to stick with it, you will find your footing and eventually flourish in your new career. Good luck!
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Re-reading the above article, which I wrote over five years ago, I can't help but be drawn to the part that reads, "sometimes the best opportunities come from the most unlikely places." Since then, I've found that to be especially true, and that's how I ended up making my second career reboot. But that's a story for another time...
Domain name expert Bill Sweetman is the President & Lead Ninja of Name Ninja, a boutique domain name consulting firm that helps companies acquire, manage, protect, and profit from their domain names. Bill has provided strategic domain name advice to major companies around the world for over 20 years.
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