So it makes sense that when something disrupts the circumstances of your life - be it a divorce, a job loss, or a shutdown-causing global pandemic, your first instinct is to recreate your “old life.” (Or to get as close to it as possible.)
But in a world where major change is continual - and the time between major changes is constantly growing shorter - it’s almost impossible to go back to “normal” after a major upheaval. Especially in the wake of COVID-19, it’s important to be realistic about what is happening and accept that there might not be a path back to what you knew.
And that can be a good thing.
Sometimes people reevaluate their lives by choice, but more often people are forced into re-calibrating their plans due to a change in circumstances. For those people, “reinventing yourself” isn’t just a nice idea - it’s a must-do in order to move to the next stage of your life.
Constant reinvention is a key part of being employable, not just now, but in the future as well. The pace of change is getting faster, and the strongest employees are the ones who can adapt themselves, their patterns, and their skills to meet it. It’s all part of being what author Jeff Gothelf calls Forever Employable.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin the process of re-inventing your professional self for work today and in the future.
Build On What’s There Already
The purpose of RE-invention is not to start completely over from scratch. You’re not scrapping everything you’ve ever done, even when making a complete career change.
Re-invention means bringing all the lessons, experiences, skills, and expertise you’ve gained from your past and fine-tuning it while looking towards future opportunities.
This might mean breaking down your transferable skills from your last job. Or it might mean going over times when you were truly energized in the past and focusing on finding ways to replicate that feeling in the future. Your coach can help you identify these opportunities.
Remember that changing your job, your field, or professional focus doesn’t change you - you are the same no matter where you go. And part of a successful career search is finding and presenting the value in who you are. That value doesn’t go down, it can only re-focus and increase.
Don’t Do It Alone
Re-inventing yourself means having self-awareness: seeing yourself as other people see you. And you can’t do that on your own. You’ll need help from people who you trust to provide you with encouragement, accountability, and honest feedback - not just tell you what you want to hear.
This may include formal relationships with coaches, mentors, and therapists. It may also include more informal relationships, like having your friends hold you accountable for finishing a project, or people you meet in online settings that can provide you with resources.
Lotte van Rijswijk
There’s also the “Indirect Mentor” - someone who gives you guidance and teaches you things without directly addressing you - like an author or a YouTube channel host.
Incorporating feedback from others is key to all aspects of your reinvention and your job search. Say, for example, that you’re struggling to write your elevator pitch - the summary of yourself that shows how you provide value to others. Well, have you tried asking other people how you provide value in their lives? The answers may surprise you.
Experiment, Fail, Experiment Again
Re-invention is continuous and doesn’t follow only one trajectory. You should plan to keep reinventing your professional self even after you’re in your next job - that’s how you advance or prepare for the stage after this one.
As you re-invent, try experimenting with projects, big and small. Maybe you want to start a volunteer organization to fill a need in your community. Maybe it’s time to learn computer programming. Maybe you just want to write in a bullet journal every day so you can become more organized.
Lotte van Rijswijk
Many of these things will be “successful” - for whatever definition of success you give yourself. Others will be failures. Maybe not even big failures - maybe you’ll just get bored after a while and drop it. That’s okay - you’ve learned what can’t hold your interest long-term.
The point is, being willing and open to trying new things is a key asset for future employers - and will help you build new experiences into your overall reinvention process. As long as you walk away from an experiment with knowledge and experience, there’s no such thing as a total failure.