They say necessity is the mother of invention. But for many women, myself included, children create the impetus for career reinvention. In my case, it was the birth of my first daughter, which prompted me to leave my job in human resources and seek a more family-friendly career.
With little clue as to what to do next, or how to translate my corporate experience into an entrepreneurial venture, I considered all sorts of ideas. One day I fixated on becoming a nutritionist, and the next a designer. Eventually, my husband grew tired of my “Brilliant Brainstorm of the Day” and said, “Honey, I’ll support whatever decision you make. But, why not focus on something at least remotely connected to your old work?”
As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. So I wrote down all the things about my previous jobs that I loved (a short list) and all the things I didn’t (a much longer list) and it quickly became clear that my favorite jobs revolved around coaching and mentoring.
Back then, I wasn’t familiar with the world of career coaching, but with a bit of research, I discovered a graduate program in career development that was fortuitously located near my home. I concentrated my studies on flexible work issues, and following graduation, opened a career coaching practice for women who wanted to reinvent their careers outside the traditional 9-5 model.
The business grew in-synch with my children, and over time, my services expanded to include telephone-coaching, digital products and speaking engagements. Today, with my children launched in their own careers and surrounded by friends contemplating “second acts”, I am redirecting my focus towards boomers who are contemplating semi-retirement ventures and encore careers.
Being a home-based entrepreneur hasn’t been without challenges. But after fifteen years in business, I remain filled with gratitude for the gift of interesting work, clients that I adore and a career that enables me to make a real difference in people’s lives.
If you’re looking to reinvent your career, here are five tips for success:
1. Career reinvention isn’t an “all or nothing” paradigm: Even if you are determined to make a big change, don’t be so quick to “throw out the baby with the bath water.” There are always pieces of your prior work experiences worth continuing into whatever you chose to do next.
2. Small actions add-up to big results: Meaningful career reinvention takes time. If you can’t afford to quit your job, take small steps towards your goal; volunteer for a new assignment, sign-up for a seminar or go to a conference.
3. Seize the opportunity afforded by change: A new marriage, the birth of a child or dealing with an aging parent can all play havoc with your career. But how you react to the challenge is up to you. As Winston Churchill said, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
4. Invest in Education: Going back to school, whether for a certificate program or a new credential, can be a surefire way to quickly transition into a new career or business. Educational offerings range from one-day workshops to four-year degrees, so weigh your options carefully.
5. Embrace the “Fertile Emptiness”: Waiting for the “aha” moment during career reinvention can be frustrating. But like a flower that takes root from a seed in the dirt, trust that periods of dark confusion are often followed by illuminating moments of clarity and certainty.