Six Ways to Reinvent Yourself and Your Career
Image credit: MsYogipants on Etsy
I began my career at CBS Television as an assistant. However, back then we, (mostly women) were referred to as secretaries. Think Mad Men even though it wasn’t that long ago!
Armed with a college degree, great energy, and naiveté, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t running the place.
With a foot in the door, I figured it would only be a matter of time before someone will be doing coffee runs for me. But that wasn’t the case.
Instead, I endured a far more difficult ascent. I weathered many storms. Got hired, fired, hired again only to be laid off and back on unemployment. After each setback came another uphill battle.
Jobs. Resumes. Interviews. Typing tests. (Being a good typist definitely helped.) Thank you notes. Follow-up calls.
But then I’d hear the dreaded word. No.
I had to start again. I’d struggle through the competition working hard to prove I was the best person for the position.
And then I’d win the job and think, wow, this is it. I’m finally on my way. A paycheck, food on the table, a roof over my head. Yay!
But it wasn’t to be.
Whether it was two months or two years, something always managed to thwart my climb.
I began to feel like Harry Potter grinding my way through a spooky, seductive maze filled with dragons, hexes and dangerous curses.
However, over time the setbacks turned out to be a great gift. I learned how to hone my message, master my skills, and build on my experience. As a result, I became more confident and empowered.
During the course of my journey I’ve been a secretary, supervisor, middle manager, senior executive, executive producer, California state commissioner and an author of a soon-to-be published novel.
And at every stage it required reinvention.
So how does one reinvent herself? What skills are necessary to get to the next rung on the ladder to success?
1. Resilience. A word we hear a lot about yet it’s very hard to do.
It’s difficult to pick yourself up off the floor when the rug has been ripped out from under. Setbacks. Rejection. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a horrible blow not just to your pocketbook but your ego as well.
When we suffer disappointments we mustn’t just “get on with it.” We need to grieve the loss, feel the pain, and only then can we begin to “bounce” back.
And it takes time.
At one point or another all of us have suffered some kind of career reversal. Those who get through the pain and back on the horse every single time are the ones who will succeed.
2. Research. I’ve taken many courses through the years. I probably could’ve earned myself a couple of PhDs. But I wasn’t interested in pursuing one subject. I wanted to explore many.
You’d be surprised how cooking, literature, writing, marketing, public speaking, dancing, gardening or Spanish might lead to a new position. You never know whom you’ll meet or what you’ll learn. It might spark something you never dreamed.
Join a book club. Learn a new business. Volunteer. Get involved in your local community. Discover new people and fresh opportunities.
Find something you enjoy. There’s no test at the end! This is for you. For your own pleasure.
3. Networking. I know you’re so tired of this word. But it’s important.
Networking isn’t hanging out at a bar. It’s actively building mentor and peer networks.
Get to know your peers and strengthen those relationships. Your colleagues will tell you about the jobs. Your mentors will help you get them.
Stay in touch with those who can help you and seek their advice. Cultivate and foster those connections.
Become a mentor. Your guidance will not only enrich their lives but yours as well.
I’ve mentored several women. Most recently my intern, Alessandra. We both learn from one another. While I’ve taught her the ropes, she’s helped me conquer my fear of social media!
4. Tenacity. Women tend to wait their turn. We seem conditioned to want more, but accept less. But we must ask questions and say what we want. And we must not give up. Keep at it. Persistence does pay off.
Meet your fears head on. Push the boundaries. Ask for and do more than what’s expected.
Be bold. Take chances. Take risks.
5. Passion. Following a setback a friend asked, “What’s your passion? What do you love doing?”
Well I love chocolate. But I didn’t think opening a candy store was in my future. However, I do enjoy writing. So, I utilized the tools I learned in my career, which helped guide me into a new profession.
There are countless stories of women who baked cupcakes after work or knitted sweaters on their lunch hours. They finally conjured up the nerve to leave their jobs and launched successful new careers.
6. Competition. I was so frightened of that word. Such a scary thought: competing. Yet, like it or not, it’s part of the workplace and essential to building a career.
Don’t avoid it. Embrace it. Own it. Get out there and compete wildly for the job you want. If you truly want something, go after it with all the gusto in the world.
You’ll be competing with many. But you are in the business of selling you.
So, why shouldn’t that new career be yours?
Lindy DeKoven is the author of the novel, "Prime Time Princess" to be published by Amazon Publishing in May 2013. She served as Executive Vice President of NBC, Vice President of Warner Bros, and Executive Producer at CBS/Paramount. She serves on the California Film Commission and is the former Chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women. She's currently featured in the documentary, "Miss Representation" written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom.