Four Absolutes for Every Career Reinvention Project

There are at least four absolutes when undertaking a significant career change. These include:

1. Getting started is the hardest part.

Many people think about doing something different with their time and skills. Most daydream about it in moments of stress and that’s it. For me, it’s the idea of my barbecue food truck that shows up and rents space in my mind when I’m feeling like it’s time for something new. In reality, it might be the third level of Dante’s inferno, but I daydream.

Yet, I’ve already reinvented. I took the first steps down a path leading to an unknown destination. Through experimentation, I ended up here serving as an executive and emerging lead coach, course creator, educator, and author. This is the work of a lifetime! The barbecue truck idea is still there. It gives lift to my weekend culinary backyard practice. It’s a great hobby, and likely for me, a lousy business.

2. Project duration defies predictability.

In my recent Career Reinvent Boot Camp, two individuals pivoted during the eight-week program. A third is hot on the trail of “next,” and a fourth just announced his pivot, backed by an offer from a very different style of organization than what he’s accustomed to. Others I’ve worked with take more time—and that’s OK. Everyone’s situation is different.

3. No one reinvents alone.

I know you’re fiercely independent and motivated as heck to find your next. You still need a Swim Buddy to challenge your thinking, kick you in the butt when you start wallowing and help shore up your confidence in the face of a new adventure.

No one reinvents alone.

I did this alone and burned years pursuing too many things. I was all activity and no vector. You don’t want to repeat my mistake.

4. It’s tempting to give up in the messy middle of your project.

Unless you are one of the rare few who comes to the career reinvention process with a clear, firm destination, there’s a lot of exploring and experimenting necessary to find your “next.” It’s easy—especially without a Swim Buddy—to give up. Much like a diet or a fitness program, life gets in the way, and delaying the hard work to some future date is easy to rationalize. It doesn’t help that, at times, it feels like you’re getting nowhere. I call this phase the “stall.”

An Algorithm to Help You Succeed with Career Reinvention

After years of practice and research, some of the greatest scientific minds have identified a powerful formula for career reinvention success. (OK, the years of practice and study are accurate, but the thing about the scientific minds was fake news). It’s called… are you ready for it?

Hop, Skip, and Jump.

Yeah, kind of underwhelming sounding, isn’t it?

Yet, permitting yourself to explore in search of the sweet spot where abilities, interests, and marketability converges often demands extended experimentation.

Lessons in Hop, Skip, and Jump

My Career Reinvent clients do this all of the time.

There’s the emerging corporate executive who wants to become CEO. The hop is out of corporate into working for a big-name consulting firm and then ultimately a jump back to the C-suite.

Or the scientist who wants to be an audible narrator and part-time editor. A parallel track involving keeping the day job for two years and working side hustles to gain experience in the interim.

Or the supply chain expert who wants to coach and teach for the military.

Or the software sales expert who wants to be involved in organizational development. A degree program and some internal projects define his hop and skip.

They “Hop” to one role or activity to gain experience and test their hypotheses about the opportunity.

Sometimes their moves look like adult internships. For example, I should spend time working in a barbecue business before investing my hard-earned capital. Do I love tending the smokers for 30 briskets at 3:00 a.m.?

The “Skip” draws upon the insights gained in the “Hop” and refines the approach, and focuses on exploring deeper for fit. Maybe I love the overnight work of running a barbecue business. Now, it’s time to get more involved in helping operate a business, engaging with customers, and navigating the management headaches. Or, maybe I decide to start small and cater before investing in a truck or shack.

Finally, the “Jump” is where I aim and land, all based on what I learned in the earlier steps. A sign of this might be “Art’s Smokin Q” truck showing up at festivals, complete with Art & Al’s Sweet and Heat homemade sauces and Maria’s Key Lime Pie for dessert. (Al is Allison, my wife. Maria is a dear friend who makes incredible Key Lime Pie. Yeah, I’ve been planning this in my mind for a long time.)

It’s Liberating to Know You Don’t Have to Get it Perfect the First Time.

All of the Hop/Skip/Jump approaches are slightly different. They involve temporary jobs, short-term internships, longer-term experience builders, and industry or vocation shifts.

The goal is to get closer to doing work that allows you at your best to emerge regularly.

If you don’t know precisely what that work is, you can’t find it by sitting still. It’s time to Hop, Skip, and Jump.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Too many people wrongly believe they have to figure out exactly what they’re going to do for the rest of their careers. And for most, this is an overwhelming problem. Instead, focus on finding your “next,” not your “forever.” And to do that, you need to keep moving.

Art's Signature

Additional Resources:

My growing library of Career Reinvention articles.

We stand up new Career Reinvent Boot Camp Cohorts every 12-weeks or so. Check our program page for more information and reach out to set up a discovery call.