Have you been discouraged when expecting a promotion or interviewing for a job, and left the room feeling like you are missing the secret handshake? You are not alone. I have been there many times. Throughout my career, my name has been put forward for positions for which I knew I was qualified, but the hiring committee did not believe I fit the mold. Had I not had the confidence to explore a variety of sectors, I would not be where I am today. I embraced “not fitting the mold” and created my own. You can, too.
Looking for work outside the world’s defined comfort zone can be particularly disappointing, especially when you have been a recognized leader in an industry that is in disarray or collapse. You may be at an age where hiring managers question whether your skills and experience are relevant or applicable. Or perhaps you had to step away from the workforce to manage a personal or family matter, and the world you left is no longer in play.
Early on, I learned that there is the traditional path which tends to be linear as people check the box at every step of the career ladder. But there is also the Lisa Gable process which is uninhibitedly pursuing the unexpected by obtaining power positions in a variety of sectors or as a friend recently noted “taking the scenic route.”
It may be time for you to explore the scenic route too; plus, you may have no choice but to do so.
With mergers across industry and the dizzying pace of innovation, what you planned to do may no longer be an option—or it may not be the best option to accelerate you to the top. Transformation is the norm for today’s business world, and it is the same for career path reinvention.
I was recently asked: “Did you seek change or did change seek you?” My answer was yes and yes. In my book, Turnaround, I discuss that sometimes organizations and policymakers are stuck in a cookie cutter approach to culture and management. The reality is the world is changing dramatically. Cycles of innovation are tightening. Sectors are converging. That prototype of experience—an organizational culture, management style, leadership approach—that has worked in the past but may no longer be compatible with new realities. You are on the leading edge of that change, so empower yourself with the strength of your conviction that you can not only do the job for which you are applying, but your diverse perspective will enable the organization to arrive at the best possible solutions to address challenges before them today.
Here is my advice for pushing forward and identifying your next opportunity.
· Own the mantra I use: “I am not defined as what I was, I am defined as who I am and will be.”
· Identify sectors at an inflection point: Research cross-industry opportunities which include game changing advances across philanthropy and business. Bring to life how projects on which you worked provide a benchmark and prototype for their success.
· Find your people: Ignore the naysayers and seek opportunities where people appreciate you and the value of you, which includes your industry agnostic capabilities and your knowledge of systems and processes required to take an organization to the next level of performance.
· Focus on commonalities: Showcase the similarities of your experience against an organization’s current needs. Most importantly walk in with a plan, so when they ask the question “how would you…”, you are poised and ready with an answer.
· Highlight your collective experience: Define yourself by the positive changes you have made and invest in building momentum for your candidacy around the benefits you can provide which address pressing organizational needs.
When life zigs, you zag, and when it zags, zig. You’ve got this. Believe in yourself, what you have done, and what you can do. They need you; you just need to show them why.