Five Not-So-Easy Steps For Smooth Career Transformation

So last night I was finishing up my taxes for 2009 (I know, I know, procrastination) and I was looking back at my income for the year. I came to the conclusion that it is going to be hard to beat the up and down of 2009 (to which my wife happily applauded). I know that Jason Seiden would say that a career path is a myth and given my path (or lack thereof), I am inclined to believe him given that…

  • I started off the year gainfully employed
  • I was let go unexpectedly mid-year
  • I was picked up a couple of weeks later and worked as a contractor
  • At the end of the year, I was told I needed to find steady income
  • In between all of that, I did consulting, web work, writing and sold a social network on eBay

Where have I ended up? At a great company, with great people, doing amazing, challenging things.

My cool little HR career track was derailed and I’m now pursuing another career altogether. What’s that career called? I call it marketing for my parent’s understanding but it is obviously very different than a traditional role. How’d I get here?

1. I started doing what I wanted to do

I know I wanted to write more about HR but I didn’t wait for someone to tell me to start blogging. When I was interested in collaborating with other likeminded HR folks, nobody told me to start a social network. When I started building relationships and communities around ideas and people that I knew, nobody told me to do that. I just started doing it. And I kept doing it. And then I asked internally what I wanted to do next. The skills that I work with today are ones I developed on my own outside of the clock.

2. I didn’t limit my choices

Losing my HR job in the middle of last year was like getting thrown off a lifeboat during a rainstorm. Swimming with unemployment is difficult enough but with the economic conditions last year, I didn’t know what would be available for my niche. Whenever I threw my name out there, talked to people or asked for introductions, I was clear that I was open to alternatives outside of my seven year career path. This allowed the MeritBuilder opportunity to come at me. It was far from my career path but it was one where I had skills and contributions I could bring to the table.

3. I had enough budget to take risk

The opportunity to make the jump to a new career is a risk. Even riskier when it is an early stage startup. We looked at our financial situation and decided to make the jump. We didn’t ever resort to ramen noodles or anything like that. Some months were uncomfortable. We never got a second car. And when word came down that I’d have to find an alternative to working for MeritBuilder, we were comfortable taking some time and working on a couple of projects for companies that I had put off and then continuing my career journey.

4. I outworked and out-networked everyone

When you don’t have the skills that years of experience brings you, it means you get to work twice as hard until you figure things out. I’ve gone over my ridiculous minute limit on my cell phone twice and it was when I was unemployed. And it wasn’t even that long of a period either (three weeks total) but I was on the phone a lot. I e-mailed almost everyone I had a tight connection with and followed up with a phone call. When I got jobs, I e-mailed and called people who were doing the jobs to get help and ask questions.

5. I changed my own mindset

The hardest part for me is this whole idea that I am no longer taking a break from HR or trying something else out because of the recession. Everyone always asks me if I ever miss HR or if I ever want to go back. Of course I miss it (I miss parts of it I should say) but I don’t know if I’ll be back. If you would have asked me a few years ago if I would leave HR, I don’t think I would have thought so. I’m enjoying what I am doing right now. I’m used to have a most of the answers at my finger tips and now I have to research or call people.

I don’t know how this would have turned out if I had actually been more thoughtful but I do think following this method ended up helping me significantly shorten the process.

What’s your take? How have you weathered career transformation?