The economy and job market are rapidly changing with the swift adoption of technology, artificial intelligence and robotics, along with globalization and corporate ease in downsizing thousands of people, all in an effort to cut costs. These trends have severe repercussions for us all. These and other changes may place you in a situation where you are forced to reinvent yourself or pivot to another job or profession to remain relevant, marketable and desired.
In the last few months, I’ve written extensively about societal shifts, including uber-rich CEOs stepping down (willingly or pushed out of their cushy offices), top companies laying off thousands of employees and moving jobs to less expensive states and countries and automation fiercely displacing real-life people. The evidence is clear that this trend will only accelerate. It's easy and comfortable to stay complacent, but I’d highly recommend that you start planning for reinventing yourself, even if you feel safe at the moment. If you’re the victim of a downsizing or your job isn’t as relevant as it once was, the skills you possess now seem antiquated and undesirable—it's time to act right now.
The first thing you need to do is process and accept your situation. It's surreal to have a career for 20 years. Then, one day you find yourself home flipping through daytime television in your pajamas on your couch. Change is brutally hard for many people. Even if you’re unhappy in your current position, you feel “at least I have a job and my colleagues are sort of okay.” It's hard to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new. Our identities are intimately tied up with our jobs and careers. When it's over, you’ll feel lost and adrift. You don’t know who you are any longer. The floodgate of emotions—feelings of depression, anger, bitterness and resentfulness—can be overwhelming.
Put your ego aside. You could be the billionaire CEO of WeWork now out of a job, or an assembly line worker on strike and wondering when your job will be replaced by a robot or the plant will close or a longtime employee of the venerated General Electric that is now a poor version of its former glory and preeminence. You could be a professional working at JPMorgan and your job was just sent to another city and you weren’t asked to go.
The life you once had may be over, but you can build a new and better one. Don’t worry about what people think or say. Stop concerning yourself with your social status and lament the money you used to earn. Start thinking about the future. Recognize that you’re starting from scratch. You’ve now been given a clean slate. You can create yourself all over again. This time, you’re doing it with meaning, purpose, drive and on your own terms.
Start thinking of the type of person you want to be. Do you want to stay in the profession you’ve worked in for the last 10 years or is it time to move on? If the door is closed to what you’ve previously done, you need to figure out what you want to do next—the existential “what do you want to do when you grow up, now that you're over 35 years old?” question. It seems daunting. Design a plan of bold action. Think of what you’re good at, enjoy doing, have some talent for and the chance to earn a good living. Then, research what it takes to make that leap and do it. Don’t procrastinate. Start today, as time quickly flies by.
This is easier said than done. Try not to be overwhelmed with the fear of the unknown. There is safety in consistency. It's scary when your ship sails out past the shoreline and the waves start hitting hard. Find coping mechanisms to stay strong and go the course. Seek out mentors and health professionals to speak with, exercise, eat healthy, read and cultivate hobbies to keep sane and control the nervous energy.
Be mentally prepared for lots of rejection. It would be great if you could move into a different profession, accept a new job or start a successful business right away. Once in a while, lightning could strike, but don’t count on it. The odds are high that you’ll have to fight, scratch and claw to move in the direction you desire. People will say “no, thank you” over and over again. They’ll point out your lack of experience and slam the door in your face. That can't stop you. You have to keep on trying in the face of adversity.
There will be highs and lows. You may make traction toward a new career, but then realize it's not all you thought it would be and have to start all over again. You can start a new job, but then, “last in, first out” could come into play and you're on the street again.
Embrace the uncertainty. It will be there whether you like it or not, so you might as well look at it as a challenge. Visualize yourself in the position you want. Think of how great it will be once you make the transition over to a great job, career, trade or vocation that you really desire. No important journey is easy, as it is often filled with roadblocks. Keep jumping over the hurdles, knocking on doors, breaking through doors and don’t relent in the face of temporary failure.
Once you develop this inner strength, when it happens again (which it will), you will be more confident in your abilities and excited about reinventing yourself once again.
I am a CEO, founder, and executive recruiter at one of the oldest and largest global search firms in my area of expertise and have personally placed thousands of professionals with top-tier companies over the last 20-plus years.