In fact, I think he completely missed the mark with his “There are no second acts in American lives” remark. On the contrary, we are completely capable of reinventing ourselves – and our careers – on an ongoing basis.
Sometimes it happens just by accident. You start out doing one job, and then you end up being the person who just happens to be good at that new thing that needed to be done, and your career takes off heading in a new direction. Or you volunteer for a project and then realize that you not only love the new work you’re doing, you’re also pretty darn good at it – so you keep doing it. Or you’re promoted into a position that at first feels way over your head but then ends up being a perfect match for your growing professional skills. In each instance, you’re reinventing your career.
Other times, however, reinventing yourself – creating that next act – becomes a purposeful choice. Perhaps you’ve simply outgrown the job you’ve been in for years, and are ready to explore the question of what type of work or work environment might re-engage you. Or perhaps a change in your job (new boss? new leadership? new expectations? new mission?) has left you feeling like it’s time to consider other, more rewarding, options. Or perhaps your personal circumstances have changed, so that what worked for you previously no longer meets your requirements.
For whatever reason, you’re ready to reinvent your career.
Recently the Wall Street Journal ran an article debunking the oft-repeated mantra that most of us will go through seven career changes throughout our working lifetimes. Basically, the Department of Labor has completely disavowed the statement, and no one’s ready to ‘fess up to having started the seven-careers rumor.
However, I think a more valid (and useful) way of framing this is that we may, in fact, be much likelier to have at least seven career extensions throughout our working lives. With that frame, I’ve had at least seven so far, and have friends and colleagues who’ve had even more as new opportunities have opened up (or been created by them).
For the past ten years I’ve had the enjoyable, enlightening, and often humbling experience of teaching a course in alternative career paths for LIS students and professionals as part of the University of Denver’s MLIS program. Without a doubt, I learn as much from the students as they learn from me.
Throughout all ten years of classes and students, my overriding goal has been to find ways to help people create careers that feed their souls, intellects – and income streams. In order to do that, we consider what career paths exist (or can be created) for LIS professionals; what constitutes meaningful, rewarding and authentic work for individual students; and how to connect the two.
There are some LIS professionals that, given the opportunity, I always read: Mary Ellen Bates, Stephen Abram, Rachel Singer Gordon, Pat Wagner, and a handful of others.
I also keep an eye out for anything written by Jamie Larue, because, besides the fact that he’s an interesting thinker, I especially like his approach to public librarianship, which I will loosely paraphrase as “get the hell out of the building and into the community.” (Actually, in his defense, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Jamie swear…)
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
– Samuel Beckett
How can you not love an article that touts the benefits of failure with a cover photo of actor Alec Baldwin? In its January 2010 issue, Wired magazine had a series of articles entitled “How to Fail” that focuses on the opportunities inherent in failure if we’re wise enough (and paying enough attention) to reframe them as learning opportunities.
That’s the premise of lead article “The Neuroscience of Screwing Up” by Jonah Lehrer, which examines scientific research as the poster child of accidental discoveries based on dashed expectations and failed experiments. Missteps, wrong paths taken, world-class screw-ups – pretty much the hallmarks of a life lived to its fullest, and a career engaged to the max.
The problem is this: Often the heart and mind disagree. Fervently.
– Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
You know the feeling: you know you need to make a change of some sort, but don’t seem to be able to get it in gear.
Perhaps you’ve decided to broaden your skill set, which may mean pursuing an online certificate or degree, something you’ve never done before. Or you’ve decided that you’re going to start actively building your professional brand online, necessitating learning and using unfamiliar tools. Or you’ve determined that your organization could support professional development among the staff much more effectively if it changed its approach to annual performance evaluations – but how do you help bring about that change in approach?