Puzzle pieces w people – Image by Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

“Success to me is self-determination and making your own choices,” Jane Wurwand, Founder and Chair of Dermalogica, recently told the 400+ women at the Politico Women Rule Summit. A new year provides an opportunity to look at your career anew and sometimes that means exploring a different path.

Maybe life is throwing you a curve ball, like being laid off. Maybe you want a new challenge, think you’re in the wrong role, or want to pursue something completely different. Maybe a personal life change is triggering a fresh start, like your spouse being relocated as happened to Bonnie Datta, or your marriage changes direction and you decide to shift professionally too.

Either way, it’s an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that people change jobs an average of 12 times in a career and Gallup found that Millennials changed jobs three times more often than other demographics.

Career paths image by Freerange Stock Photos

But how?

You have a track record in your industry, all your contacts are in that industry, people know you’re good at x, but your heart is really in z. You can feel trapped in your past record of accomplishments and feel totally unqualified for the work you really want to do now.

No matter where you are in your process, remember three things:

a. It’s never too late.

b. You know a lot more than you think you do.

c. Your current skills can transfer to your new field and probably better than you realize. Just rearrange them like puzzle pieces that can create more than one image.

If you aren’t sure about your next career: As I counsel my coaching clients, step one is figuring out what parts of you that you want to give a voice to now and what skills and talents you want to use more. Many of the steps below will help you identify your new direction too.

Here are 6 important strategies for changing careers from my interviews in 2019, no matter what career stage you’re in, based on where you are in the transition to your new career:

1. Take courses or trainings in the new topic: There are a zillion ways to learn about a new industry today, from graduate degree programs, to executive education and certificate programs, to Udemy online courses offered by many of the country’s top universities, or webinars by industry experts. I earned my MBA as a “grown up” and it was a great decision, especially as a woman. It will eliminate a bunch of questions as you seek work in the new are, you’ll make contacts in it, and discover more specifically how your current skills and talents transfer to it.

Bonnie Datta, Siemens

2. Learn the language of your new career focus: You have to learn the vernacular of your new field, so you understand it and can converse in it. These webinars and certificate programs and even conferences can teach you this language. Datta had to learn to “speak smart grid,” for example, for her career shift. It’s important on many levels, from technical expertise, to understanding your new peers and leaders, to being accepted into the new industry as a knowledgeable source.

3.“Learn how the pieces fit together,” Christi Tezak told me about how she did her own career pivot. For example, she suggested asking “targeted questions,” such as “I see that x does this, and y does that, but how do they connect?” Develop a strategic sense about the industry, the big picture, and how the work you want to do fits in.

4. Be open to relocating: Many more opportunities open for you if you are willing to relocate. If you have family commitments where you live now, talk to them about potentially relocating for the right opportunity and tell recruiters you are open to it. Many of the high-achieving women I’ve interviewed have also moved for work opportunities that accelerated their careers and positioned them for senior roles. Relocating also make you more adaptable and nimble, teaches you new value systems, makes you think differently and gives you the chance to know many different types of people, cultures and situations.

Kathy Baughman McLeod, Atlantic Council, C40 Cities photo

Kathy Baughman McLeod, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Resilience Center (and former SVP at Bank of America) told me that she moved a lot as a child, since her dad was in the Air Force, so as a survival tool she learned how to figure out a community or an organization and that has helped her perform better and presented career opportunities.

5. Network, network, network – multi-generationally: “I cannot encourage enough the networking aspect of if you want to change your career.” Datta told me. When she met people through her volunteer work who were doing interesting work in her new interests, she cultivated professional relationships with them, eventually landing consulting gigs. Engage with many age groups and types of people, too. Think of it as making new friends and learning from them.

(Original Caption) Houston: Texas Democratic governor candidate Ann Richards announces her economic … [+] development program for Texas, in speech to the greater Houston Partnership business organization. Richard’s plans called for “Buy Texas, Build Texas, and Sell Texas programs to create more jobs, improve education, and sell Texas made products.”

6. “Bet on yourself”: Former Texas Governor Ann Richards , a political powerhouse and the subject of a recent play at the Arena Stage, bet on herself even in her darkest days, like when her family and friends confronted her in an intervention about her alcoholism and she checked herself into “drunk school” (her name for rehab), or when she lost reelection.

Today it’s tempting to compare ourselves to everyone else’s sanitized personas on social media that look so magically prosperous and beautiful, but resist. Richards reminds us to stand with ourselves, own the space we occupy, be who we are, flaws and all, focus on your knowledge, talents and skills, and go for it.

Even if or you feel out-of-sync with your friends or peers, follow your own path.

Maiden, Tracy Edwards-at-helm

“I learned that we are all capable of so much more than we think we are, until we push ourselves,” sailing legend Tracy Edwards – who built the first all-female crew to run the grueling, treacherous, 33,000 mile Whitbread Round The World yachting race and triumphed, as seen in the new documentary “Maiden” – told me. “We all have these reserves that I don’t think we use anymore…keep looking for those parts of yourself that you have ignored.”

“You have to go out on a limb, because that’s where the fruit is.” Richards says at the end of the play. She changed history by going out on many limbs throughout her life and career, pushing herself beyond what she thought she could do.

You can too.

For more career tips and strategies, listen to my acclaimed podcast, Green Connections Radio and subscribe to my weekly newsletter, and check out these 10 of the best and most unusual career insights we heard in 2019.

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