We no longer work for the same company for 40 years. If you are entrepreneurially-minded, this reality shouldn’t scare you. For better or worse, we have more opportunities than ever to earn an income in different ways.
Have faith in yourself -- whether you’re forced to or choose to, reinventing yourself isn’t as hard as you may think.
Related: Richard Branson on Learning by Doing
In college, I started out studying economics. I found it incredibly boring and quickly discovered that I hated it. On a whim, I took an art class and loved it. I reinvented myself as an artist. As many of us discover, we actually have to make a living after college! So I combined my artistic goals with economic ones. In my fifties, the money I was making from ideas I had licensed started drying up, so I remade myself as a small-business entrepreneur in the music accessories industry. At the same time, I decided to become a mentor and created an educational program about licensing.
I was nervous, of course, but I never let that stop me. That may be because I watched my father do the same thing. After working for the same corporation for 25 years, he became a real estate agent. It wasn’t difficult for him. I think the reason why is because he never defined himself by his job. He enjoyed his work and it interested him, but he kept himself apart from it in an important way. He didn’t take being let go personally, which made it easier for him to move on.
In hindsight, his willingness to reinvent himself deeply impacted me. If he could do it, so could I.
We have so many people telling us to be scared of losing our jobs or trying something new. It doesn’t have to be that way. When it’s time for a change, rely on these strategies to help you:
1. Check your ego. No job is too small or unimportant. Every job can be a learning experience. It’s more important to ask, “What can I get out of this?”
Related: How to Thrive During Tough Times
2. Focus on building your toolbox. There are basic skills that are beneficial to many jobs (as well as your personal life) that can be easily obtained. Here are three:
- Sales: I have always encouraged my three children to take sales jobs. I don’t care if it’s the worst sales job -- you will learn a lot, even if it’s cold-calling or going door to door. We’re always selling, including ourselves, from a first date to asking a bank for a loan.
- Management: You can never go wrong with getting some management experience. Every employer wants to hire someone who knows how to build up the people around them. You could take a job at a fast food restaurant or coffee shop and work your way up to shift lead.
- Financial: if you develop financial skills, they will never do you wrong. Surprisingly, many people are clueless when it comes to their finances. These are all skills you will use starting your own company, as well.
3. Broadly assess your own skills. What skills do you have? Think deep, and not only in your professional life. Employers are looking for people they can count on. What makes you dependable? Are you always on time? Look for skills that you practice in your daily life that make you an accountable, stand-up person. Make a massive list. Ask your friends and family for help. Their insight may reveal new qualities. This way, you can match your skills to every job you apply for. Make sure you intimately understand each employer’s culture and attitude.
4. Don’t rule out creating your own job. This is the approach I took after college. I didn’t see any jobs out there that fit the skills I had, so I decided to break out on my own. I sold my crafts at fairs, which was a pretty bold move in hindsight. Later in my twenties, I was hired by a startup company to do exactly the same thing. Life is weird. I knew working at a startup would teach me wildly different skills I didn’t have -- skills I knew I would need later in life.
Opportunity is all around us. We just have to seize it.