The art of reinvention will be the most critical skill of this century

Written By Terrence Seamon

In 2018, Israeli futurist Yuval Noah Harari declared the statement above, adding that society and its school systems should be focused on critical life skills for adapting to change:

“So what should we be teaching? Many pedagogical experts argue that schools should switch to teaching “the four Cs” – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. More broadly, schools should downplay technical skills and emphasise general-purpose life skills. Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things and to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations. In order to keep up with the world of 2050, you will need not merely to invent new ideas and products – you will above all need to reinvent yourself again and again.”

Many businesses and professionals have had to reinvent themselves in the wake of the upheaval caused by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. So if Harari is right, we need roadmaps for reinvention. Here is a four- stage process for professionals facing the prospect of a career reinvention.

Dream – What have you always dreamed of doing? The first stage of reinvention involves reflecting on your career dreams. This is the soul-searching phase where you review your interests, hobbies, and activities that give you a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Ask yourself, When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to become? These early career dreams hold clues to your future. What career pathways did you consider years ago, but were not taken? What sort of work have you yearned to do?

Discover – To move to the next stage, select a career path from your Dream work in stage one. Take some time to explore a field that is interesting to you. Start exploring it, according to career expert Brian Kurth, by taking a Vocation Vacation where you find someone who is doing the type of work you want to do and spend time with them. Choose someone who can give you a guided tour of a field that you are intrigued by. Go “behind the scenes” to find out the inner workings of what they do. They can reveal to you what it’s really like in their field. They can show you what they do up close and in detail. You can shadow them (Kurth calls it a “test drive”) and get a realistic look at this career option. You’ll come away with some rich data for making your decision about whether to move ahead, or move on to another possibility.

Design – Having decided on a particular career path, this step includes the practical considerations associated with a career change. Is it realistic? Are there significant barriers to entry? Do you have the skills? Are there costs associated with this? Ask yourself, what is the worst that could happen? Develop a plan with a timeline and a budget for the resources you will need to reach your goals. Identify the likely obstacles and develop countermeasures in the event they crop up. Enlist a small team of advisors to give you a reality check when needed. Map out your communication strategy so that you let your family, friends, and professional network know what is happening.

Dare – Finally, are you ready to “make the move?” The risks of stepping away from the comfort of what you know, and embarking on a new endeavor that you don’t know, can seem great. Before you make that leap, consider these wise words from career coach Donna Coulson, who has helped many professionals in career transitions:

Know your value in today’s marketplace. You are the CEO of You Inc. It’s up to you to know what’s needed in today’s market. Where are your skills in demand? The job you had may not be coming back!

“Be a Trend Tracker—what’s needed in the marketplace from your tool kit and skill set?  

“Know how you stand out from the crowd. There are hundreds of people for every job opening. Figure out what’s unique about you and determine your main focus. Know how to be of value and service in a different way. Ask. Observe. Do you use existing management or technical skills in a totally new way or different environment? What industries need your expertise?”

The hardest part of any new undertaking is getting started. As Brian Tracy once said:

“The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue.”

So simply begin, even if the first step is a small one.

About The Author

Terrence “Terry” Seamon is an executive career transition consultant with The Ayers Group where he coaches executives and professionals that are in career transitions. He has been with Ayers since 2009. He frequently speaks at career transition support group meetings on such topics as job search, career transition, and achieving success. Previously Terry had a long career in the corporate world as a HR training manager in such industries as energy, telecom, and pharma-chem. The author of three books, Terry is also active as a leadership development consultant. Terry lives in Somerset, NJ with his wife Joan, where he is active at his church and in his local community. Terry moderates the St. Matthias Employment Ministry, founded in 2007.