In transition? 6 lessons from successful career changes.

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Change happens fast. Transitions take time. That’s because with each new career change, if you’re thoughtful about it, you take a step closer to becoming your true self. This can’t be rushed.

What will it take for the next five years to be your best ever? By linking what you do to who you are, your career becomes your vocation.

Over the years, I have witnessed hundreds of executives make job changes, mostly involving a bigger title, more money, or greater responsibilities. Few of these executives quit to move into entirely new careers. Fewer still describe their new career as their vocation. Maybe it’s because most executives are too damn busy to reflect on what makes them truly effective or happy; or maybe the easy pay raises have seduced them into careers defined by money or power. Or tunnel vision. It doesn’t have to be that way.

What will it take for the next five years to be your best ever?

Changing your career is not the same thing as changing jobs. A truly successful career transition requires a redefinition, or reinvention, of who you are. In my experience, executives who have succeeded in single or multiple career transitions — and I don’t mean job changes — and who love what they do, have five critical qualities in common:

  1. Self-Awareness. The starting point is understanding what drives us. 75 members of Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Advisory Council, mostly made up of senior executives, were asked to recommend the most important capability for leaders to develop. Their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness. Self awareness gives executives the power to spot the disconnects between their chosen career path, their income potential, and the joy they get out of life. Self-awareness gives people the power to recognize when “something’s missing” in their career. By reflecting on what’s important and experimenting with different choices, they learn from their experiences. In our coaching, we routinely use self-assessments to flesh out motivations. We help executives find meaning from their career successes and failures, their values and passions.
  2. Autonomy. Successful career-changers self-author their careers and lives. They, not their employers, take responsibility for their own development and the fulfillment they get out of their work. Thirty years in the making, a self-determined career is now a reality, thanks to LinkedIn and the slow death of the social contract. Like it or not, we are all contractors now. Successful career-changers know that theirs is the start-up that matters most. Their livelihood is determined by how effectively they discover, nurture, and sell their inspired vision for the future.
  3. Pursuing Mastery. Good things happen when we are at our best. This takes conscious effort. When executives strive to attain higher levels of mastery over their mindsets, ideas, and behaviors, opportunities come their way. People are eager to work with us because of who we are, not just because of what we know. And we, in turn, want to work with people we can learn from and who challenge us to be better. Mastery is a journey that takes time, experimentation, effort, and discovery. My coaching clients describe this journey as the hardest thing they have ever done — and the most rewarding. With each new level of mastery, higher mountains stand before them.
  4. Purpose. All of us are drawn to an activity that is meaningful for us. If we are lucky, our purpose or ‘calling’ grabs us, shakes us, and doesn’t let us go. Succumbing to our purpose can and should dedicate us to something bigger than ourselves. Our energy, engagement, tenacity, and confidence stems from our purpose. Life takes on a sense of urgency. But relatively few of us are committed to a purpose, according to research published in HBR (see my prior post).
  5. Identity. In your transition, who is the new you? By stepping into the future of your own design, you become the person or leader you aspire to be. Your identity, the way you show up in the world, shifts, and there is no turning back. Have you felt this way? There are many examples of accomplished people who have consciously reinvented themselves, driven by a clarifying and renewable sense of purpose: Winston Churchill, Leopold Stokowski, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Gates, to name a few. Without exception, every successful career shift coincides with a shift, or reinvention, of identity.
  6. Experimentation. Successful career-changers have a learning mindset. Reflection can take you only so far. It is often a good strategy to experiment or act your way into a new way of thinking or being. This involves testing your career ideas on others, attaining certifications or new skills, building new social networks, and trying out new jobs or volunteer roles where your passions can be tested.

How do you score on the above list?

Back to the drawing boardThe most successful people find creative ways to express their inner selves through work. If something’s missing, they change their work. They stretch themselves, accept their strengths and weaknesses without judgment, and are relentless in pursuing the thing they love to do.

If you are in the second half of your career, you know that most careers don’t always follow linear upward paths to success. Careers are journeys filled with ups and downs, pain and joy. Changing your career deliberately and consciously is not the same thing as changing your job. A successful career change takes reflection, hard work, a personal support system, and the courage to experiment. I’d like to hear about your experience.

Remarkable careers don’t happen by accident. Careers, like the leaders who create them, are made, not born.

For thirty years, Michael Bekins has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, and the US in global and regional roles, making almost a dozen cross-border moves. His conversations with thousands of executives have shaped his perspectives on life and work. He is Managing Partner of CapitaPartners, an executive coaching and talent consulting firm specializing in Global Mindset and Purpose-driven Careers. He co-leads Executive SpringBoard, the career redesign workshop for executives. Connect on LinkedIn. Friend on Facebook. Follow Michael on @michaelbekins.

Interested in more information? Visit our Executive Springboard website and consider our reading list.

CapitaPartners introduces SpringBoard, a career redesign workshop for executives

CapitaPartners announces the launch of SpringBoard, an intensive career redesign workshop for executives to help you put purpose and meaning back into your career.

Over two and a half days, a group of like-minded executives will move through a series of interactive exercises designed to bring awareness, insights, and critical thinking to their career and life plans. Our goal is for participants to learn as much from each other as from the coaches – and for the coaches to learn from the participants. This approach is grounded in concepts of adult learning, executive coaching methodologies, and 30 years of practical experience in career decision-making. Through feedback and support, you’ll come away with fresh thinking and a concrete plan that’s been validated by your coaches and peers. You’ll have a fresh mindset and a new sense of purpose. You’ll know how to retool and how to correct any gaps in skills or leadership competencies. Finally, you’ll have a strategy for writing the next chapter in your life and career.

Our first workshop will be in Santa Barbara, California, on October 15-17. Consider taking a short time-out to focus on the “why” of your career. Contact SpringBoard@capitapartners.com for more information, or visit our SpringBoard website.

About Michael Bekins

For 35 years I have advised and coached senior executives, particularly global executives, through career transitions big and small. Whether the encounter was formal or informal, I remember just about every one, thanks to the lasting imprint that is formed during such periods of intense human interaction. If you’ve ever experienced in-depth career coaching, you’ll know what I mean.

More recently, as an executive coach, I’ve thought deeply about how to make an impact on executives and careers in today’s world where we are, in many respects, “sole proprietors.” By leveraging LinkedIn and other networking sites to promote and monetize the unique experience, skills, networks, qualities, and passions that set us apart and add value to organizations, we author our own careers. This new reality requires us all to think about our our value to the market-place and to develop a set of skills that was once needed only by entrepreneurs.

About CapitaPartners

We partner with clients to develop global mindset in executives and to build an outstanding cadre of global executive talent. Our executive coaching and consulting offerings include Leadership Coaching, Global Mindset Workshops, Leading Across Cultures, SpringBoard (career redesign workshops for executives), Expatriate Advisory, and Transitions Coaching. CapitaPartners also works with clients to assess and recruit senior executives into global roles. Our AsiaNext platform focuses on igniting the critical leadership qualities necessary for the next generation of leaders in Asia.

Our platform has grown considerably over the past two years. Our executive coaching team focuses on a radically unique agenda – building a firm dedicated to understanding what it takes to lead successfully in challenging global markets, truly moving the dial with the clients we serve, and underpinning everything we do with evidence-based assessment tools and research.

Why Career?

With the vast amount of job-related advice available online and in print today, the best way to translate it into a thoughtful action plan is to put it in the context of the why of our career. This becomes increasingly important as we move up the ladder and consider our impact and legacy.

Finding meaning in our career is a matter of listening to what life wants of us, not just what we want of life. John Schuster, a coach and writer on human development, says that responding to a call is a choice that leaves you no choice. Our purpose sometimes grabs us, shakes us, and refuses to let us go. Responding—and giving in—to that calling or purpose can energize us to achieve amazing things.

When we are honest and clear about where we are on our journey, we can move forward more thoughtfully and efficiently, saving years of “soldiering on.” However, not all of us are lucky enough to attune to a higher calling all the time and most people’s lives and careers aren’t linear. Instead, we move through ups and downs in a spiral fashion, riding the waves of intense energy, success, frustration, boredom, change, growth and renewal.

Building a “successful” career isn’t just about moving up; it’s also about digging deep. By mining our past and mindfully approaching our present, we can regularly tap into our passions, values, and strengths to design a career that fully reflects what we want our life to be about. If you feel something is missing and want more in your life and career, now may be the time to act.

CapitaPartners introduces SpringBoard, a career redesign workshop for executives.

For 35 years I have advised and coached senior executives, particularly global executives, through career transitions, big and small, formally and informally. I can remember just about every one of these encounters, so lasting is the imprint that is formed during periods of intense human interaction. If ever you’ve experienced career coaching you will know what I mean.

More recently, I’ve thought deeply about how to make an impact on careers in today’s world where we are, in many respects, “contractors.” We can author our own careers, leveraging LinkedIn and other networking sites to promote and monetize the unique experience, skills, networks, qualities, and passions that set us apart and add value to organizations.

And so CapitaPartners created SpringBoard, an intensive career redesign workshop for executives. I am pleased to announce that over the next year CapitaPartners will deliver SpringBoard to executives in three cities: Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Over two and a half days, a cohort of like-minded executives will move through a series of interactive exercises designed to bring awareness and insights to their career and life plans. The approach is grounded in concepts of adult learning, executive coaching methodologies, and 30 years of practical experience in career decision-making. Through feedback and support, you will come away with fresh thinking and a concrete plan. Our goal is for these experienced participants to learn as much from each other as from the coaches. Our first workshop is in Santa Barbara from October 15-17, 2015.

Consider taking a short time-out to focus on the “why” of your career. Visit our website and consider registering. Or email SpringBoard@capitapartners.com for more information.

Roads not taken: Considering the opportunity costs of career choices

Which track?

Most of my conversations with job-seekers focus more on finding jobs than on making career or life changes. This makes sense. My corporate clients are practical: they need to know if and how the candidate’s leadership skills, motivations, and competencies match the needs of the organization. Most of my candidates are not out of work; they tend to view their career as a linear trek up the ladder. They’ll ask if the opportunity provides more responsibility, challenge or pay.

And yet every step up the ladder has an opportunity cost: the road not taken. The conversation on “career changes” forces executives to ponder deeper questions relating to their basic motivations, aspirations, and dreams. What am I good at and why? What if I did follow my dreams? What are the consequences of not taking the big leap? How realistic are my aspirations? What’s blocking me from achieving them or even taking the first step?

Most of us don’t take the time to envision our future. The recent Great Recession forced many executives to re-examine their careers only after they found themselves out of a job.

When is the right time to ask these questions? Probably every year if you want to make sure your career doesn’t head off down a track you didn’t intend.

These are meaty conversations for career coaches, spouses, mentors, priests, and best friends – someone with no axe to grind, who has no other agenda than to help with your career choices and life goals. There are books written on the subject and you’ll also find links on the right side of this blog. Most of these articles or guides provide “tips” rather than start with the unique needs of the career-changer.

It wouldn’t hurt to open up to executive search consultants when you get the call – if you can find one that will care about you, the person, not you, the candidate. But the conversations need to start somewhere. If it doesn’t start here and now, then when is a better time?

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