February 3, 2017

Personal Re-branding

Posted in Career, spirit tagged , , , , , at 1:06 pm by degyes

Here’s the talk that I gave at Megacomm 2017, as a participant in Reinventing Yourself—Expert Advice on Personal Rebranding and Transitioning, a panel discussion on which I participated along with Nathalie Garson, Charlie Kalech, and Sigal Abbatovi Shamir, and moderated by Sara Halevi Kalech.

On November 13th, I got fired.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

No, I didn’t say it was one of the easiest things.

It still isn’t. I’m still adjusting.

So what was so great about getting fired?

What makes you sure I’m not putting you on with overheated self-help hyperbole, or singing kumbaya for my own self-aggrandizement?

The answer is … opportunity.

To do what?

To develop professionally, to have new experiences, and to grow personally too.

Forbes magazine recently asked the question:

How many careers do we get in a lifetime?

The answer is we don’t know because it’s a moving target.

But we do know that for most of us, it’s more than one; likely it’s several.

And we can certainly expect to have more than one job.

So you may be wondering, how many careers has this guy had?

How many jobs have I had?

The answer–in the ultimate sense–is one; one career, one job. And this applies to all of us. Because …

You are the founder and director of You, Inc.

And I’m the founder and director of Me, Inc.

No, you won’t find these companies by searching Google or by looking on LinkedIn.

Because they’re not companies in the conventional sense, of course.

Rather they reflect an attitude, a mindset, or even better, a way of experiencing work, relating to your job, and managing your career.

But what does this really mean?

It means actively seeking out opportunities to do new things, take on new challenges, and grow in ways that you might not have anticipated.

I’ll give you the example I’m most familiar with … myself.

I made Aliya about 25 years ago.

I frankly hadn’t a clue what I was doing.

What was worse, I had hard time admitting that to myself … I certainly couldn’t admit it to others.

I started off teaching English. And then, a couple of years into the Aliya project, I got into hi-tech through technical writing. Some friends teased me that I’d be writing on the back of shampoo bottles. I’m still waiting for that assignment.

After about a year of technical writing, I was told I’d need to learn how to write macros, you know, those programs that automate activities in Word and other tools.

At the time, it was pretty scary. I hadn’t been one of those kids who took quickly to computers when they started appearing all over the place when I was in middle school.

I found a friend to teach me the essential control structures and syntax of BASIC. I got my boss at the time to order some books and reference guides (this was before the Internet had really taken off).

And I learned programming, or at least enough to get myself going on the job.

Eventually, I wrote and published some articles on Word automation, and became rather adept at the programmatic side of MS Office. Without calling it re-invention, I’d had my first taste of what would evolve into a set of adaptive habits that would come in handy throughout my career.

Some years later, at another job at a different company, a product management assignment came up. A whole new set of skills were needed. Another opportunity.

And then, some years later, project management. Followed by technical journalism and newsletter writing. And most recently, training teams in financial compliance, project auditing, and due-diligence procedures.

This last assignment was almost a four-year stint. What was special about it was that it took me WAY out of my comfort zone. Previously, I’d been quite phobic about anything having to do with money. Oh boy, did I have to get over that fear fast. In fact, I had to convey to others a sense of confidence explaining financial policies, processes, and procedures.

What’s the common thread in all this? Does there have to be one?

Not necessarily, though I find that identifying a common thread helps in placing some understanding and awareness around the process that’s going on.  

For me, that thread is communication. That’s my core skill, and the one I always draw upon, and tap into.

What do I mean by communication?

Beyond all the buzzwords, technical terms, tools, technologies, and industry jargon, what I value most is communicating with human beings. Knowing that about myself has been invaluable. But getting there has taken some introspection and soul-searching. It also requires patience and the ability to weather what might appear initially as negative experiences or setbacks.

For you, the core skill might be written communication; or spoken; or maybe it’s a love of technology, finance, product acceleration, information architecture, content design, or user experiences.

But these are really just examples of things that professional communicators do at various points in their careers to learn new things, to expand their skill sets, grow their knowledge base, succeed on the job, or at the next job, or at some point off in the future.

I’ve come to call this the Art of Reinvention. Or, a set of habits that helps you weather storms in your career, turn setbacks into growth opportunities, or simply to keep the faith and see the positive in whatever circumstances you find your job situation.

Embracing reinvention is not necessarily the easiest path.

But I believe it’s the right one.

Because if nothing else, it gives you a chance to tap into the best parts of yourself, to hear the voice that reminds you to remain calm, to draw upon your wellspring of confidence, and to be resilient.

I hope these last few moments have been helpful in some way, or at least provided you with some take-home ideas for things to think about.

I’d anyway be happy for your feedback. And that includes letting me know what you didn’t like about this talk. Maybe you’ll be helping me with my next reinvention assignment!

Thank you all.