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So, your kids are getting a little older and you are thinking of going back to school or starting a new career.  Perhaps you are tired of your boss and dreaming of starting a business.  Maybe you have grown a business and are ready for your next adventure.  Conversely, your employer might be downsizing or expecting you to take on a new role.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person stays with the same employer for 4.6 years.  One study found that the average adult will change careers 11.7 times during their work life.  Career changes are part of life and there are certain strategies to follow if you want to gracefully navigate your next one.

Going through any form of change can be daunting.

You might be asking yourself:

  • Am I too old?
  • Am I too young?
  • What will my family think?
  • Will I make enough money?
  • What if I am not successful?
  • What if I can’t balance it all?

Firstly, you are not alone.  People change jobs, careers, and go back to school all of the time.  My uncle Mike, for example, worked with The Wall Street Journal for decades.  During his career, he moved his family from Hong Kong to Manilla to Kazakhstan to Toronto.  After retiring with many adventures, losing a son to suicide, and asking the question – what next?  My uncle decided to go back to school to become an archaeologist.  From the stock market to the sands of Jordan, my uncle made a massive career pivot and never looked back.

In the business world, there is a trend amongst start-ups to look at the exit strategy upon starting the company.  Having just spent three days in a tech start-up incubator, one of the questions was how much will this company be worth upon exit?  Is the exit strategy to go public or is it to be acquired?  There is also the potential of an ESOP – Employee Shared Ownership Plan.  Regardless, every person I know who is doing a start-up is talking exit before they fully get started; the days of thinking that your current career is for life are all but over.

In the You Economy, people work in consulting, on Fiverr, Uber, and day trade stocks all simultaneously.  We have perhaps become a society that welcomes career ADD.  The reality is that the times are changing.  Retail chains are closing, we will soon have little requirement for jobs like truck driving, and robotics long ago replaced many factory jobs.  Today, more than ever, it is important to adapt and increase our acceptance of change.

If you are contemplating a change, then it is imperative that you consider negating the all-or-nothing approach.  Easing yourself in, especially if you have children at home, is essential and can ultimately help in a time of transition.

My friend, Jeff Cox, has an AI (artificial intelligence) start-up called RadiusAI.  You can hear more about it on my show.  Jeff, previously worked for Microsoft and has been in the tech and marketing space for years. Instead of burning his boats a la Ponce De Leon, Jeff maintained some consulting to bring in revenue so he didn’t have to take a salary from his start-up.  He also leaned out his spending, and grew his savings, all while preparing to start his company.  Jeff didn’t make the mistake that many people make in times of transition – going all in and not thinking, instead he created a careful, well thought out plan.

I have another friend, Ashley, who is planning to go back to school now that her youngest daughter is in grade four.  Instead of just registering for school and starting, she is visiting numerous schools and asking herself if the curriculum will not only give her the degree she wants, but if it will work with her being a mom.  Smart!

If you are contemplating a change, then here are 7 key steps to follow:

  1. Interview People Who Have Made The Leap Before. I am currently in the process of doing a tech start-up.  I have been interviewing people who have successfully built start-ups, looking at the their pitch decks, talking to them about mistakes they made, what they would have done differently, and what they felt made them successful.  I have been working on this phase of planning for almost two years and it gives me tremendous clarity.
  2. Don’t Change Out of Fear or Anger. I am sorry however I can’t talk strategy without talking mindset.  I have never met anyone who built a successful business or made a solid career change because they were ticked off.  If you are in fear or anger, you will not see possibilities and people will pick up on your emotions.  YOU must be clear on the positive desired outcomes of why you want to change.
  3. Save, Save, Save. Very rarely do pivots happen without road bumps.  Whether you are starting a business or going back to school, there will be unexpected costs.  Legal fees, child care, technology integrations, marketing – there are expenses to any change.  If you are starting a business, you do not want to rely on any personal income from that business for at least two years.  Even expert digital marketers, who sell products, reinvest their initial profits into driving more traffic to their social media and sales pages.  You want to have at least two years of expenses in the bank before doing any major change if you are currently contributing to your household financially.
  4. Get Organized! Yes, I teach entrepreneurs how to be organized and you would be surprised at how many aren’t.  From using a calendaring system, to streamlining communication, to understanding when to say ‘no,’ a successful change requires solid organizational skills.
  5. Do Your Research. If you are basing your change on assumptions, then you are seriously setting yourself up for failure.  Know what industry you are pivoting to.  Look at trends.  Look at need.  Ask yourself if this new career will withstand a recession.  Making assumptions costs money.  You may be an expert in your current area however you should expect to be a novice in your new endeavor.  Research doesn’t solve everything however it can redirect you if your assumptions have you off course before you begin.
  6. Expect Frustration. From your kids not understanding why Mommy or Daddy doesn’t have as much time for them to new routines to less time to do your thrice weekly flow class, you will be frustrated.  For example, last year at this time, I was working from home and could go to a hot yoga class in the middle of the day.  Now, I must workout earlier, and it is shorter, so I can get home, get my hair and make-up done, and head to the office for meetings, video shoots, and whatever else must happen.  I am so committed to the process that I rarely get frustrated anymore however in the beginning I was seriously missing the top knot, Lulu’s, and flexibility.
  7. Network.  My mentor, author of 7 NY Times Best Sellers, and mega-entrepreneur, said this, ‘Susan, if I lost everything, I would have it back in two years as long as I didn’t lose my network. As a natural introvert, I do not love going to networking events however these days potential investors, supporters, and connectors, are all waiting for me to meet.  I look for ways to contribute to new people and make a daily effort to both expand and serve my network.  In order to successfully navigate change, your network is essential.

Lastly, it is natural to want to change careers especially at a certain stage in your life.  Do the work on the front end so that you can make the next iteration of your work life be more fulfilling and rewarding than anything you have done so far.


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Susan Sly

Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is considered a thought leader in AI, award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

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