“I ain’t equipment, I ain’t automatic. You won’t find me just staying static.” -Sex Pistols
If you want something, go after it. If you hit an obstacle, go through it. Don’t be complacent and don’t be defeatist. Don’t stay static. One of the scariest and stressful moments in anyone’s career is when you’re making a change, changing roles, changing companies, and especially changing careers. In this article, I’d like to change the tone a bit and reflect on my personal journey.
It’s no surprise that fear is a constant amongst those looking to about-face their professional lives. The uncertainty and unknown is paralyzing. It can often keep people from taking risks or pushing past their own limitations. In other words, to settle for less than what they’re worth or capable of. But those that face that fear can reap immense reward for their efforts.
How much is your happiness worth to you?
When I changed careers, I entered into a new industry, without any of the training or technical background of my peers, to an entry level position and a pay cut. It was the best career decision I ever made. I was ambitious, overwhelmed, and suddenly, happy.
Here are the three ways me being an “outsider” became the ‘x’ factor of my success and allowed me to triple my income within three years.
#1 – Motivation
Immediately surrounded by more qualified, experienced, and seemingly better-belonging individuals, I was motivated to learn as much as I could. My new environment encouraged me to seek out and explore all that I could. I was unknown which gave me something to prove. And the opportunities now within reach inspired me to impress all those that had provided me access to them.
This motivation all came with a sense of urgency and priority that amplified itself at every turn. The more I felt out of place, the greater the motivation. If you feel like a fish out of water, let it motivate you.
#2 – Perspective
My world view was acutely different than those around me. My background and schooling, all unique to my colleagues. I was not the typical recruit with the traditional resume. And while this initially felt like a disadvantage, I realized I could leverage my different experiences to inform a new and creative solution when addressing the various challenges my team and I faced. I realized I didn’t have to compete with the skill sets next to me if I could compliment them with my own particular strengths.
You can do this too. What you experience shapes who you are. You are not like anyone else. Zero in on those differences and covet them like trophies, wield them like swords.
#3 – Freedom
I gave myself the freedom to fail. The freedom to try new things, ask new questions, and attempt new processes. With both the freedom to experiment and the acceptance of potential failure, bold new strategies emerged that not only set me apart from my colleagues but also crafted my development.
The key to embracing such freedom is mastering humility. At every step, I removed my ego and aligned my attitude remembering that everyone is a teacher. No label, title, pay grade, seniority, role, gender, ethnicity, or age can change that. When you recognize that lessons come in every form, you are enabling growth and liberating your potential.
Changing careers is tough. Feeling out of place in a new world is common. But you can channel that struggle positively into motivation, perspective, and a sense of freedom. In these ways I’ve been able to build a successful career path and so can you. It should be noted, however, that while my initiative and drive spurred my career climb, there was another component that helped make it all possible. And that was the foresight, empowerment, and generosity of a company and its members eager to both recognize the successes of it’s employees as well as ameliorate their deficits.
With this kind of support, the formula for success all these years has been simple; prioritize company & team goals first, then my own, pay it forward, repeat. Doing these things will help create the same type of culture for you as well no matter what kind of company you find yourself working for. Don’t be ‘equipment.’ Don’t be ‘automatic.’ Don’t just embrace change, initiate it.
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