Pursuing a second career in a different field can be either an opportunity for excitement and fulfillment or a nightmare. Here are three critical actions to succeed. They track the three keys we describe with many examples in the book.
1. Think it through–not just on your own but with someone else.
Left on our own, it’s easy for any of us to get caught up in wishful thinking or debilitating fears — or to vacillate unproductively between the two. Find a friend, coworker, or family member who is willing to listen to you and support your hopes without being judgmental or directive. It’s your talent, and you need to be the one taking charge of it. The latest insights from neuroscience and psychology and decades of experience have shown us that, carefully pursued, this conversation can explore the person’s hopes, identify opportunities, and initiate productive actions. We call it a Talent Catalyst Conversation because in about an hour it stimulates fresh thinking and accelerates action. (See Key #1: Power Up Your Talent Story.)
2. Plan how you will tap the resources and opportunities to pursue your aspirations.
Starting a second career in a different field is like a business making a huge shift into a new market. It takes thoughtful planning and diligent efforts to tap the resources you have and reach out to
others in creative and productive ways. You need what we call a Resource Power Up that expands your resources, makes more complete use of them, and, like fast track software development, creates ”mash ups” to connect them for faster results. When you are ready, take 15 or 20 minutes to prepare your action plan.
In answering a few key questions — what you want to accomplish, why, how, with whom, when, and with what resources and reports to others, you will have an outline that you can share with others and follow to get rolling. (See Key #2: Accelerate Through Obstacles.)
3. Create and test your new “brand” to see how it sells.
Will people perceive and support your new direction? It’s like Tony, an example in the book, who wanted to shift out of a management role in a specialized field where he’d been for decades into a broader general manager role. He had a personal “brand” problem. He needed to rebrand himself from a specialty line manager into a general manager. Tony used the following formula to shift
others’ perceptions and get the job he wanted. Personal brand + proof points = opportunities. We worked this equation backwards with Tony. He wanted general manager opportunities. So, what brand would he need to project in order to support that objective? Instead of Tony the specialty line manager, others would need to see him as Tony the problem solver with abilities that can cover a range of issues. He needed not only to express that brand but also to provide concrete proof points that would support it.
As an example, Tony wrote up a case study of one of the critical problems he led his department to solve. He highlighted how the problem solving approach worked and how others could apply it in different areas. This began to boost Tony’s credibility as a general manager and converted what was in his head into a valuable problem solving asset he brought to his new general manager job. (This is one of the tools in Key #3: Multiply the Payoffs for Yourself and Others.)