Keys to Career Transformation: Getting Real

The new year is a common time for reflection. How do you get from where you are now to where you want to be in your career? So, I’m sharing lessons learned from my own career transition. First, I tackled the hardest step: getting unstuck. Now, here’s the next step in my career transformation story: getting real.

Keys to Career Transformation: Getting RealEvery transition story involves a struggle. My story is no different. I’ve come to realize that the struggle is usually where the most learning and growth happen.

After I finally got unstuck and resigned from my job to start a new business, reality set in. Sitting alone at my kitchen table with an empty inbox and wide open calendar was a pretty lonely place. It was the first time in my adult life where I wasn’t needed or expected to be anywhere and my timing couldn’t have been worse. It was Q1 2009. Companies were shedding jobs. There was no discretionary spending on training or development. Budget dollars for consulting were being completely wiped out. I had walked into the middle of a storm, and I didn’t have any of the corporate resources or infrastructure that I was used to. Bottom line: I was way out of my comfort zone.

But here’s the thing: when you strike out to do something new, and push yourself past your comfort zone, of course you’re going to feel afraid. Of course you’re going to be uncomfortable. You’re supposed to feel that way.  So often, that is exactly where the biggest breakthrough moments occur.

My first adjustment to life as an entrepreneur: changing my relationship with money. I immediately started managing expenses aggressively. When I say I cut expenses, I am talking about everything I possibly could – travel, dining out, playing golf (I quit and haven’t played a single round since 2008). It was a process that I actually enjoyed — I had a sense of purpose that helped me make sacrifices and start taking action toward my desired outcome. I was also careful not to sink too much initial investment into the brand-new business. My website was developed on trade. My logo, videos, and other marketing collateral were all initially created on trade. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough, and I was making progress.

I started, stalled and stopped several times. I had partners. Then I didn’t. I found new partners. Those didn’t work out so well, either. I won’t ever forget the day that my first client in my new venture fired me over coffee in Starbucks. At the time, those experiences and failures seemed catastrophic. But, they helped me shift my focus and align with opportunities that ultimately proved to be a much better fit. I’ve thanked that former client numerous times since that day. She helped me realize that I needed to pursue opportunities that fit my strengths and my goals. Chasing any project that came along just for the money isn’t a path to long-term success.

I learned how to adapt and adjust, and slowly I began to understand that the business I started would look markedly different in a few years’ time.

I also started to appreciate patience. I don’t know anyone that is an “overnight success.” The most successful people I know in business have worked really hard, delivered value consistently, embraced change, made good decisions and built an incredible network of trusted relationships over a long period of time. A career is a long arc and real success takes a lot of work over a sustained period of time.

When you’re in the middle of a huge transition, success can seem far away. So, it’s important to get real about the long, sometimes hard road of ups and downs that you’ll travel on your way toward your destination.

Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sales people and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.

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