Dec 30

Never Too Late for Career Reinvention

Marc-Miller-ConcreteRecently, I had the occasion to interview Marc Miller, consultant and author of Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers. Having transitioned several times after a long career at IBM, Miller shared his perspective about switching professions later in life.

VSB: What do you believe are the most common challenges faced by senior executives trying to switch professional gears after a long career in one profession?

Miller: The biggest challenge senior executives and senior military have in switching professional gears is realizing that the culture and work environment in their new careers could be very different. For example, I have worked with a number of IBMers who have lived in a large monolithic entity for an entire career. Everyone they knew worked for IBM. Their vocabulary was IBMer. The culture of the work environment in which they had learned to work was dramatically different outside of IBM and they had to take steps to adapt to a new way of doing business. 

I have found this is the same for many senior military who retired and did not go into a government or defense related industry. The rules they followed throughout their military careers had changed or, more commonly, completely disappeared. They found themselves in a workforce environment in which there were no rules at all! This is really hard because all the assumptions they lived by for 20-30 years were no longer there.

The methods of finding employment also have changed dramatically in the last five years and are often ill-defined. This is stressful for those who have come to rely on a structured, predictable environment.

VSB: Is it ever “too late” for career reinvention?

Miller: In this day, you are never too old to reinvent yourself! Many of us will live to 100 and we will need to work into our 80s. I plan on reinventing myself again and again!

I am in my late 50’s and I am on my seventh career. Each of my career changes was what I refer to as a “half-step” career change. I had one foot in the old world, one foot in the new world and there was a relationship with someone who helped me to “connect the dots.” That relationship knew my skills, values and ethics and helped facilitate the transition.

It is not about being too young or too old to make a career transition, but about who will help you navigate the journey.

It is not about being too young or too old to make a career transition, but about who will help you navigate the journey.

VSB: What are the most important steps for transitioning senior leaders interested in stepping into a second career in which they have no direct experience?

Miller: The biggest challenge in switching careers when you have no direct experience in a particular field is learning to ask for help. Very likely, you will not be at the top of the food chain. The greater the transition, the more likely you will have to swallow some pride and ask for help. Yes, I am a guy and I do not like asking for directions. Asking for help is absolutely key! Finding mentors is equally important! I published an article in Forbes early in 2013 on this exact topic –> http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/02/08/the-key-to-a-successful-career-shift-asking-for-help/

VSB: How can senior leaders overcome the common misperception that they are “too old” to begin anew in the workforce?

Miller: The senior leaders who perceive that they are too old just need to find mentors who have reinvented themselves. I worked with a West Point alumni earlier this year. I asked him if there were alumni who had already made the transition that he had planned. He said yes. I asked him if he thought they would be willing to help him. He said yes. All he had to do was ask.

Remember, you are not the first or the last person who will make this transition. You just need to connect with those who have gone before you and ask them to share their experience and advice with you!

#                                     #                                    #                                     #                                           #

Prior to his current role as founder of Career Pivot, Marc Miller’s career journey included 22 years at IBM, work with several thriving tech startups, a stint as a high school teacher, and a job in fundraising. An active member of the Launch Pad Job Club, Marc found himself counseling friends and associates on their career journeys and finally realized he’d found his vocation. Marc uses his extensive training experience to help people find fulfilling and satisfying careers. He has taught in more than 35 countries and has helped individual clients from a variety of industries.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>