Re-Careering At Any Age

By: Antonio F. Vianna


Regardless of age, many people are changing careers. It is estimated that today's workers will probably change their career four times in their lifetime. This does not mean changing jobs or employers, it means changing careers!

Some people are changing careers out of necessity as work is outsourced, automated, or compressed, while others are changing careers out of preference. The "in" phrase is "Re-Careering."

Age is no longer an obstacle to doing whatever, within reason, you want to do. The only reasonable limitation lies within your self concept: afraid to fail, afraid to succeed, afraid what others will think, etc. Ugh!

The key to Re-Careering is a combination of self-evaluation and being in-charge.

My research and observations as a Human Resources Executive leads me to believe there are five pivotal elements to help people take charge of their career. These elements apply to several situations:

  1. Beginning a career but not sure if it is the right one;
  2. Feeling stuck in a present career and wondering about changing or staying where you are;
  3. Wanting to change a career but not sure how or to what;
  4. Wanting to reinforce your decision to remain in a current career;
  5. Transitioning from one career to the next such as from the military to the civilian sectors;
  6. Wanting to retire but not sure what to do during retirement.
Knowing as much as you can about Re-Careering is imperative to your success and happiness. Human Resource Recruiters actually apply these five pivotal elements to candidates when they interview them, and so, it makes sense that the person seeking to Re-Career should also apply the same five pivotal elements whether you seek to join an organization as an employee or be self-employed.

The purpose of this article is to share with you the five pivotal elements of Re-Career success, to advise you how to maximize the chances of your Re-Career success, and to give you a personal professional example. I identify these five pivotal elements as the Five Sigma of Success. They are: Interest, Competency, Motivation, Capability, and Fit.

The first element is Interest. Most successful people love what they do, even have a passion for it. When you are interested in what you do, your dedication elevates and you want to learn more about it. You love the process and the content. So, the first step to Re-Career success is to find out more about your Interests. A way of identifying your Interests is to identify activities you really enjoyed in the past, what you enjoy doing in the present, and then to forecast your Interests that will be appropriate in a future career. Most Interests fall into categories such as Hands-On, Investigative, Social Interaction, Risk-Taking, Structured, and Creative. So, think about what you liked to do in the past, what you like to do now, and then place your Interests in one or a few of these categories. Then ask yourself if you want to do the same things you have been doing in the past and in the present in the future, or do you want to do something different? How can you leverage your past and present Interests into your future Interests?

Competency is the second element. This means having the skill to do things. You probably have many skills. Perform the same exercise from above, but replace Interests with Competencies. Use the same categories. For future success, you must couple what you love to do (Interests) with what you are good at (Competencies). If you find yourself not very good at what you say you want to do in the future you will need to improve your skill in that area, or find something else that you can be good at.

The third element is Motivation. You must have the fire in the belly to do what you want to do, to withstand adversity, to find the resources to help you reach your goals. It really means identifying your intrinsic and/or extrinsic needs that must be met in order for you to feel fulfilled, to be all that you want to be. When you are not sure what motivates you, you just may fall for anything and be sorry for that in the end. Perform the same exercise from above, but replace Competencies with Motivation. By completing this third step, you are putting the pieces of your Re-Careering puzzle together. You are moving towards leveraging your Interests, Competencies, and Motivational Needs.

Capability is the fourth element. This means having the potential to go beyond what you currently enjoy and do, to become better. In other words, having the capacity to expand, to grow, and to be a life long learner. Again, perform the same exercise as above, but replace Motivation with Capabilities.

The fifth element is Fit. This is the trump card for Re-Career Success, meaning that in spite of the other four elements present, Fit cancels them if it is not present. Fit means finding the right environment to support your Interests, Competencies, Motivation, and Capabilities. Without the appropriate support and reward system in the right environment, all bets are off for your Re-Career success. Again, perform the same exercise from above, but replace Capabilities with Fit.

As a Human Resources Executive, I have discovered that when employees in organizations fail it is often because they do not fit into the way things are done in that particular organization. Have you ever heard, "You just haven't signed on-board," "This just isn't the right place for you," or "You really aren't compatible with how we do things around here." This does not mean that the organization is necessarily dysfunctional and the employee is Ok, or vice versa. This only means that the relationship between the organization and the employee is not suitable, not compatible, not a good fit.

As I have reviewed with you, a key to helping you Re-Career for success is to uncover your Five Sigma of Success, by analyzing your past and present, and then forecasting your future. Regardless of your age, you have had the best teacher for analyzing yourself . your experiences in life. You can tap into your experiences and leverage them for your future Re-Career success.

I am not saying this is an easy process, but seeking answers to questions such as the following are helpful. To uncover your Interests, for example, you might ask yourself: "What did I really like doing when I was younger, and why was that?" "What do I really like doing now, and why is that?" "What do I really want to do in the future and why is that?"

These three questions help you explore your past and present Interests in order to help forecast what your future Interests might be. If your past decisions brought you to where you are today, then it seems reasonable that your present decisions can take you to where you want to be in the future. I recommend you ask yourself similar questions for the other four elements (Competencies, Motivation, Capabilities, and Fit). The focus is to look at patterns and trends.

Now for the personal example. I have over twenty-five years in the Human Resources field, and now I am currently on-faculty with the University of Phoenix School of Business and Management. I am also a published author. Before I started to professionally write, I believed I could not write well because I was told by teachers that I could not write very well, and that I was better served to study the sciences. So, I received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. However, one day someone challenged me to give up my false assumptions and to stop listening to what others were saying. With some initial resistance, I took the challenge. And as they say, "to make a long story short," I am the author of two management books and six mystery novels. I am a frequent radio and television host on the topic of career management, and I give lectures on the topic of writing.

I leveraged my Five Sigma of Success.

You can be the best you want to be, but "if you don't know where you are going, then any path will take you there." The key, then, if to find you who you were in the past, who you are today, what you want to be in the future, and build a pathway to get there.

Enjoy the journey. No one cares if you can't dance, just get up and dance.

© 2006 Antonio F. Vianna. All rights reserved. Antonio F. Vianna is the author of "Career Management and Employee Portfolio Tool Kit," "Leader Champions: Secrets of Success," and six mystery novels. He is a Lead Faculty and the Head Area Chair for the Undergraduate School of Business and Management for the University of Phoenix, San Diego Campus. He can be reached at Simpatico1@Juno.Com