If there’s one thing I’ve managed to develop throughout my professional life, it’s my ability to adjust to my environment. I’ve practically made a career out of it. It’s an ability that has managed to keep me sane in tough situations, not to mention that it has enabled me to extend my shelf life long after my role, whether it’s because of an organization’s changing needs or my skill set no longer fits, has become obsolete.
A ballplayer with a long career (yes, here I go again with the baseball analogies) is usually able to do so by developing a new strength after an old one is no longer effective. For example, pitchers such as C.C. Sabathia or Bartolo Colon have reinvented themselves as finesse pitchers who get batters out using guile and precision, long after their fastballs are no longer effective. Likewise, a professional who is having difficulty keeping up with modern trends or technology may need to reinvent him or herself in order to remain relevant in the marketplace.
My recent unemployment forced me to take stock of where I am in my career and where I want to be going. Even before my (now-former) employer let me go, I’d been asking myself some hard questions about who I was. I had been struggling as a developer, which was making me question whether or not it was what I should — or even wanted — to be doing. At the same time, I also considered my strengths. What was I good at doing? Were these strengths marketable? Were they skills that I could offer to an organization? Would I enjoy a position that took advantage of these strengths?
For me, personally, I discovered — or, more accurately, re-discovered — that my strengths were in writing and communication, not software development. This revelation made me realize several things. While I enjoyed doing development work, I found that I wasn’t passionate about it. I was, however, passionate about writing and documentation — to the point that I began steering myself in that direction. I became openly critical about my company’s documentation (and, in many cases, the lack of). My SQL Saturday presentations have all been based on writing and communication. Even in my current job search, my focus has been on positions that emphasize writing and communication over hardcore technical skills. Having said that, I am also not discounting my technical background; my ideal position is one that takes advantage of that background. While I am looking for something that focuses on communication, I am looking at my technical background to supplement that skill.
At this point in time, whether or not this strategy lands me a new position remains to be seen. However, I’ve made some observations. First, I’ve noticed that prospective employers appear to be more receptive to my approach. I seem to be getting more and better prospective opportunities, and they are coming quickly. Second, I’ve noticed that, in conversations and interviews, I am much more confident and assertive. Third, I’m much more focused in my search — in contrast to job searches in years past, where I would apply to anything and everything that even remotely sounded like a position I could fill. Finally, as strange as it may seem, I’m finding that I’m actually having more fun with this process.
It’s often been said that when a door closes, another opens. If a current position or career isn’t working for you, it might be time to take stock and reinvent yourself. You might discover a new mindset and a new motivation. You might discover a new passion. You might even find that reinventing yourself results in a new career path — one that is more satisfying and rewarding than you had ever previously believed.