Economic uncertainty, industry change, personal evolution—there are many reasons we–or those we know—decide to pursue career reinvention.
No matter what the motivation, an understanding of the reinvention continuum is an important part of supporting ourselves and others through this very important process.
Before I can explain The Reinvention Continuum, I need to first address the difference between career reinvention and mere change or adaptation. I view the latter case as passive or reactive – a situation presents itself and the person facing that situation has to find a way to accommodate it. The situation creates the adaptation.
Reinvention is a Choice
On the other hand, reinvention involves deliberate and intentional choice TO change. There are instances where a change in situation also ultimately precipitates a reinvention, but not always. Here’s an example: Frank and Linda have both worked in commercial real estate sales for the same company for the past 10 years and both now find themselves downsized in the latest company cut-backs. Frank decides that he’s going to look for another commercial real estate job at a different company, but Linda decides that after doing this same job for 10 years, she’s now ready to pursue her amateur passion for baking and she’s going to open up a bakery shop. Both people adapted to the situation, but Frank did not choose to reinvent while Linda did. That’s why I like to say, “Reinvention is a choice.”
As someone who has gone through multiple career reinventions and who has also chosen to be a student of the reinvention process for the past 13 months, I have come to several conclusions:
- No one goes through reinvention in a vacuum
- No one succeeds at reinvention without support of some sort
- True reinvention is really tough – it’s messy, challenging, confusing, and oftentimes painful
- The reinvention process lends itself to a lot of existential thinking and self-reflection
The Four Phases of the Reinvention Continuum
My informal research into the reinvention process has involved dozens of interviews – often videotaped during live webcast sessions – and countless conversations. While there are certainly predictable patterns of traits, attitudes, and advice from all these “Reinventionists,” as I call them, no two people experience the exact same reinvention journey.
I like the word “journey” because it aptly describes how reinvention feels, but when I objectively assess the landscape, I see a common sequence that people go through. I have named this sequence, The Reinvention Continuum.
The Reinvention Continuum consists of four phases:
The Foundational Phase is About Recognition
In the Foundational phase, the individual has to do the difficult work of coming to terms with their sense of self and recognizing their own perceived inadequacies and self-limiting behaviors. You see, many people say they want to reinvent, but the biggest obstacle to their reinvention is what’s in their mind. Reinvention requires people to face fears, doubts, unattained goals, and long-ingrained beliefs that if unaddressed, will continue to hinder their ability to succeed at reinvention.
Articulate Your “Next” Future with Visioning
After the Foundational work comes Visioning. Visioning drives the individual to articulate their ideal “next future” – the career or life they want to reinvent towards – and why that future is important to them. Visioning helps answer the questions, “How do I turn my passion into a revenue, a livelihood?” and “What do I have to do in order to get there?”
Planning Provides a Reinvention Roadmap
Once someone has a clear sense of what they want to do, they can begin to plan for it. Do they need to go back to school? Do they need to downsize their lifestyle? Do they need to move? Do they need to leave someone who’s holding them back? The Planning phase provides the individual with the roadmap to the intended reinvention journey.
The Execution of Reinvention
That leaves Execution, which is setting the plan in motion. In its purest state, Execution seems like the easiest phase of the Reinvention Continuum, but it can actually be harder than the Foundational phase because as most of us already know, almost nothing in life goes exactly as planned. During Execution, the Reinventionist will be tested again and again. During the Execution phase, the will to reinvent has to override everything else because without that self-conviction – that drive to achieve the reinvented state – reinvention is unlikely to happen.
The Reinvention Continuum also accommodates for repetition or refinement of the reinvention journey. The struggle of the Execution phase may bring the individual back to the self-exploration state of the Foundational phase – “Why isn’t this working?” or “I thought I had this figured out, so what’s wrong with me that’s hindering my success?”
Everyone goes through this process of reinvention at their own pace and in their own way. While the four stages may stay the same, the timeline and way a reinventionist goes through them differ dramatically. That’s a really important point to remember, for reinvention must be unique to be meaningful and successful.
Reinvention: An On-going Process?
Lastly, we could also question if reinvention really ever ends; or, should it end? In today’s fast- and ever-changing world, shouldn’t we all always be ready to reinvent? The Reinvention Continuum intentionally evokes a never-ending process. And it’s a process that should be embraced, not feared.