One of John Lennon's most famous songs is entitled Just Like Starting Over. It's a love poem, but I think it holds a powerful lesson for many of us in the world of work, as well. The song begins with a simple declaration: "We have grown. We have grown." This is a wonderful way to look at what is often viewed as a setback in our careers. Having to start over with a new career seems to imply that we've wasted everything that's come before. The lessons we've learned, the character we've developed and the wisdom we've gained are somehow diminished because we have to change careers. That's especially true if the change is sudden and unexpected – as has been the case for so many Americans hit by the struggling economy.
Now, I know how hard getting thrown back into the job market can be. Most of us don't like change, and nobody likes change that's forced on them. That said, I don't think that starting over is all that bad, IF we remember that "We have grown. We have grown." That fact of life doesn't diminish the negative parts of starting over, but it does add a strong positive to the experience. In fact, I think anyone with any time at all in the workplace would be well served to see such a transition as a "career do-over" -- a chance to tap into four genuine advantages that come from having grown and changed as an employee.
So what are those four advantages? Here's my list:
- Advantage #1: You're smarter than you used to be
- Advantage #2: You get to put your mistakes behind you
- Advantage #3: You are able to reach for what was once unreachable
- Advantage #4: You get to prove yourself to yourself
Being forced to start over means you get to pick a career field using all of the insight and knowledge you've gained since the last time you were job hunting. Unlike your first career decisions – which were probably made when you were just out of college – you actually know something about how the world works. You're older and, hopefully, a lot wiser. Your choice, therefore, is likely to be better suited to your skills and natural abilities.
You've undoubtedly made mistakes along the way in your career – every day the news shows that even highly people make dumb moves – and those mistakes can hurt your career opportunities and momentum. Being forced to start over wipes the slate clean, giving you a chance to start on a new occupation at a place where no one knows about your bad decisions. Basically, you get to learn from your errors without having to deal with the consequences.
Lots of us get into ruts – jobs or roles that no longer interest or challenge us – but more often than not, we just put our heads down and deal instead of finding a better career. Our responsibilities and needs become more important than our desire to grow and improve. Being forced to start over, however, removes those (self-imposed) constraints. You now have the freedom to try for a new and more interesting career, and time to really figure out what your ideal job might be.
Being forced to start over is often confused with failure. However, that's a backwards way of looking at the situation – instead, what you should see is a beginning, an opportunity to prove to yourself that you've got what it takes to succeed. Picking yourself up and pushing on makes a powerful statement about your character. It demonstrates, beyond any doubt, that you have the courage and determination to survive and, better than that, succeed in even the toughest of times.
Almost nobody likes to start over, but remember – it doesn't have to be such a horrible and demeaning experience. In fact, being forced to find a new career can actually be a positive turn of events, especially if we remember the wise words of John Lennon. "We have grown. We have grown." That growth gives us an enormous edge over other job seekers; it gives us resilience and hope.