“I Believe I Can Fly”…But Can I Change My Professional Direction?

“I Believe I Can Fly”…But Can I Change My Professional Direction?

So everyone is talking about the Michael Jordan series, The Last Dance on Netflix and about how the sheer determination and work ethic of one man can pull a whole team to victory. There are only a handful of sports stars that I can name who has this work ethic — Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Roy Keane and Cristiano Ronaldo are ones that come to mind. Famous business entrepreneurs who have similar traits (excessive, compulsive and unable to detach from their work) are guys like Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs (obviously).

Gates famously said

I envy people who thrive on three or four hours of sleep a night. They have so much more time to work, learn and play. 

The SpaceX and Tesla CEO has also endured some
“excruciating” years that sometimes drove him to sleep on his factory’s floor and work more than 120 hours a week. The billionaire says he has since pulled back to a more “sustainable” 80 to 90 hours a week. 

During the Netflix series you learn that Jordan pivoted into Baseball in 1993 after his father sadly was killed (which I already knew through the legendary film SpaceJam). This pivot was something that Jordan was debating with his father for a long time as he’d already won everything there was to win in Basketball.  Most of us look to successful people and assume they can do anything because of their past successes. The old joke about asking your doctor for stock tips comes to mind, as if just because you can cure an illness, you have wisdom about everything. Doctors don’t make great stockbrokers, brain surgeons are horrible rocket scientists, CEOs aren’t usually exceptional cooks, and basketball stars are rarely great baseball players (you can ask Jordan about that last one as well). Experience and knowledge are only valuable where applicable.

Now, just to be clear, you won’t see me tearing up The Knicks on the basketball courts anytime. That is unless I can find that magic stuff the monsters used in the Space Jam movie, and something Leicester City also found when they won the Premier League. The search continues here for me…

…but if I look over my career in communications, I’ve noted that I’ve gone from Account Management in the design/print space through to PR in the tech startups space and now I’m digital focused beit strategy or project management. There’s more but I won’t bore you. A jack of all if you will?

When Micheal was debating about the prospect of becoming a baseball player, what did he look at and did he ask anyone else for advice? From my perspective, if you’re looking to change direction in your career or market, you need to be confident that you can compete in that space! So I wanted to explore some areas that hopefully will help us before making that bold leep into a new world.

Find your transferable skills

First things first. Consider your own varying strengths and weaknesses. You may, for example, read about leadership and think “yeah I managed my sunday league football team and sorted out the temperature dials in the changing rooms for the lads. It’s now either really cold you turn blue or really hot that your skin hangs off”. Hmm.

Take time to recall good examples of your leadership skills and the role they play in the success of your work. There are so many new industries popping up all the time. If we take SAAS or FinTech (which are not very new now), the transferable skills they look at are:

  1. Solving and Resolution
  2. Expectation Setting
  3. Listening & Seeking to Understand
  4. Level Headedness
  5. Solution Knowledge
  6. Empathy
  7. Grit (Tenacity)

Take time to look at yourself, your core strengths and transferable skills. Also, take a personality test online to help you determine yourself. Ask friends, mentors, people you trust about your skill sets and list them all down. This will help you create a path and direction.

Understand the challenges in the market your entering

We’ve never seen anything like the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving us uncertain about how to cope in these strange times. Many markets are broken as a result and companies have freezed in time. But is this a chance to look at yourself as an individual or business and take the bull by the horns?

According to a report published by Dell Technologies and authored by the Institute For The Future (IFTF) and a panel of 20 tech, business and academic experts from around the world, states that 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. Now that means that industries are changing constantly. Take Education Technology or “edtech” which has been around for at least the last 15-20 years in a meaningful way. The first years were more around multimedia experience such as Acorn Computers, Windows 95 with Microsoft Encarta. I’m already excited! Then we moved into the WWW space and ‘online research’ **American Pie**. But now, we’re seeing a new phase which will continue to evolve over the next 5-10 years. This phase is about the use of technology to highly personalize the learning experience, try new approaches, and to scale education in unimaginable ways. Companies such as Bogota Bootcamp and worldtechmakers are offering adaptive learning programmes and bootcamps covering areas such as coding, STEM, Climate Change Education and Biomaterials Engineering and many parents are either home schooling or sending their children to schools with new age curriculums. So knowing how your market is changing and how you can aid it will be really valuable in the long term and help make the world a better, more sustainable place.

Speak to people you really trust for advice

If you are thinking of a pivot or change in career then rest assured you are not alone and there are plenty of examples of professional people or brands doing the same as you are about to. It is good to know that it’s not only in a crisis that you have to pivot and that this skill you are learning now will serve you well into the future – whatever happens next.

Here are two tips you should know when you’re getting started:

Your database is your most valuable thing. Think about all those contacts you’ve built up through LinkedIn. Look at them and float ideas past them. Conduct online surveys with them or just DM them for advice.  

Next, ask yourself the following:

  • What can you do with what you have?
  • What needs to be cut?
  • What needs to change?
  • What skills can you maintain to move to a new normal?
  • What new skills do you need?
  • What grants or finance options can you obtain?

It’s also important to reflect on the advisers you have and if they are still relevant. If they aren’t, who do you need to get on your side instead?

Let’s face it, Jordan was basketball through and through and everyone knew it apart from him. He eventually came back to basketball as he knew the game needed him. What we know is that pivoting really means responding to changes beyond your control but within the context of your ability. Now Michael did pivot but did he really need to? He followed his dream which is admirable but was he able to truly compete in baseball? He needed months to adjust his body to that of a baseball player. What we’re saying is pivoting takes time to adjust so make sure you do your ground work before making that bold step. There’s a need to evaluate your core strength and become single minded in that core strength. You’ll then become the go to person or company in that niche.