From Identity crisis to career transformation

Last week I wrote about the Career Identity Crisis. Many people have found themselves in limbo for a variety of reasons. Perhaps their industry has closed down or technology has caused changes that made their skill sets obsolete. The blog gave some concrete ideas on how to build a new career identity. You can read the entire blog here.

Two kinds of professionals:
Throughout my career, as I looked at others in the professional realm, and especially during the last seven years, as I’ve done a fair amount of career coaching, I’ve identified two distinct kinds of people:

  1. People who have a specific skill sets that brings a recognized career identity. Here are a few examples:
    • Executive Chef
    • Dentist (Pediatrician, Oncologist, etc.)
    • IT Project Manager
    • Civil engineer
    • Call-center Supervisor
    • Medical Office Manager

    These people can easily search for opportunity because their career identity happens to be the same as the title of the position they will fill.


    For some people, this simply doesn’t work. The job world is becoming so specialized that instead of a standard adaptable skill set, employers want specific industry experience. So an IT Project Manager may be required to have experience in telecommunications, or insurance, accounting or finance.

    This brings in the second group:

  2. People who have a specific set of skills that are not industry specific. These are people who do “their thing” wherever they are:
    • Receptionist
    • Administration Assistant
    • Business development
    • Operations
    • Process-flow engineer (consultant)
    • Inside (or outside) sales professional
    • Executive account manager

    These individuals are finding themselves at a great disadvantage as employers look for specific industry experience.

    A receptionist, in any environment, is the voice of the company, s/he makes every customer comfortable and welcome. The s/he knows the schedules, preferences, and demands of the team being served and can manage a myriad of details without losing a pleasant, professional smile. Everyone that interacts with a professional receptionist will feel like they are the center of the universe.


    Point: It doesn’t matter where you put a professional receptionist—they do their thing and get the job done.

    Their value is not industry specific. Whatever part of the job has specificity can quickly be learned on the job.


    Another example: Inside/outside sales professional. These individuals understand the sales process. The specific product they are selling is not important because they can quickly learn the product details. They know how to understand their clientele as well. They know how to identify the pain that their product can resolve. So again, the specific industry is less relevant.

    But once again, the workplace is becoming more specific. An inside/outside sales professional is required to have industry experience such as gnomics, informatics, telecommunications, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, or SaaS (Software as a Service).

* * *

Individuals who have been in industries that have or are becoming obsolete are at a distinct disadvantage and landing a job is much more difficult.
Examples of these industries include:

Old black phone with dust and scratches

  • Big-box stores
  • Paper Printing
  • Videography
  • Photography
  • Appliance repair
  • Watch repair

Does the above list seem somewhat removed from your particular work world? Let’s think it through.

When one industry closes down, it takes with it, an entire set of secondary support jobs that surround them. Perhaps you’ve noticed that big-box stores are disappearing as online sales takes center stage.

What other industries are an integral part of a big-box store?
How about the manufacturing of shelving, counters, shopping carts, display products, gum machines, pricing stickers, cash registers, and shopping bags.

And what about the associated technology for the store such as their inventory management, employee timesheets, payroll, insurance deductions, income tax payments, surveillance software…the list is long and surely these suggestions are only a few of the more obvious support industries.

Career transformation is nothing new.
Career transformation is something we have witnessed for centuries. Biologists call it metamorphosis. The monarch butterfly changes from a caterpillar to a butterfly in 28 to 38 days. Perhaps our careers are changing at that speed as well.


When we get a job, we go into hyper drive to learn the ropes, prove ourselves and show the value we bring to our employer. Once we find our place and feel secure, we relax into “long-term endurance mode” where we learn how to pace ourselves for each week, month, project, quarter, year…and then… SURPRISE! We are told we are obsolete.

It’s just happening at a faster rate than ever before.
Change is happening faster than ever before and if we continue to adopt our old approach to change, we are going to be perpetually late and behind the change. Today, more than ever before, we have to observe, listen, and actively seek out where change will occur and be ready to embrace it.

How can jobseekers adjust their career to keep up with the fast-changing pace?

Become a quick-change artist.
You’ve probably enjoyed commercials where a woman is walking down a hall looking worn out from a long day on the job. She pulls the hairpin out and lets her hair fall, tosses her glasses aside. As she takes off her sweater we realize she is now in evening wear, and in less than 15 seconds there is a transformation from the old to the new and she is ready for opportunity.

Career change can be exhausting.
…or it can be fun. It is what we make it and choosing our attitude towards change can make our futures exciting and enjoyable. It can also ensure we will have employment.

Here are some quick-change artists doing a lot of work and having a lot of fun.

Tips to secure your ever-changing career identity:

  • Weekly keep abreast of general developments in technology.
  • Use LinkedIn groups and watch and contribute to the “chat” in your industry.
  • Expand your groups to include outlying industries that impact your own.
  • Watch for changes in your geographic area that might foretell your future security.
  • Identify leading companies in your area of expertise and network to find available opportunities.
  • Proactively seek out training possibilities that will keep you ahead of the curve.
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