Six Approaches to Professional Renewal

Six Approaches to Professional Renewal

By Julie Norwell

The dawn of a new year is a potent symbol of new beginnings. If you’ve resolved to make a career transition, this period is a perfect backdrop to reflect on your motivations. Are you dissatisfied with your job? Unchallenged? Uninspired? Unappreciated? Laid off? Such difficulties are vital components of the cycle of growth and renewal in a career. They provide impetus and inspiration for a fresh start. They can even be springboards for career advancement. 

Naturally, the motivation to change careers should be balanced against potential challenges. Changing jobs isn’t easy. The unknown is scary, and the path isn’t always clear. You may encounter setbacks, frustrations, and rejections in your job search. But, viewed with a growth mindset, such hurdles offer lessons that can help you reset your goals, refine your career strategy, and rekindle your passion. They can prompt you to adopt a course that aligns more closely with your values and aspirations, resulting in professional renewal.  

What is professional renewal? It is the process of revitalizing your career, breathing new life into your work. Sometimes it’s sufficient for someone to simply reframe their perspective, finding a fresh approach to pursue a longstanding passion. Other times, it involves a significant shift, such as changing industries or taking a professional leap of faith. Regardless of the form it takes, professional renewal is a journey of self-discovery and growth that leads to a more fulfilling work experience.

Here are examples of six people whose job challenges led to professional renewal and career opportunities they never imagined. 

1. Reorientation

Ashley Turner is an example of someone who initially restrained her professional ambitions, thinking that desirable roles were unattainable. Ashley worked 11 years in her family’s hotel management business. She gradually began absorbing her father’s responsibilities, expecting to assume the top role when her father retired. When her father postponed retirement, however, two leaders became too challenging. So, Ashley stepped down and shifted industries to explore other professional pursuits. 

For Ashley changing industries was the wrong choice. She missed hotel management. Working for her family again would be complicated, however, and working for her family’s competition even more so. Employment requiring her to move far away wasn’t an option for her, either. Besides, she didn’t know if employers would even value her.

“I was feeling insecure about whether I was truly good at things or just thought I was because my dad had made work easy for me,” said Ashley. 

With trepidation, Ashley began talking to former business associates about her career. What she learned is that people had very high regard for her business skills. With burgeoning confidence, Ashley reoriented her aspirations back to hotel management. That kickstarted her professional renewal. Before long, Ashley landed a position as corporate director of hotel operations for an international company. It was the perfect fit. In addition to allowing her to work remotely, it also offered her great upward potential. To Ashley, she finally got the job she deserved. 

2. Rediscovering

Like Ashley, Ray White’s professional renewal arose from rediscovering his passion. Ray spent over a decade overseeing operations, performance, and marketing at a multinational digital marketing company. But he had a strong entrepreneurial bent. At some point, he left the multinational and launched a business consulting firm. Ray did well and felt very appreciated. His largest client even invited him to shoulder the company’s marketing responsibilities on top of his consulting tasks. But when that client fell on hard times and terminated their contract, Ray felt conflicted about looking for new clients. 

He realized that what he loved about that job was not just the consulting, but also the hands-on marketing. Ray very much enjoyed working with a team and growing the company.

“Losing that client was a major decision point,” said Ray. “I thought I was on a very clear path. Then, suddenly, I realized I was going to have to take a different path.” 

Armed with a new perspective, Ray quit his consulting company, re-branded himself, and launched a job search. Within a few months, he was offered the role of VP of marketing at a small agency, which he calls “an excellent fit.”

3. Revitalization

For some people, a big career challenge is feeling too comfortable. The nagging discomfort grows until it catalyzes them to make a change. One example is Jocelyn Hirschfeld, who was senior director of sales and business development at a mid-size medical supplies company. She’d worn many hats during her 16 years with her employer, working her way up the ladder. Over time, she’d lost her excitement for the company, but she questioned the sense of rocking the boat.

“It’s hard to get serious about changing jobs when you’re in a very lucrative position that you’re comfortable with. I did a lot of second-guessing. Do I really want to do this or is this a mid-life crisis?” said Jocelyn.

Jocelyn didn’t relish the work of a serious job search, but she did it. And it paid off. The intense interest she got from hiring managers was invigorating, and Jocelyn discovered a newfound interest in the startup world. One company, readying a product launch, succeeded in enticing her to make a leap of faith and join them. Jocelyn said of the opportunity, “It could be the greatest success I will ever have.”

4. Redirection 

Professional renewal is unavoidable for people whose industries are on a downswing. Derek Maxwell was a global tech support manager for a large, offshore drilling company that went bankrupt during the pandemic. Reaching out to his regular network went nowhere because the entire industry was struggling, and recovery would be years away. Derek’s only option was to look past his status quo. 

For Derek, that involved reaching out to friends, family, and business contacts to build relationships and explore new career paths. It wasn’t easy, but it yielded a great outcome. Two weeks after reconnecting with a friend who worked for a multinational retailer, Derek learned of an engineering opportunity there. He applied and, to his delight, landed a role. Derek needed to undergo several weeks of training but, by the end, he had successfully transitioned from the oil & gas industry to retail. He is well on his way in his new career. 

“I was about one and a half steps outside my comfort zone, so I had to push myself. But I feel really confident now. If all goes well, they will have me take over for the general manager.”  

5. Reinvention

Some professionals reach a point in their career when they are ready for a wholesale change. Christine Lowthert, formerly a director of athletics for a small, liberal arts college, is an example. After nearly 20 years in her career, Christine decided to move closer to family. As she had fallen into, versus chosen, her career, she was prepared to reinvent her professional life. 

It was harder than she expected. She had no network in her new city, and she didn’t have a clear sense of what she wanted to do – that is, until her ‘Aha!’ moment with her career coach.

“Mike observed that ‘I strive best when I work for a cause.’ That sentence is so simple, but I had been struggling to articulate the sentiment. Mike’s comment was so succinct and spot-on that it became a guide in my job search.” 

Thereafter, Christine targeted local nonprofits and ultimately landed as area director for a large organization providing afterschool activities for children. Christine is thrilled with her new role and “excited to be able to build something special.”

6. Resilience

Professional renewal doesn’t necessarily come without disappointments. But resilience can yield terrific success. When Tracy Katz’s company of 20 years underwent a merger, she launched a job search. It spanned nearly a year and Tracy was devastated by rejection several times, but she was a model of resilience. For Tracy, that meant working hard to communicate her value proposition to employers and maintaining a good attitude. It also meant continuing to apply to one specific company despite losing out on first one, then two, positions there. 

“It was a roller coaster of emotions,” said Tracy. “I talked to my friends and family about my situation – not to vent, but to keep positive.  Knowing I was a strong candidate helped, but I didn’t know why I wasn’t getting picked. I was trying to learn from those experiences.”

In the end, Tracy’s resilience produced an outcome that was better than Tracy ever hoped. When the next opportunity at her target company arose, the hiring manager, impressed with Tracy’s positive attitude and persistence, not only hired her, but also tailored the role specifically to Tracy. 

The narratives of Tracy, Christine, Derek, Jocelyn, Ray, and Ashley illustrate that professional renewal is not just about changing jobs, but also an evolution of mindset. Challenges, setbacks, and frustrations aren’t problems, but catalysts for change. Coupled with self-reflection, resilience, and a willingness to adapt, they can lead to profound personal growth and opportunities that exceed expectations. 

Can your professional difficulties be resolved by simply rediscovering or redirecting your aspirations? Would you benefit from revitalizing your work? Or do you prefer to completely reinvent your career? Adopting a growth mindset will help you transform obstacles into opportunities, ultimately leading to more fulfillment and greater rewards. 

A new year is a time for renewal. What form of renewal will your career take this year? 

Read next: “6 Things to Know About Remote Work

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