Suit & Pie asked the excellent Sitara Warren, diversity chair in financial services and blogger, to write us a blog for our re-invention issue following her trip to the TED Women conference. Here is her inspiration take on the art of re-invention…
Welcome back Suit & Pie! So nice to have you back.
What do Madonna, Lady Gaga and Suit & Pie have in common? They are all well-versed in the art of re-invention. Suit & Pie, a huge diversity advocate, started a fantastic newsletter aimed at working women everywhere and realised that she had only gone and built herself a very strong following. Not doing anything by halves, she built this fantastic website so that we can have a more regular dose of S&P. What a feat and thank you.
I was recently at the TED Women conference, where I was surrounded by amazing women from different backgrounds doing great work in all manner of fields. It made me realise that reinvention is not just for the chosen few, in fact, in order to stay motivated and passionate about our work, it is necessary.
I heard talks by the following:
Rana el Kaliouby – the homesick Egyptian scientist who used her talents to develop face recognition software
Jacki Zehner – the former Wall Street partner, who is now a philanthropy championing Women Moving Millions
Margaret Heffernan – the former CEO who now coaches and mentors senior people and writes about work place culture
These are all talented people and I am happy to say their change in work direction is far from the exception. Whilst at the conference, I conducted a mini-experiment and asked people I came across what they did for work. There were a handful of people in corporate roles who had worked their way up, but for the most part, the people I spoke to were not on the same path they were on 5 years or even 18 months ago. Many responses went like this:
“I didn’t exactly have a linear work path. I started off doing this, got a little bored, tried a few other different things. Learned loads along the way and decided to try a few more things until I settled on this. Things began to grow and evolve and now I’m doing this. Was a bit of a struggle, but here I am and loads happier.”
The words I kept hearing were: journey, evolve, reinvent. No different from Madonna or Gaga – taking their initial talents and then using them in a different way to do more, give more and be more.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” Steve Jobs
Herminia Ibarra, Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning, and Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD, has researched this in detail. Her book Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career backs up these findings. She provides numerous case studies showing people who transition to entirely different careers. She suggests that we treat our work life less like a case study and more like a science experiment consisting of mini projects, as it is only by doing that we can work out what feels right.
To stay happy and engaged with our work lives, we all need to master the art of re-invention.
Credit and thank you: The great image above (which you may recognise from Mr Smith’s Corner) is by the very talented Jon Warren