Ten months ago I gave up a c-suite job at a high point in my career.
Why did I put myself into transition?
I saw an increasing disconnect between the 9-to-whenever world in which I was spending most of my waking hours, and the intensity of marketplace innovation. I saw a growing divide between my job, and a market calling for what I love to do most - to turn innovation into impact.
I have to admit, while I pushed myself onto the street wanting in my heart to be part of something new and maybe even amazing, I faced real moments of doubt - was it crazy to give up a "perfectly good," high-paying corporate gig? I also held something less than a wholehearted belief that transition itself would be a great experience. But I just had to do it. And I knew the timing was as good as it would ever be.
So here's the surprise: living in transition has been one of the most rewarding times of my life. I have to admit that it has even become fun.
"Let's get real," you are probably thinking, "this is easy stuff to talk about, but being 'in transition' is just a nice way of saying 'being out of work.' And that's uncomfortable. It's an empty space to fill with a job - the sooner the better. It's all about identifying open positions, scheduling and going on interviews, and pacing back and forth until something hits."
But I've discovered that there is an entirely new way to define transition - a far more productive and rewarding way. Being in transition has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in all the industry goings-on, to talk to all the relevant players, to get in front of emerging trends, to open doors - essentially to create new value as a professional by gaining a deep, current understanding of market realities - and by creating and strengthening relationships.
Equally important, it's given me the opportunity to share what I'm learning. To speak at conferences, engage in social media and share my knowledge with students of all ages. For all the people who are (as I was) stuck inside a corporate bureaucracy, without enough open space to keep pace with the outside world, I've become a conduit of real-time information, a source of market intelligence, and truthfully, a rather welcome visitor and resource. I've become a market connector.
What does it take to be a market connector instead of a job seeker?
For starters, it means getting comfortable with ambiguity, with the loss of structure a job, a role, a title, a company and an office provide.
It also means not knowing up-front the start date for my next gig and what my business card will say, and being okay with that.
But most of all it means trusting that if I focus first on learning and sharing knowledge with any and all relevant professionals around me - that exciting options and opportunities will come as a natural by-product.
"Nice in theory," you say. "I can't do that." Well, I got to the point where I couldn't not do it, and also calculated that the time would be no longer than that of a traditional job search (and likely shorter). And, I no longer wanted to feel I was missing the amazing possibilities arising from the current technology revolution that is changing everything we do and how we do it.
What has becoming a "market connector" allowed me to do?
• See career possibilities with clarity, well beyond the obvious
• Get out in front of trends, rather than race breathlessly to keep up
• Focus on evaluating possibilities, without feeling pressure to sign on
• Build incredible relationships, strengthened by sharing what I am learning
• And (not unimportantly) uncover many terrific new opportunities - from advisory assignments with start-ups to full-time c-level positions at both emerging and established companies.
The crazy thing is that I was the only person who needed to give me permission to do all of this.
Of course it's easier to see in retrospect that I had the choice all along - and that those who have even expressed envy could probably figure out a way to follow this path. As always in life, it's about being aware of what really matters to you, and reconciling the tradeoffs to get there.
When, where and how will this journey end for me?
There's no question in my mind, I am going to arrive on time at the right destination. That's because I truly experience this time of life as a point of transition. Are there moments of doubt? Certainly. But those are easily overshadowed by the ongoing exhilaration I feel by being on the right track once again.
And, in my role as a market connector, I am continually opening up more and more exciting options for my future by doing things I never thought I would have been able to do, including:
• Developing a proprietary, technology-driven marketing model allowing me to "product-ize" my expertise as a digital and customer experience innovator
• Publishing as a thought leader on leading blogging platforms including Huffington Post, LinkedIn and Insurance Thought Leadership, and compiling ideas that could someday turn into a book
• Joining New York Angels gaining both a front-row view of what's next and opportunities to invest in some of the world's most talented entrepreneurs
• Considering the possibility of a graduate-level teaching position
• Advising adtech, fintech, media, leadership development, and b2b software services start-ups on marketing and digital strategies
• And, evaluating full-time c-suite roles in leading media and financial services organizations, as well as senior advisory affiliations with prominent consulting firms
What's really terrific is the pressure is gone - my job right now is to be a great market connector, and my next career is unfolding as a result. Whether for me that means a portfolio of roles or a full-time assignment remains to be seen.
For now, transition is a great place to be.
Photo courtesy of www.businessbanter.com