How to reinvent yourself

Probably the greatest challenge is to understand that you do have enough time. While some people think it’s not worth it to undertake any major changes later in life, I firmly disagree. If money isn’t a concern, there’s no reason you can’t explore wildly new areas, like taking a sabbatical, moving abroad or travel intensively. If you’re still earning for retirement, you can absolutely pursue reinvention, but may want to consider more subtle shifts, such as taking classes on the side to expand your skills, rather than taking several years off to get a doctorate.

Of course you’re overqualified — own it. I’ve heard from many “reinventers” who have been turned down for jobs in new areas because they’re overqualified. Frankly, I can see why, it’s perplexing to understand why someone would settle for anything remotely less prestigious than their previous job (short of true economic desperation). But instead of circumventing the issue, I would advise anyone to lead with it. Get with the times and be proud of all you have already achieved.

Furthermore, you should be active on social media. Simply because — for better or worse — it is no longer optional. It’s even more critical for executives over a certain age to have a social presence because it’s increasingly viewed as a proxy for staying current professionally. If your digital footprint is lacking and you don’t have a presence on basic sites like LinkedIn or Twitter, you’re likely to be dismissed as a technology enemy.

Connect with your past. We all know professional opportunities are likely to come from our existing network of contacts. But many don’t realize some of the most valuable information and opportunities come from “dormant ties,” or people we’ve lost touch with from the past. It may be time to reach out and reintroduce yourself.

Surprise people (and surprise yourself). The people you currently work with closely may have developed fixed ideas about who you are and what you’re capable of, especially if you’ve been working in the same company or industry for a long time. If you want to reinvent yourself, you need to upend those assumptions, and hopefully do it in a dramatic way, so they’re sure to notice. Make a point of taking on an unexpected leadership role, taking a class in a new subject, or explicitly requesting an assignment that intrigues you. Make your boss and colleagues, even your friends, stop and question their assumptions about you and most importantly, use the time to reflect about which path you really want to follow.

To sum up, reinvention (independently of the biological age) is more than possible, which it does not mean it’s easy. It’s critical to keeping your skills fresh and your work fulfilling. Between staying current with social media, owning your history, reconnecting with old contacts, shaking up the ossified view that current colleagues may have of you, and a balance mix of luck and endurance, you’ll soon be ready for the next chapter in your professional life.