By Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO
My eldest daughter, Maddie, came home from college this week. She’s a junior at the University of Alabama….ROLL TIDE! She recently switched her major from doubling in elementary education and special education to social work. She’s recently been articulating her realization of simply not wanting to be a teacher even though people have been telling her for years she’d be a great one, and also having very influential relationships with her teachers from kindergarten through high school. As a recruiter, I know that 80% of professionals work outside of their major field of study so unless there’s a highly specialized academic track, odds are she may not have stayed a teacher and may end up in a vocation outside of social work. I never became a political scientist! Listening to her though, I found it shrewd to recognize what someone wants to do with a big part of their life – their profession – and simply changing courses to pursue it. After a while, I think a lot of people stay in their career lane whether they like it or not, which is a little sad if it doesn’t make them happy. Our vocations say a lot about what is important to us and our passion to build or serve or lead or strategize or implement. It can also say a lot about us if we don’t have a passion or if our passion has diminished over time or if circumstances have caused that shift in interest. People can burn out if their intrinsic motivation wanes.
So here I am, 51 years young, leading a successful recruiting firm for the past 16+ years, where I’ve developed lots of relationships, clients, revenue, etc. and it’s been a lot of fun and rewarding despite many challenges and learning experiences through those years. I have nearly 3 decades of career under me now, a mortgage, responsibilities, kids, etc. and I need to be accountable. So I guess it’d be impossible for me to make a dramatic shift like Maddie has in her pre-career move, right? I can’t just abandon what I’ve built and go be an archaeologist or start a new business or join the circus, right? Well, maybe that’s not right at all. Whether you’re 21 like Maddie or 51 like Brian or anywhere between or beyond, it’s never too late to find what you’re fired up about and do it.
Maddie’s decision to change her major reminded me of my decision at age 34 to exit a fast-rising career leading national commercial teams in the telecom space to launch a boutique recruiting firm nobody had ever heard of. It was an insane move on paper, but I grinded until it worked out and then some. It reminded me of what a friend and entrepreneurial colleague of mine, Marc Hausman, had conveyed to me when I was contemplating the dramatic change when he simply said: “If not now when?” IF NOT NOW, WHEN? What a brilliant introspective question to ask oneself regardless if it’s career moves like changing companies, going into management, pivoting leadership functions, taking a calculated risk at a startup, positioning your company to be acquired, investing, or many other transitions that could lead to something greater and more fulfilling. To something more interesting and motivating. To something that gets you fired up. Or maybe you can satisfy your passions in other areas of life, which is also more than fine – learning to kayak, moving to the other coast, adopting a kid, studying archeology or circus trapeze, building a non-profit or volunteering, dusting off your guitar and assembling a weekend band, or thousands of other passion projects, outlets, and pursuits that align with you and what is important to you. Vocationally speaking, some calculus needs to take place, but that is never a reason not to pursue an alternative path or wrinkle to a more fulfilling career destination.
Btw, I have no intentions of abandoning my career in executive search, however, I do have another entrepreneurial business concept that’s tangential and I’m really excited about it. It leverages my experience, but with a completely different focus, model, and service. I’m fired up about it! It’s an exciting time RIGHT NOW for each of us to recognize the things we want in life and simply organize a strategy and plan of action to go make it happen. Boom or bust, the journey will get us where we’re supposed to go as long as we keep feeding what truly motivates us individually, and that’s what it’s really all about.
One day will be your last in this thing called life so if not now, when?