Mindset Matters in the Age of Disruption

heather

by Heather Moore

In October, I was invited to speak to a group of mid- to late- career professionals in Helsinki, via a workshop entitled ‘Exploring the New Game´ curated by Grownups for Startups. In this workshop, I shared some insights from my work as a foresight and trend analyst, including how the landscape of work has changed and its impact on the future.

I shared a number of macro trends, or large developments that are taking place currently and continuing over the next 10 or more years, and two in particular I find worth paying special attention to:

1) A rapidly expanding aging population, globally increasing from 530.5 million in 2010 to roughly 800 million in 2020. And in Finland, 22.9% of the population will be 65 and older by 2020. 1

2) Recent medical advances and increases in life expectancy, are enabling a greater number of people to live longer both in Finland, as well as globally. 2

Need to reimagine careers
These developments are leading to a radical rethinking of aging and what it means for society, including the necessity of longer working careers and the need for more desirable and engaging services with specific needs in mind. Decreasing government social services available, coupled with a shortage of corporate employment, calls for an opportunity to reimagine what form these evolving careers could take.

Ever increasing digitalization disrupting careers of those older than 45
We are in an age of massive change in many aspects of life, and this is due in part to the evolution of technologies such as the internet, mobile phones and cloud computing. The subsequent push to make everything digital and to connect all things and people has forever changed life as we know it. For millennials, it may be all that they have known, and for anyone older than 45, it is hugely disruptive.

But technology is not the only thing at play. Millennials are increasingly happy to work on issues that they find meaningful or that align with their values, even at the expense of other factors such as salary and time off. As illustrated in a recent Deloitte survey, millennials believe that the success of a business should be measured not only by profit, but by how it can address societal challenges like resource scarcity (68 percent), climate change (65 percent) and income equality (64 percent). Additionally, 50 percent of Millennials surveyed want to work for a business with ethical practices. 3

Opportunity for older professionals to team up with younger generation to create new businesses and employment
Despite this obvious gap between both age groups, older workers might consider teaming up with younger entrepreneurs to create startups that address the specific needs of the aging population, or businesses that help to preserve some of the tradition and knowledge of older generations or regional populations that are in danger of being lost in the digital age. This type of partnership would leverage the energy, idealism and agility of millennials, and the experience and long-term perspective of older generations, while bringing meaningful social entrepreneurship opportunities to both.

You need to take ownership of your career and personal development
While it was once the responsibility of an employer to facilitate the trajectory of an employee’s career and personal development, it is increasingly the responsibility of everyone to take charge of their own development and evolution (as well as branding, marketing, PR, and building and extending your networks). Switching from a mindset of fixed talent, limited possibility and avoidance of failure, to one of constant learning, unlimited opportunity, and self-determination is absolutely necessary.

But how does one switch mindset?
In practice, improvisation is the best way of experiencing this switch. Improvisation is the practice of creating, problem solving, or acting in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one’s immediate environment. In theater, there are rules to improvisation:
Rule 1: Agree and say “yes” (rather than trying to figure out reasons why something won’t work)
Rule 2: Not only say “yes”, but say “yes, AND…” (to build and further develop another’s ideas)
Rule 3: Play & experiment
Rule 4: There are no mistakes, only opportunities

Throughout the ‘New Game’ workshop in October, we ran through a number of improvisation exercises using these rules, and by the end, the entire group had gone through an amazing transformation. The energy at the end of the day, sparking new ideas and inspiration, rivaled that of a children’s design-a-thon recently facilitated in Berlin — perhaps proof that age itself can also be a mindset.

-Heather A. Moore is Founder & CEO of The Shape of Things, an innovation strategy, foresight & resilience consultancy based in Berlin. @hmoore

References:
1 http://www.stat.fi/til/vaenn/2012/vaenn_2012_2012-09-28_tau_001_en.html
2 http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/05/01/spring-2013-survey-data/
3 http://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/2014-millennial-survey-positive-impact.html

PushupPhotoThis is what may happen when you say Yes, AND…

Picture from the Exploring the New Game workshop in October.

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Why Grownups should go to Startup Events?

Tuija

It is never too late. I went to my first Startup Weekend at the age of 48 in Cape Town where I attended  Startup Africa 2.0. A year later I attended the Startup Weekend in Helsinki. Both times I went for curiosity – to experience what it´s about and to learn what kind of ideas people bring there. And both times the idea of going there felt pretty intimidating. Why?

  • I will be the only grownup.
  • All others know what to do.
  • It will be all about technology, coding and apps. Acronyms like UI, UX in the registration form almost freaked me out.
  • Do I have to pitch an idea? I don´t have any.
  • I will not last all those long days after the hectic workweek.
  • I have to eat pizzas the whole weekend.

Helsinki Startup Weekend proved all my fears to be pointless, including pizzas. This is what the weekend was about:

On Friday late afternoon I joined the anxious looking crowd wearing the Startup Weekend T-shirts. I immediately knew I was in the right place. Soon I too was given a T-shirt, an L size and ugly green (for attendees classified as Business).

The theme ´Sustainability & Biofore´ had attracted a nice diversity of participants. In total, we were around 50. The number of nationalities was exceptionally high for a Finnish event – it almost felt like at Heathrow airport. On the other hand, less than 20% were coders and developers and, in the same way, only a few had attended a Startup Weekend earlier. This became clear when the moderator asked about it – I felt almost a pro being there for the second time. Many people were young as I expected, but I was delighted to see a few grownup faces other than coaches and experts. One of them was Henry, a youthful and curious super grownup, in a nice blue T-shirt – he had been wise enough to tick himself in as Marketing to get a nice colour T-shirt. When I asked Henry what brought him to this event, he said curiosity.

The Friday evening was all about introducing ideas in 60 sec pitches. Close to 30 courageous souls used the opportunity to pitch their ideas. This time I did not even think about pitching, as I wanted to focus on learning from the pitches. It really impressed me how smartly people had spotted market opportunities in everyday life and how creatively they wanted to solve them. And I sensed all that energy and passion.

After the pitches we attendees voted for the ideas and teams were formed around the top 12 ideas. We could join the team we found most interesting. After short team introductions we were told to start real teamwork the following morning. End of day, I was at home by 10pm.

The Saturday was fun as it was about building the idea. We teams immersed ourselves enthusiastically into the work. There was not much group level guidance; we received coaching as much as we wanted, but we had to be proactive and ask for it. Very much like in real life. On the other hand, to get an educational impact a short explanation of Business Model canvas and Get-out-of-building would have been in place. My team literally left the building and interviewed potential users in various places. It was fun, but the real learning  came when one of the coaches pointed out afterwards that many of our target users were actually in the same room. Anyway, the main thing is not to get stuck on trying to solve the problem within your team.

The energy level on Saturday was so high that we easily worked till 10pm. It felt like back in the student days, only the food was better and healthier.

The Sunday was the pitching day, so we felt the pressure from the morning. When we asked for a pitch advice from the coaches, we surprisingly got five different pitching storyline suggestions. It all felt confusing and annoying. As a team we started to feel the tension. At this phase I noticed the grownup growing inside me: the temptation to take an easy road of being right, ´I have done this before, I know the answer´. Maybe the same happened to coaches and that´s why we got so many different suggestions. Afterwards when I reflected I got an ´aha´ moment. All that pressure and conflicting advice simulated real life experiences; all kinds of people tell you how you should build your idea but at the end you will have to make the decision whether any of the advice matters. Finally on Sunday evening all the 12 teams pitched what they had built over the past two days. It was amazing to hear how ideas had evolved into a completely different level in such a short time.

To sum up, I did not learn so much about Bioeconomy & Sustainability but instead  I got a great hands-on experience on building a startup idea in a team with great diversity. And I connected with a number of new interesting people. Some of those discussions might even lead to working together in a project. Finally, I´d like to share my learnings about Dos and Don´ts for a grownup at a Startup Weekend:

  1. Take the Startup Weekend as an opportunity to play with a startup idea. Nobody expects you to succeed.
  1. Don´t feel intimidated, just go. Very likely most of the other attendees are there for the first time. If you do not have an idea or do not want to pitch your idea, you can join a team and play with somebody else´s idea. In case you feel more comfortable knowing some theory beforehand, read Steve Blank´s, the startup guru´s, tools.
  1. You get the most out of the event if you leave your ´where is the business case´ attitude and your grownup ego at the office. Be open, curious and humble.
  1. Be a curious grownup – join a team  you would never have thought.
  1. Seek and absorb all possible advice throughout the weekend – that´s how you learn most.

More information on Startup Weekend.

tuija@grownupsforstartups.com
Twitter: @tuija_pulkkinen

Facing Goliath – a Grownup Story by Heikki

 

While I was still studying at the Helsinki University of Technology, I was pulled in by one of the Finnish mobile operators to solve their radio network capacity problems. This led me to Nokia and new projects to plan and design networks. Gradually I moved to sales, marketing and business development in a number of companies and ended up with leading large, global customer account teams. The next step was to move to strategic business development, which was a significant and a very motivational period – huge amount of learnings about how to engage with stakeholders and bring value to them, how to build and maintain  trust.

But things do not go as planned. After more than 20 years, working for several employers, without ever applying for any position I was in a new situation: on my own.

That suited me fine. I had no doubt that I would find new opportunities. First I took time to myself and my family. Very nice, very important. And again a new learning: to stay at home and not to travel all the time.

After 6 months, when I had done nothing to find a job, neither planned anything, an ex business acquaintance asked if I was interested in establishing a consultancy company with a couple of guys. I said yes. We spent a lot of time defining what we wanted to achieve. The most important decision we made was to do something meaningful – things we like and want to do, and what is important to our customers and further to their customers.  We even refused to sell work by days or hours, instead we talked about the desired outcome and sought for the right pricing based on that.

The entepreneurial life appeared, of course, to be completely different to corporate life. Strategy – my favourite topic – proved to  have a new kind of meaning. And there were no corporate resources, assistants, subject matter experts, not any of such luxury available. Identifying new opportunities, focusing on something and forgetting others, making choices, taking risks, taking full charge of all the decisions and not consulting the boss – it was the new normal.

One of the biggest risks I took was to pursue  African business. That started from a blog I wrote, which was captured by an East African. Now, after years, after huge efforts and learnings business has started in many fronts. My belief was that in challenging conditions I can utilize my extensive experience to find opportunities where I can apply innovative solutions based on technology and business modelling. I was persistent, and I proved to be right. But by no means can I afford to be complacent; things can change overnight.

The journey has been long and it still continues. I have climbed my ladder from a technical problem solver to fulfilling customers’ and other stakeholders’ needs. At the moment I feel I have achieved a next level, where I can do what I am compassionate about, what I believe in. I also want to leverage that excitement, confidence and desire to engage others – customers, partners, suppliers. I don’t say it is easy. It is not. But I also claim that it shouldn’t. My public secret is that I have never avoided to go beyond my comfort zone.

There is an inspirational story that illustrates what this all is about. When David faced Goliath, he seemed to face a mission impossible. A young boy had to fight against an armoured giantic professional soldier. David was truly beyond his comfort zone. His weapons and armours were heavy and clumsy. David decided to use what was available – stones from the ground, a simple leather sling – and his skills. David beat the giant because he used what he had in the right way. And probably he was able to hit Goliath on the forehead because it was big enough.

I believe that in search of our own growth, we need to identify our own Goliaths. We need to recognize our own strengths and use what we have, as David did.  Everybody needs to experience and learn it oneself, it can not be taught or transferred. Nobody else can tell what you want, can, or shall do. And growth follows.

Heikki Mäkilä
heikki.makila@dazid.com
twitter: @makihe

A Philosopher’s View on Passion and Purpose

When discussing about work meaning and purpose come up often. We asked an expert, a philosopher, to explain why meaning is so important for Grownups .Lauri Järvilehto is a Helsinki based philosopher, writer, trainer  and  an ‘endlessly curious Lego builder of starships’.

Question: As a philosopher what you see behind all this discussion about passion & purpose, finding meaningful work?

There are several reasons to this discussion.

First is that we have now in the West the first adult population that has not factually suffered from war or another big national crisis such as a famine. This has led to the shift of focus in relevant questions from immediate survival to questions of greater human significance. The Generation Y is the first generation that has neither suffered a war nor had parents who have, and who have grown up in relatively significant material abundance. To this end, they do not consider the question of immediate survival and its corollaries such as making ends meet as important as the preceding generations.

The second is that these are universally significant human questions even if we tend to forget them from time to time owing to the pressing nature of daily tasks. We are all going to die one day, and we all wish that at least at that point we would be able to look back and think that our time here has been meaningful. That we have made a difference.

The third reason is that recent research has shown quite emphatically that generating a sense of purpose and meaning not only contributes a great deal to well-being and health, but also to productivity and performance. Here, it is passion that can fuel the discovery of purposeful and meaningful work that in turn can also contribute to generating greater material resources, as is argued by eg. the economics Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps.

Question: From the philosophy point of view, what the age, the lifecycle stage of a grownup, can mean in this context of meaningfulness?

Age is a two edged sword. On one hand, age brings about experience. On the other, it locks us into best practices, which can be detrimental when the world changes. Now, it looks like the world is changing faster each day, and to this end we should find ways to leverage the greater experience without locking ourselves to proceses and practices that are no longer viable. As Eric Hoffer said, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

In a sense, creating a grownup startup culture could be the very key to solving this problem. Combining the startup ethos – high number of experiments, permission to fail, sense of purpose and exploration – with the high experience of a grownup could bring about a best of both worlds scenario. Of course, for a grownup, the volatility of a startup may seem more intimidating than to a twenty-something, and this is why the question of personal purpose and meaningfulness are so important.

Even scary things are worth doing if they are done in pursuit of personally meaningful goals.

Question: How  could a Grownup crystallise his or her passion & purpose? Any methods or tools?

One of the most universally functional methods of figuring out one’s passion is the Vocational Map. It’s a method I originally developed to figure out my own direction, and we have successfully used it with people ranging from high school students to 50+ years old unemployed people. It’s key significance is to switch the focus in everyday life from money or status to the actual activities that you feel are significant to pursue, either because they are fun, interesting or meaningful.

The Vocational Map works like this: first, write down every such activity that you enjoy doing for the sake of itself. This can mean anything from reading to tending horses, from lecturing to playing the recorder. Do not differentiate hobbies and job-related tasks at this point – just write down all possible activities you can think of that you feel worth doing without the need for a reward.

Then, score each activity from one to three. Score three for each activity that you get to do right now as much as you like. Score two for each activity that you’d like to do more. And score one for such activities that you don’t get to do almost at all.

Now this is a map of two things: first, what your vocational life would look like: a life, where every single item on your list gets scored three. And second, where you stand now in relation to that life.

The next step is to figure out how you can produce value for other people from those activities you enjoy for their own sake. A vocational reader and performer might enjoy teaching elementary school children – or work as an actor, for that matter. A vocational horse-rider and car driver might employ herself as a bus driver and ride horses as a hobby in the weekend. And so forth.

Once you have the map laid down, the possible combinations just ten different activities allow is very high, in the range of several thousands. Out of these options, it is practically certain you can discover where you can produce genuine value by doing what you love. And in a market economy, producing genuine value will almost without exception lead to some kind of a transaction mechanism, hence creating the needed material resources you need for your life.

I believe every single person – be they grownups or youngsters – has a vocation.

The vocation is where your passion and the needs of the world intersect.

Lauri Järvilehto, PhD
Extended Mind
www.ext.md

The Future of Work is already here

Lynda Gratton’s excellent book The Shift- The Future of Work is Already Here paints a picture of how work will change. She is so right in saying that the change is happening already: we see how companies are in a turmoil and whole industries disappear. Many grownups face the fact that they need to start embracing new opportunities to create a future-proofed working life.

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Grownups for Startups® was born because of our personal need and insight. We have realized that we need to open up our minds, build new skills and networks, and learn to create our own opportunities.

Why?

Because opportunities will be created in diverse networks and communities, by learning from each other. As Lynda Gratton says, “connectivity, collaboration and networks will be central”.

Crafting and testing new opportunities is acting like a start-up company – thinking global, exploring markets and customers, testing them, changing direction – or pivoting as they say in start-up language. The journey is as important as the destination. Start-ups collaborate and are built in teams. New careers can be best built in teams.

We invite you to join us to craft our future work together in Grownups for Startups®.

Tuija: Growing up from corporate to creating opportunities

For 15 years I lived through my childhood dream of working as expat executive, most part of it with Nokia. I was a ´power woman´ controlling my life and many others´ too. I lived and worked in exciting places like New Delhi, Singapore, Barcelona, Madrid, Budapest.

In 2009 the global recession pulled my plug out and switched off the power. For a while I tried to get my career back using all traditional job search methods. I sent applications, I had a career coach, I discussed with headhunters, tried volunteering work to network and feel relevant. Despite all this my efforts did not work out – hardly anybody hired, and I was often pigeonholed as “too experienced” and labelled as “Sales only”.

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Fine. Time for testing something else.

So I decided to escape from Finland to Barcelona, my home city of early 2000´s, to seek new inspiration and networks. In Barcelona I tested different project ideas, even started writing a book (which was never finished), which kept me busy and triggered to read many books about future and creativity.

One of the books was Lynda Gratton´s The Shift – the future of work is already here. And what a book it was! Gratton´s book made me wake up to the reality: to succeed in the future I wanted to to re-tool myself to be competitive on the markets with the massive oversupply of the talent and also “become part of a Big Ideas Crowd, where we can all buzz with energy and ideas”. Lynda Gratton has inspired my thinking till today.

With this new insight I decided to get back to school but I wanted to go to a new type of school. Luckily I found one. In 2011 I enrolled in the THNK – the Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership executive program to study design and innovation thinking. The THNK program was, and is, very experiential. Being one of the Founding Participants gave an opportunity to experience what it feels, and means, to build the plane when flying. For a grownup like me, until then with a strong corporate identity and thinking patterns, it was a revolutionary reframing experience – in all aspects.

The program sent me from Barcelona back to Helsinki to try another project: a startup concept development that I conducted as the accelerator project of my THNK studies. I started sensing and testing possibilities for the idea of Grownups for Startups (the name co-created with some highly creative fellow THNK participants). I had thought Helsinki and Finland would be ready for my idea but I really did not know how wrong I was.

Nevertheless, this startup – where I have prototyped myself as a grownup – has opened up so many new possibilities, networks, and experiences. I have pitched my idea to many audiences in Helsinki, and spontaneously in the Africa Startup 2.0 event in Cape Town; have worked on a project with a well-known social business Shonaquip in Cape Town; have volunteered in Slush – the biggest startup event in the Nordics -, have attended startup events in Berlin and Helsinki, have conducted a pilot for grownups in Helsinki, have mentored grownups, and so on. This may sound exciting startup life, but oh dear I have struggled with bigger and smaller things. Different types of fears (money, failure) have of course been there. But also trivial questions such as whether I will be the only grownup attending a Startup Weekend event and what is the dress code for startup events. This question is not a minor issue for a grownup woman. I think hoodies are far from elegant, on the other hand, who wants to look like a mom of the rest of the audience.

By doing all this I have invested my time and my money to re-tool myself to be an innovative connector, entrepreneur or intrapreneur, whatever the future will require. I will switch the power on.

Learnings I´d like to share:

• Read Lynda Gratton´s book Shift – the Future of Work Is Already Here.

* My advice is: start preparing for the future of work. Transitions take time, may take 3-4 years as in my case. Sooner you start exposing yourself to new networks and possibilities, better positioned you will be in the new game of disruption.

• The best unlearning and re-tooling process for me has been to try and do several startup idea projects, with different people. In those projects you learn so much about new tools but particularly about yourself, about your thinking patterns, fears and self-limiting beliefs. A startup can be the best source for latest market insights and knowledge. And a great live course to stay curious and humble.

• Startup events are ideal places to sense new possibilities, learn about startup models, build new connections, and test stepping out of your comfort zone (particularly if you dare to pitch;).

• Trying and doing projects you gradually create a new story for yourself.

Tuija Pulkkinen, Helsinki

Tuija@grownupsforstartups.com

@Tuija_pulkkinen

Patrick: from telecom Marketing Executive…

Two things happened at the same time.

On one hand, I was reorienting myself and exploring opportunities around big (telecom) data, how big data could be a source of societal innovation and I wanted to continue on that path.

At that same time my employer of those days Vodafone decided to focus on core business and cut investment in the innovation space around big data. I started looking for jobs to see whether I could drive my vision with other companies. But I soon found out that many times hiring was conservative: I would only be considered for jobs such as I had just left. I was not interested. So I did not find an employer with the right context for what I wanted to do.

So I decided to give it a go myself.

Patrick Leenheers #momo101

This was a gradual process. Sometimes we choose to, and sometimes we have to, leave our relatively secure jobs and step outside our comfort zone. If this happens say, mid-career, an event like that forces you to re-evaluate what you really want to do in life. This involves a mental shift. We may have to re-determine our direction, get (back) into the habit of setting our own goals, and learn how to find the clients / projects we wish to serve – and get paid for it. The dynamic is very different from working within a larger structure where work is just there (often too much of it) and a manager sets direction and judges performance.

Fortunately the world is full of phenomenal challenges to be solved – some close to home, some at world scale. In this transition, the process is as important as the end result. When I stepped into this mode, which I call the ‘creator mode’ I sensed the empowering feeling of taking life back into my own hands. And also it was sometimes daunting or confusing – I just did not know how the choices I was making would turn out.

I was fortunate to be on this path with a group of likeminded people, supported by a team of trainers, mentors and coaches. With this support network, I got access to the skills that I needed to learn and the network that I needed to build. And to be honest, I took there the courage to start and resilience to continue.

Learnings I´d like to share:

• It takes a bit of time. Don’t lose heart. And stay ambitious. A small team of likeminded people can have a big impact.

• When you go, go. In the boldness of the action lies the seed of success.

Patrick Leenhers, Amsterdam

Tuula: from lifelong Corporate to multiple enterprise projects

I got my first permanent job while I was still studying. 28 years later, still working for the same company I decided to leave. I did not change company – I never even thought about it – because I moved from one interesting job to another. It was a pioneering journey, it was learning by doing, constantly challenging yourself and your doings. The company was full of smart people with a ‘let’s do it’ mentality. It was a start-up long before start-ups.

Over the years the company changed, it was no longer the company I had joined. The final point was when they started offering exit packaged to employees with more than 15 years of employment – they called it a Renewal package.

I knew I was not wanted anymore, took the package and left.

Tuula

What next?

First I wanted to have a break, to take care of myself, which I had neglected for years, and do things I never had had time to do. I started exercising, I attended a creative writing weekend, I devoted myself to gardening – my garden must have been surprised at such intensive care all of a sudden.

In the future I wanted to do something different, to look at the world through a different pair of glasses. My view had long been through the eyes of an international technology corporation. I wanted a larger picture of the world and the society around us. But I did not yet know what that “something else” was.

I studied social sciences at the university. I started volunteering in non-profits and learn about social enterprises, social impact and shared value. This opened up a completely new world to me. I met people I would never have met in my old circles and learned things I had no idea existed.

All this time I looked and applied for jobs both profit and non-profit – very selectively though, because the number of companies I wanted to work for was not large. This was also something I had to relearn – last time I applied for a job was years and years ago. And I soon found out that job hunting is not one of my favourites, I do not like pushing myself onto the market by listing and formulating my competences and skills, guessing what the employer really prefers.

I was not lucky, nobody wanted me. I heard that if you are over 45 you are not considered.

What now?

When I met my friend and colleague Tuija we often discussed about work, how to find work and what work will be in the future. When Tuija told about her Grownups for Startups project I was convinced– the thinking around the future of work, the start-up attitude and the idea encouraging other grownups hit me in the head. I realized that I have had the luxury of enjoying a lifelong career in one single corporate.

This is something I will not have in the future – nor will many other, either. But this new world of work will open up completely new opportunities. I have a huge opportunity to pick and choose: do projects, develop new skills, do as much as I prefer.

Learnings I’d like to share:

• Try things, do things you’ve not done before.

• Learn by doing. Volunteering is a good way to learn new tools and test what you like and what you dislike. And you will find new friends and colleagues

• Make your own decisions.This is about your life – not your friends’, not your husband’s or wife’s, not your coaches life.

Tuula Angervuo, Helsinki

tuula@grownupsforstartups.com

Susan: from Lawyer and Nonprofit Director to Healthcare Startup

I lost my job. Yes, I can say that now, but what a shock to have had a very successful career path from attorney to business development executive finally culminating in a leadership role at a non-profit member based organization with high visibility and access to CEOs. Then one day it was gone, but I was no longer a 25 or even 35 year old able to bounce back and land multiple offers, the job search and work landscape had changed and somehow I was vaguely aware but unprepared. Yes, I was a true believer that if you work hard, produce, contribute and grow in each position, you will be rewarded. Oh it ain’t so.

Susan'S Story

I realized at 49 that I had to remake myself and open my eyes to the new world of possibilities and new game. I had to create my future and job opportunities. I had to create a place for my rich and varied skills that seemed at times like a patchwork quilt, beautiful pieces added over the years. I wondered could I apply these skills to becoming a real innovator and entrepreneur. I am a fox not a hedgehog and wondered where I might fit in, would I fit in. Self-employment did not attract or resonate for me, I wanted a team, a learning environment and a creative space to grow while making a social impact, leaving my small mark on the planet.

I lost my job, but not my mojo, although it did seem to disappear for a while. But instead of starting the traditional job search to find another stable position (as if there are any), I regrouped and took inventory. I reflected and took time to consider my options and also see that some doors were closed. As my mom used to say one door closes, a window opens up, you just have to look for it. So like the long line of strong Cape Verdean women in my family, I took up arms for battle to fight for the next opportunity. I decided not to re-write my CV and machine gun it out to every contact but to enroll in a healthcare innovation program and join a team of young millennials and work on developing an innovative solution for a local children’s hospital in Barcelona.

Am I scared about my future? Hell yeah. Do I have any regrets? Hell no! Do I believe that I will be a successful grownup in the startup world, maybe, but the journey has been the reward.

I lost my job. Say it out loud, embrace the fear to release it so you can open your eyes to new possibilities. Is the startup world the right place for everyone, no.

Can we grownups make a difference, contribute and add to the diversity of the startup world? Yes.

So take a few steps:

• Get a good career strategist/coach and do the work. Figure out what makes you tick. Invest in yourself, it will be the best money spent.

• Put a financial plan in place if you have not done so already. Read up on taking control of your finances , have the cushion in place to tide you over so you have space to explore. Remember Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. You need financial freedom to explore your dreams.

• Get out of your comfort zone, talk to people outside your close network to get real feedback. If you read one single book, then pick Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career by Herminia Ibarra. The book offers advice for us grownups who have invested in a career path and want to make a change.

Good luck

Susan M. Feitoza, Barcelona

@sfeitoza

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