How a Career Transition Made 2016 the Most Rewarding Year of My Life
As 2016 draws to a close, I take great joy in looking back on my time and reflecting on the fact that it has undoubtedly been the most rewarding year of my life. It has been far from easy and I have faced a great many challenges, but over the past twelve months, I have been lucky enough to do something truly fulfilling. I have undergone a significant career transition and founded a company that allows me to help others with their own career orientation, development and transitioning journeys.
How my childhood shaped my future
I was born and raised in Yugoslavia; a country that no longer exists. Despite the adversity I faced, I was a very happy child. The environment was not one conducive to tolerance or diversity, but I was lucky enough to be born into a good family that truly valued education and self-improvement above all else. One thing I have definitely mastered in those childhood days was the readiness for change.
I was an ambitious student and I harbored a dream of earning a scholarship to a prestigious university abroad. But in the early 1990s political changes and the war across Balkan countries put an end to those dreams of mine. Those years have impacted my life and goals in many ways. I still remember one of those nights when an emergency attack alarm sounded and my family and I were forced into the basement with nothing but a few candles, blankets and a small radio. The radio was supposed to transmit pride and hope to us at that time of unrest, but for me, it was transmitting the importance to keep on standing behind your dreams, despite any and all obstacles or failures that may be put in the way to prevent me.
My professional life prior to 2016
I am convinced that when we — or some external factors — disrupt ourselves, we accelerate our learning and grow faster. This was certainly the case for me as I eventually climbed the corporate ladder and enjoyed a very progressive HR career. For 20 years, I had a number of executive roles in large corporations, during which time I became accustomed to the big, shiny boardrooms and the safety net afforded by a huge team of like-minded colleagues.
Over the decades, I moved from place to place and from industry to industry, but I made one big mistake: I always stayed within the same function. I was good at my job, but with time, I was slowing down my personal development. I knew that it was time for a restart and a new challenge.
What I learned while starting my own business
Like anyone else experiencing a seismic career transition, I faced the fear of failure. This struck me in the middle of the year. Rather than allowing this fear to cripple me, I decided to face my biggest weaknesses. Personally, this came in the form of technology. I have never really immersed myself in the world of social networking and mobile technology as throughout my HR roles I have missed to find the real value in it. But I had to deal with it: so I've asked for help and found great experts that have helped me to develop the missing skills. And while working hard, I have grabbed every opportunity to accelerate both my personal and business growth.
I discovered that entrepreneurial life can be extremely lonely, particularly in the first few months. For this reason, it was necessary for me to build a strong core team with varied skills and abilities very fast. However, putting the team together wasn’t the main challenge for me. My biggest task lay in uniting the team and various external partners behind the same vision. The power of effective feedback and continuous open dialogue was critical in every step we took together. Throughout the entire process, I found that the most important factors were mutual respect, tenacity, resilience and an openness to change.
My words of advice for anyone considering a career transition
For those wanting to make a career transition because they feel they’re wasting their lives in the wrong career, I have a few words of advice based on the recent journey I have taken myself. First of all, the prospect of shaking up your entire professional life might be terrifying, but it might be equally necessary. You deserve to feel engaged and inspired by your work. Surround yourself with the right people, do your research and don’t allow yourself to settle until you’ve realized your goals.
During 2016, I have taken all my savings and bought a ticket on a roller-coaster ride that has changed my life forever. I have had ups and downs, and I continue to experience them on a weekly basis, but I learned how to be more patient and tolerant of imperfections. I have met a large group of new people who have all opened my eyes to the power of digital technology and enriched my life with their diversity, passion, and warm hearts. They have helped me to grow as a person, as a professional, and as a leader. In fact, they are the reason why one of the most difficult years in my career became the most rewarding.
This year has been so eventful and inspirational that I’m more excited than ever about what the following year will bring. All the year’s combined experiences have helped me to live up to my new motto: “Once we have reached the top rung, it’s time to find a new ladder so we can start climbing again!”