Your Career Makeover
I watched the Netflix movie He’s All That recently. It’s a film about a high school influencer who specializes in makeovers and bets that she can transform an unpopular classmate into prom king.
I know that it was marketed to pre-teens and teens. So, if it feels less awkward let’s say I was watching it with my eight-year-old niece who begged me to put it on.
In truth, I’ve always had an affinity for the makeover movie and this concept that someone comes along and decides that you are going to be a big deal AND by virtue of taking off your glasses and/or giving you a better outfit, everyone realizes that you are sooooo attractive and your popularity surges and life, at least initially, becomes all you wanted. (Yes, yes maybe I do suffer from a want of wish fulfillment)
You don’t really see as much of the same appear in popular media about people being made over as professionals. In part, that is because we have greater agency to make our professional lives better. (I see you Working Girl)
You always have the opportunity to swap out your overalls (a surrogate for a professional skill) and do the work to makeover yourself into who you decide you most want to be. Ideally, it would be amazing for someone to see that or champion you, but most of us don’t have that for a bunch of reasons.
At no point in my professional life did I feel as though there was someone championing me and my advancement. My social style has always been a bit awkward and nerdy. I was fairly uncomfortable in my skin and never felt particularly attractive or able to dress myself in a way that looked as sharp as others. I had, maybe still have, a sense of humor that people didn’t always get. Around me were a flurry of people who were adept at attracting others who wanted to serve as their mentor and proudly take some of the credit for their inevitable rise to success.
So, we all need to be ready to do that for ourselves. Who have you decided to make yourself into? Get as clear about who that is as possible. Why do you want to be that? What will it make possible in your professional and personal life? Don’t be afraid to get granular with any of this.
What are you prepared to put-in or trade-off to make this happen? We can gain new needed skills or apply the ones we have where we currently work. You can locate professional associations and leadership groups that are seeking someone who is willing to put in the work in public roles. (And sometimes being the substance-over-style person means you have to put in more of the work to get your due) Not always, but often.
Ask yourself directly who else is around you that can help support you in that process? Having friends & colleagues who can help you see, offer accountability, and strategically achieve a set of goals is a huge asset. If you don’t have these people in your life now, one of the best things you can do is to start to develop a rapport with those from old (school, house of worship, former employers) or new places (events, professional associations). Remember, that you get out of your network or support group what you put into it. Your generosity and patience can often be returned to you many times over.
You also need to consider whether your current boss and/or your current employer is prepared to let you be this new person. If not, find a place that enables you to flourish. Sometimes that is about looking closely at who holds positions of leadership and how they show up in the professional world.
I’ve had lots of conversations with employers who have sought to engage me in the possibility of being an employee. It became pretty clear that I would have to change too much of how it felt important for me to show up in the world to prosper. Moreover, the folks who got to the very highest levels were cut from a specific cloth. You may not want to be in a place where everyone is a copy of you, although some similarities can help, but you do want to see that there are people who have some aspects in common that prosper and are appreciated.
Please, don’t wait to get started. Every day you do the world is missing out on the best version of you. And you are missing out on your most fulfilled self.
—Russ Finkelstein is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and his new book, "Let's Sort Out Your Career Mess, Together..." is forthcoming in 2021.