“Never let a year go by without developing your professional career or personal career. There are so many individuals I have seen or met who have not lived by this life rule. When they reach their mid-50s, they are dead-men walking because they haven’t stayed relevant. They have stayed safe.”
“I’m 64 and technically retired but if I did retire, what would I do? I look at my 89-year old mother who is still running a successful business and think…that will be me.”
Drew has had several diverse successful careers, initially working his way up to the rank of Captain in US Airforce in the nuclear missile division and later in strategic war planning but he knew long-term his career would be elsewhere.
On leaving, he took up a position within United Airlines where he was the youngest sales manager leading a team who were all much older than him. Ten years into this chapter of his career, after completing his MBA he was deciding whether to become a function or an industry specialist when he was head-hunted to join Johnson & Johnson in their…wait for it…gynaecology market development area. Even though he had known nothing about that area of specialism, Drew flourished there for 17years becoming an expert in systematic creativity before retiring for a short time.
His trigger for change
Shortly after he left J&J, Drew received a call from the Dean of a small college in Chicago asking him to head up their new marketing faculty. After one semester he received extremely positive reviews from his students and decided to begin the fourth chapter of his career as a full-time professor. Today he now spreads innovation across an entire university campus.
Drew’s first steps:
“The first step towards the current chapter of my career began with an openness some time ago to new opportunities. When I was asked to do some teaching after my MBA, I had a young family and said yes to some extra work on the side. I continued moon-lighting and teaching on and off in one way or another throughout the rest of my career as I truly enjoyed the feeling of sharing ideas”
What Drew learned about career change:
· Lean into things that you are sure that you can’t do.
This is where growth happens.
· Careers have to be driven with intention, but we also need to layer in some opportunistic meandering.
By that I mean that we need to say “yes” to doing jobs that others are not willing to do, to take some risks that others might not wish to and to put our hand up for roles that we are certain that we do not know how to do…yet. This adds that extra something to a career that leads to growth and relevance in both the short and the long term.
· Never let a year go by without developing your professional career or personal career.
There are so many individuals I have seen or met who have not lived by this life rule. When they reach their mid-50s, they are dead-men walking because they haven’t stayed relevant. They have stayed safe.
· Managing your career means managing your relevance.
I made clear choices throughout my career to put my hand up early for projects, to get in on the ground level and to get out before their peak and before I got stuck. I see lots of people staying too long on projects where they might have done great work but they get stuck and this impacts their futures.
· Work hard to be on the life-boat
If your business needed to be re-started tomorrow, would you be one of the chosen few that would be on the life-boat? The only way that you get to be on the life-boat is if you have continually stayed relevant.
Your functional expertise isn’t enough to keep you highly relevant or crucial. If you stay stuck in Supply Chain or Finance or any other functional area, it’s simply not enough. You have to constantly learn and that involves being outside of your comfort zone. You have to be continually learning and evolving into that crucial member of the life-boat. It’s a choice.
· Surround yourself with a small group of valued advisors – your own board of directors.
You need a confirmed inner circle throughout your career. These people offer you their valuable counsel and are interested in your valuable counsel in return. They can be colleagues, mentors, specialists, family members or neighbours but they have your back and offer valuable opinions.”
· If career is important, never stop renewing yourself, learning and growing
Learning and growing is exactly how to move on from a transition period. For instance, I spent 5 weeks in Ottawa with one of the world’s foremost guitar makers, learning how to make a guitar. I’ve now designed a creativity experiment around teaching students how to make their own acoustic guitars.”
How it feels on the days when Drew knows he has made the right decision?
“I feel just great!
No two days are the same. I get up, my feet hit the ground and I throw myself at whatever diverse challenges are in that day.
I’m 64 and technically retired but if I did retire, what would I do? I look at my 89-year old mother who is still running a successful business and think…that will be me.”
“None at all!”
Find out more about Drew by checking out his new book – So, You want to be a Professor and his first book Inside the Box at:
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