Miley Cyrus has been everywhere recently, you can’t escape her. She is twerking anywhere and everywhere, sporting a funky haircut, jamming with a dwarf back-up band, riding wrecking balls naked and licking sledgehammers. Has anyone noticed? You bet. “Wrecking Ball” was up to 200 million views on YouTube in a matter of days, it’s now surpassed 600 million and counting! Whether she or her record company is driving/contriving her antics it is irrelevant; her apple pie, Hannah Montana, Disney-gilded image has been well-and-truly displaced. She has successfully reinvented herself as a “normal” adult pop-star, whilst still leaving room for “improvement”…Lady Gaga is the benchmark, at least for now.
We can debate the method by which she got there, however Miley’s transformation to adult pop-star was necessary. She needed to shed her old image as she is no longer a child herself, and most importantly from the record company’s perspective, nor are her fans children anymore. We can’t all be stuck in high school forever like the Glee cast, with lead actress Lea Michele now 27 years old. Hang on, she wasn’t even high school aged when she started the show!
So what does this have to do with the workplace? The fact is you will likely need to reinvent yourself in the workplace at some time during your career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found, on average, that Americans aged between 18-44 years old between 1978 and 2008, held 11 jobs. With the rise of technology this trend looks set to continue, and escalate. Sometimes the reinvention is subtle, a slight tweaking of your behavior, and other times quite stark, changing career paths involving a heavy investment in education to facilitate the move.
Participants in graduate programs commonly lament their reputation hampering their development. If you were the graduate who partied hard for 3 years, frequently turned up to work in the same clothes as the day before with a hangover then you are going to have a tough time shedding your party boy graduate image. So what do you do? In extreme examples you may need to leave the firm and start afresh, alternatively you can put your head down for a year or two (e.g. minimise time partying with colleagues, never turn up hungover etc.), focus on your work and you’ll soon start hearing comments, “he has really matured and is a nice guy” etc.
Other frequently sighted reinventions include the move into management. For example, the number one sales person is frequently promoted to be head of the team with no regard to their leadership potential. All of sudden the person is managing their “peers” and tensions can arise if he/she models themself on Kim Jong Un. Further, from a commercial point-of-view the team loses their best sales person and gains a horrible manager, which is suboptimal. Of course, it is best for all if the sales person is “groomed” (a HR-friendly way of saying reinvention) for the role in preceding years.
Reinventions can also be related to moving roles/divisions internally or changing careers entirely, a purer reinvention if you will. For example, moving from sales into strategy or from accounting into marketing. Each move will require a certain amount of cross- and up-skilling to facilitate the move e.g. formal education at University or internally run courses. You will need to be bold with your decision and have the support of key stakeholders.
If all else fails you can always try twerking your boss at the Christmas party. Just expect a call from HR the next day…some moves are best left to the pop stars!