I’ve changed careers multiple times. Here’s my advice for anyone who wants to do the same
As a kid, I wanted to be a cop. And then an Air Force pilot.
But in high school, I discovered my love for business. My first taste was a program I enrolled in my junior and senior year. For half the day, I’d work at a local newspaper, handling the bookkeeping for the classifieds section.
Many people my age were only in it for some cash—but right from the start, I was fascinated by the world of business. I wanted to learn everything I could and explore every facet of it. Since then, I’ve worked in banking, recruiting, and eventually software.
I focused on being a generalist, not a specialist
Early in my career, people always told me to pick one trade and stick with it.
But I didn’t listen, because the prospect of staying in one field forever just didn’t interest me. I deeply value consistent growth and learning and expect every professional experience to be meaningful and challenging. And with those requirements in mind, before taking a new position, I carefully considered how any given route might shape my career path.
I cherished my time at Bank of America, where I grew from a college-kid teller to a branch manager to assistant vice president. But when I saw people who’d been there for 20 or 30 years–their entire professional lives, really–I knew I didn’t want to follow that path. As much as I loved that job and the people I worked with, I just couldn’t envision doing the same thing for so long.
After that realization, I began looking for new opportunities–and found them in lots of different places. I knew that building a career in one narrow field would never satisfy my professional hunger. I also decided that I wanted to eventually lead a company and felt that having a diverse background with different roles in a variety of industries would be a key differentiator.
A succession of strategic moves has led me down my varied career path. Here’s the advice, gleaned from my own experience, for anyone with a desire to branch out or change careers:
Working in different fields has enriched my career in so many ways. I truly wouldn’t have had it any other way. And I’m so glad I didn’t listen to the people who suggested I should narrow my career path to one industry and job description.
My cross-industry experiences and skills served me incredibly well as I grew my leadership skills and became a CEO. In my mind, every great CEO should be a generalist with knowledge and experience in a number of areas of business. So to aspiring CEOs and founders, my advice is this: Be open-minded about every opportunity that presents itself but also thoughtful in your decision to take or pass up each one.