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Grab the Life Boat Before You Burn Your Ships

If you like history, you probably know the story of Cortés and the burning of his ships. In 1519, Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, arrived in the New World with six hundred men and, upon arrival, made history by destroying his ships. This sent a clear message to his team - there would be no retreat; there would be no going back.

COVID forced us to jump into a brand new world of getting work done in new ways from remote work environments filled with plenty of distractions. And, this chaos fueled the Great Resignation even more with many professionals forced to look at their career options and chart new career journeys perhaps into unknown waters. Some jumped right in. Others just abandoned ship and stopped working altogether. Still others are slowing mapping the journey out. But for all of us, there is no going back to the way it was before. 

They say that necessity is the mother of invention (well actually Plato originally said it when he wrote "our need will be the real creator" in the Socratic dialogue 'Republic'). But I like it, because it is especially true when facing career choices because most people have the necessity of working to support themselves and their families — especially those in their early to mid careers. But chaotic times are also the perfect time to pause and define what you may want this New World of work to look like for you, no matter your career stage.

With the integration of Creatis into the 24 Seven family of businesses, we have entered a whole new world of possibility with an international reach and new services like permanent placement that we can now offer our clients and employees. For me personally, this also means I get to embark on a new career journey within 24 Seven which I will be setting sail on later this year. So I recently dusted off my toolbox of career journey mapping and uncovered some great ideas and tools that are helping me plan my trip.  These include:

  • Write down what you LOVE to do and are GREAT at.  A great first step is to write down what you absolutely LOVE to do and are GREAT at. Especially if you have been 'captain of the ship' trying to navigate your team through choppy COVID waters, it might be a particularly good time to pause and reflect (I don't know about you, but I am just plain tired). One tool from the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) toolkit is the Delegate and Elevate grid (download PDF). While it is designed to help managers stay in their sweet spot by assigning some accountabilities to other team members, it is also a great tool to help define a new career focus. Wouldn't it be great to have a gig where you only do the things that you absolutely love and are great at doing?

  • Get input from other shipmates whom you trust. Hopefully you have people on your ship that you trust and that are willing to be honest with you. A good way to validate and/or expand the GREAT AT portion of your grid is to get input from others. I routinely receive or send out short emails to my trusted circle of colleagues and ask two simple questions: 1) What two things do you feel I am really great at doing?  2) What one thing comes to mind you that you see gets in my way of being successful professionally? You'll likely find many similarities in the responses and also may get a few surprises. Be open to the input, and you may find yourself 'tacking' to come about onto a whole new course you hadn't thought of before.

  • Overlay a filter of practicality (but also keep gazing at the stars). Now overlay a dose of reality. If you are more like a massive cargo ship, you won't be able to change course very quickly. But if you think and act more like a highly maneuverable littoral combat ship (I had to google for that one) you may be able to pivot quite quickly. In either case, be realistic about your capabilities without losing your dreams. I would LOVE to golf on the women's senior LPGA tour, but it just will never happen. But there are other things I love to do that are very achievable. This step is about focus and refinement, while keeping an eye out for those new horizons that may be yet unseen.

  • Paint the picture of life in the new world. The Lewis Carrol quote of 'if you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there' is so true. So take the time to paint a picture of where you want to end up. This painted picture is a vivid and  aspirational vision of your future. Literally write down and draw up the future in detail, as research shows that by clearly defining something makes it much more likely to happen. What are you doing in a typical day? Who have you engaging with to do this? Do you still manage and coach people or have you moved back to an individual contributor role? How much money are you making? Are you in a structure work setting or one that is flexible and fluid?  Describe as much as you can in as much details as you can, and a New World will start to emerge.

  • Assemble of team of sponsors for your expeditionA very talented and successful business colleague of mine some years ago asked me to join her Personal Board of Directors or PBOD.  Like what a Board of Directors/Advisors does for a business, she engaged a diverse group of colleagues to provide support and advice on how to advance her career. There are many great articles from Forbes, LinkedIn and others that outline the benefit and process in establishing a PBOD which I am currently re-reading. Don't be afraid to ask colleagues to help you, as oftentimes you can return the favor to them.

I truly believe that now is a great time to consider burning the ships with a focus on moving forward into our Brand New World. But create that life boat before you burn your ships completely. With some reflection and planning before you cast off the lines, you'll be ready to navigate through whatever career swells you encounter.

If you are underway or considering setting sail on a new career journey, I'd love to connect. You can find me on LinkedIn or feel free to reach out to me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

Creatis , Managing Change , GoWithGrace

Find us:

Creatis, Inc. Headquarters
227 Colfax Ave. N.
Suite 150
Minneapolis, MN 55405

Tel: 612-333-3233

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