Photo credit: Kelvin Quarles,

Have you ever had that dream, you know, the one where you’re a train, stuck on a track you don’t enjoy with the occasional dark tunnel? The track that will bring you safely to death? Or maybe that’s not a dream, but that’s how real life feels to you?

It certainly did to me. When you have been in a particular type of job or career for a long time, it may seem like bifurcating or leaping into a new one is close to impossible or, at least, extremely costly.

The thing is, we underestimate how valuable job or career-specific skills are across other professions.

Imagine your current skillset is a necklace made for your job or career. Lots of pieces of this necklace are valuable across the board. All it takes is developing the new “connector pieces”. My educated guess is that these connector pieces constitute less than five percent of your pearls.

When you let go of the fear of being inadequate or “not enough” and stretch beyond your comfort zone, a world of necklaces of all varieties become possible! Go for it, look for the missing pieces, and you’ll have a beautiful new necklace in no time!

Here is how I did it. I had been “in school” all my life: kindergarten starting at two and a half years old, primary school, secondary school, college, grad school and, last but not least, Professor of Economics.

How could I possibly make it out there in the entrepreneurial world?

Yet, even in this confined space, I had accumulated skills that would prove invaluable for coaching and entrepreneurship. They were just not quite as valued in Academia.

For instance, my experience in teaching, mentoring, and advising lent itself impeccably for the small but powerful shift toward coaching — where my true passion lies. Self-discipline, analytical, writing and public speaking skills were essential ingredients for my successful launch into entrepreneurship.

Besides these immediate links, I also suddenly realized that I had wandered off the tracks several times in my career. Yes, these excursions were less valued in Academia than one might hope, but I had gone there – for example, facilitating workshops and interpersonal issues more generally.

But, a solution-oriented mindset will always bring together our passions. 

On a tangential note, I have always loved solving puzzles. That was an obvious advantage in research. But puzzles come in all shapes and forms, from Sudoku to cross-words to… “How do I organize my business”? Seeing it as a puzzle, my innate passion found a perfect outlet!

All these experiences and hidden passions helped in creating my new necklace – once I let go of the tunnel vision.

So yes, I felt like a train confined to its tracks, at times in a dark tunnel, until I acknowledged the truth.  I’m not a train! I’m a Land Rover in wide open space – a 4-wheel drive, ready for any terrain!

That’s the beauty of dreams: all of a sudden, being a free “Land Rover” feels just as real as being a train did a split second ago. What may surprise you is that it can be just as instantaneous in real life. All it takes is to replace the belief that you are like a train with the belief: I’m a Land Rover!

Then start looking around and explore where you want to go.

And so, here are my five tips to creating your new necklace:

  1. Write a life review. What were the moments in your life where you were surprised by your success? What was it about you specifically that made it a success? Pay attention to the small things – an unexpected compliment, a smile, a bounce in your heart… Chances are you have been using your skills inadvertently because they were not overtly valued in your current career.
  2. Combine this list with the more obvious skills that you developed through your experience in your current career. What themes start to emerge as you look at the full list?
  3. If you have a hard time getting started, take the CareerLeader assessment. The results were a stunning revelation when I took it. It correctly identified research, academic or otherwise, as a natural avenue for me. On an equal footing, however, it suggested coaching as well as business development and sales as matches to my personality and preferences – and the rationale provided rang true big time.
  4. Explore what concrete passions these skills match up with. You’ll be surprised by the overlap.
  5. Identify the missing links. Filling in these connector pearls is a seamless process when you have gained clarity – in your head, heart, and soul – about what it is you want to create and how the pearls you already possess play into it.

Last but not least, hire a coach to go through this process. There is nothing like a trusted coach who has no personal stake in your transformation (meaning no “agenda,” just helpful guidance) to support you in rough patches, help you get to the bottom of things, and then celebrates your progress as your cheerleader.