Career (and life) reinvention – Three questions to ask yourself

By Patrick Tambor.

Career insight series.

The Career Insights series consists of articles offering advice on entering the world of work, the more unconventional paths you may take and how you can work to achieve your goals. Stay tuned to receive deeper insights into the dynamic nature of the world of work.

Doors, Decisions,Choices

As an IBMer I’m part of an organization that has a long history of reinvention; we are continually transforming, while retaining our core values.  In fact, one of IBM’s nine Practices that aim to bring these values to life is called ‘relentlessly reinvent – our company and ourselves’.  I have been fortunate in my time at Big Blue to work on a number of significant change initiatives for the enterprise – often large, complex, and impacting thousands – that are ultimately less about our products and technology than our culture itself.  Pretty challenging stuff.

But the second part of the ‘reinvention’ practice is at the individual level (perhaps, where all great change begins) and this can be even more difficult and uncomfortable.  Re-imagining or reinventing ourselves as professionals takes guts, and some hard questions asked of oneself.  Here are three simple ones:

1) What do I love to do, and do well?  This sounds a little precious, but to answer it demands brutal honesty – including an acknowledgement of what one does not do well, or does well but for which no other party is going to pay you (best to save that for the hobby/avocation versus the job/vocation, though if you can combine the two, go for it).    And finally, that thing you love to do, and do well – consider if it is aligned to the purpose, values, and practices of the company at which you work, or aspire to work. In IBM-speak, that’s our ‘ 1-3-9’; one purpose, three values, nine practices.  If you’re not in sync, you set yourself up for heavy dose of cognitive dissonance.

reinvent yourself
Reinvent Yourself

2) What am I waiting for?  If there is a job or role you have imagined for yourself, why not start doing it now?  It may not yet be formal, or stamped on your business card, but to behave as the person you want and need to be (and your current or would-be employer seeks) does not require permission (though, occasionally forgiveness…).

3) What does success mean to me?  Reinvention calls for a candid assessment of how you – and others you respect, even if you don’t agree – define success.  That may be a promotion, or more money, or more time, or more interesting work, or more impact, or a combination of them, or….anything.  But if you know, it’s much easier to answer 1 and 2.

And now I’ll step down from the soapbox; ideas, inquiries and insights welcomed.  What questions do you ask?



Patrick Tambor is Transformation, Talent & Learning Leader with IBM. You can find him on Linkedin.

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2 thoughts

  1. Patrick, thanks for sharing in this post. I would like to add that someone one has to think about their goals, and work backwards until you get to a place close to where you are now. Inaction from “what am I waiting for?” is sometimes caused by not seeing what the obvious next steps are. Change is usually not a huge leap of faith, but rather a series of purposeful baby steps.

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