There comes a point in a person’s life when the best course of action may be to shift gears or start over. Whether an event such as being let go from your job has caused this to happen or if there is just something inside of you telling you there must be more out there, reinventing yourself is a course of action worth considering. The good news is that you can reinvent yourself at any stage in life and you can also reinvent yourself multiple times throughout your life. No one should be tied to a specific path if they are not happy living it.
Zora Colakovic, most recently a legal officer and senior investigator in the United Nations system, understands this better than anyone. Colakovic has had several career changes throughout her life. She was born and initially educated in small-town Minnesota and went on to pursue graduate studies in international geopolitics. She was on the path to becoming a university professor when she realized her passion was in investigations.
After years of success working on high profile gang and organized crime cases, she had the persistent itch for another challenge. She bravely poured her efforts into obtaining a law degree at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, with concentrations in International Criminal and Human Rights Law and Criminal Justice. These decisions to shift to the next career while leveraging her past experience led her to enjoy one challenge after another.
In the past decade, Zora Colakovic has lived and worked in five different continents. Thus, Zora Colakovic knows a thing or two about reinventing yourself at different stages of life.
In order to reinvent yourself in life, shares Zora Colakovic, you should try to break down any preconceptions that come with your previous life. You should let go of the past and any assumptions about yourself or your life path that may limit you. Just because something happened in the past, does not mean it will happen in your future.
Try to imagine starting from scratch. Consider what labels people may apply to you or that you’ve placed on yourself in relation to your past self. For example, do you view yourself as working class? If so, don’t assume that you can’t create a life that differs from that experience, say as a scientist, if this is your goal. Are you a financial advisor from a family of bankers? Avoid being limited by your family’s history or expectations and allow yourself the freedom to explore. Do you identify as someone who has had a lifetime of bad luck? Remind yourself that luck can change.
Zora Colakovic shares that she grew up in a family of farmers, engineers, and teachers. With her first career path in academia, Zora Colakovic followed the example of her father. When she identified investigations as her reinvention, it was a big change full of resistance and setbacks.
To succeed, she had to keep her mind set that it was in fact possible. For the next reinvention to become a lawyer, she had to again change her concept of what was possible. With no lawyers in her family, it had always felt unattainable. To successfully reinvent, she had to change the way she thought about herself and imagine being a lawyer.
Labels with which you may have previously identified need to be left behind to move forward on a new path. Do what you can to shed old ideas and beliefs that no longer serve you.
Acknowledge The Obstacles And Set Your Determination On Winning The “Long Game”
It is admittedly much more difficult for some people to reinvent themselves than others. There is no doubt that individuals already starting at a higher point on the mountain will have an easier time reaching the peak. But do not allow this to deter you. Try to avoid a self-defeating internal narrative.
You may be staying in an unsatisfying job because you must financially provide for your family. You may have limited access to financial support. You may lack connections or moral support. You may struggle with mental or physical health issues. You may face unfair discrimination.
Zora Colakovic reveals that when reinventing, she had no connections in advance and she had to slowly develop her networks. Meanwhile, in the early stages of her career as an investigator, it could be very difficult as a woman to earn the automatic respect – and by extension, opportunities – often given to male investigators. These realities certainly made it more difficult to succeed, but not impossible.
Acknowledge the obstacles and limitations. They are real. But try to find a way to define yourself in a way that will enable your reinvention.
You may not always be able to overcome these obstacles. You may want to adjust your expectations. But far more important is to always keep in the back of your mind that sheer persistence and determination can win the battle in the long run.
Set your goal. And more importantly, set your determination. And keep your eye on winning the “long game.”
Consider Your Transferable Skills
In order to reinvent yourself in life, shares Zora Colakovic, you should consider how your existing transferable skills can be highlighted and leveraged for success in your next stage.
Transferable skills are those that can apply in all professions and may involve broad categories such as communication, creativity, or leadership. For example, if your previous career required presenting ideas, this communication skill could be useful in many other careers ranging from teacher to entrepreneur. Leadership skills you might have learned in the military can be applied in business and organizational environments.
Transferable skills may also involve specific technical knowledge, particularly when transitioning to a career that parallels your current career or involves aspects of it. Examples might include knowledge from a medical career used for your reinvention as a creative writer, or an athlete’s knowledge of a sport used to reinvent as a sports agent.
Zora Colakovic shares that her academic background provided her with research, analytical, and communication skills that would be invaluable for investigations. These skills, as well as the ability to think critically as developed in both academia and investigations, was crucial to her transition to becoming a lawyer. Meanwhile, her background in investigations provided her with technical transferable skills and knowledge for reinvention in law.
While reinventing yourself, be mindful of your general transferable skills and highlight them to potential employers. Also keep in mind the transferable technical skills that may be useful in your next stage of life.
Find A Mentor
Mentors are essential, especially for reinventing yourself in a new career. Switching career paths is not uncommon, but it can be difficult. Make it easier on yourself by finding mentors to help guide you. Your mentor can be a person, but can also include inspirational objects or archetypes.
Zora Colakovic breaks down mentors into two categories: indirect and direct. Indirect mentors can involve educational materials like books and movies, especially inspirational books. There really is no substitute for reading and learning more about a subject. Meanwhile, direct mentors are people who have achieved what you would like to achieve in life and their example demonstrates a way to reach a similar goal.
Zora Colakovic says that to support yourself during reinvention, you should avail yourself of both types of mentors. For example, when she was interested in transitioning out of academia, she began reading books about careers that were more “action-oriented.” She read both fictional and non-fictional stories about investigators, as well as “how-to” type books written by real-life investigators.
Later when aiming for the international sector, she chose subjects in law school such as international criminal and human rights law and sought experiential opportunities to further build her awareness of the possibilities.
As for direct mentors, Zora Colakovic notes that she has had many along the way, including professors, investigators, and lawyers. Anyone who does well in life generally – and in reinvention – is enabled to accomplish this through the assistance and guidance of others.
Discover Your Passion
Some people know exactly their passion and may have been dreaming about it since they were a child. For others, their passion is something they discovered in their adult life. Some people have lost their passion and are seeking new inspiration. And there are some people who aren’t sure where their passion lies. It’s ok if you can’t quite put your finger on it, says Zora Colakovic.
In order to reinvent yourself, it isn’t necessary to know your passion right away. However, it is necessary to spend time trying to figure out what your passion might be.
Think about what makes you happy, or if there is any activity that makes you feel happy while you are doing it. Passion will follow this happiness. If you have no idea where to start, then research a new job or field every day until you find something that piques your interest. You could also take some time to observe someone doing certain work of interest to you. Pay attention to how your body feels when you consider various options.
You may feel a surge of energy or you may find yourself feeling drained, allowing you to interpret where your passion may lie. During this process, you should try to avoid too much in the way of numbing activities like watching TV or drinking alcohol.
The first year or even two years of the reinvention process should be spent researching and exploring. Don’t commit or rush into something you’re not sure you even like, let alone are passionate about. For example, Zora Colakovic spent a year while in grad school contemplating investigations, doing research, and going ride-along with police officers before making the commitment.
For the next reinvention, she mulled the decision to go into law for about two years while observing criminal trials. Fortunately, she determined that law made her feel energized, not only with the process of logical reasoning but also with the result of resolving disputes.
When you start a new job or the education to reach that job, you will likely know quickly whether it’s the one for you. For example, if your mind starts to wander and you don’t feel particularly excited by or invested in the work, or you feel tired at the thought of it, it’s probably not your passion. Conversely, if you find yourself enjoying the process of the work itself, feel energized, and often think about your work positively when you get home at the end of the day, it could very well be your passion.
Many people think they can reinvent themselves overnight. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that it takes years to fully reinvent yourself such that you feel content and successful on a daily basis.
For Zora Colakovic, the road to success, satisfaction, and fulfillment as an investigator took almost a decade to accomplish. A successful transition through law into the international sector took almost as long and involved years of study and sacrifice before finally enjoying the fruits of her labor.
The trajectory isn’t going to be the same for every single person. But it is important to remember that reinventing yourself is a slow process that requires patience.
Zora Colakovic On Believing In Yourself
Life is not easy. It involves many setbacks and compromises, interspersed with rare and often quiet victories. Zora Colakovic says that you should remind yourself that it is generally easier to be comfortable and stay in the zone of familiarity. If you choose to challenge yourself with something you have never done before, this takes courage and you must realistically expect to stumble at times. Try to avoid falling into too much self-criticism. Be gentle with yourself as you face the inevitable challenges along the way.
Zora Colakovic notes that you may feel “stuck” or struggling with the fall-out of sudden misfortune. Try to remember that a set-back, if handled correctly, can provide opportunities to grow and even surpass anyone or anything holding you back. Take this time as an opportunity to reassess. Think of it as an “incubation” period from which new ideas can be hatched. And always remember that it is darkest before the dawn.
Zora Colakovic advises focusing on and nurturing your overall vision and guiding principles. This will sustain you when times are tough. Think of yourself as a phoenix that will rise from the ashes of your previous self. Believe in yourself and keep the flame of your spirit alive.
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