The task of reinventing yourself is not easy. But reinvention—learning new skills and adapting to new situations—is key to both professional and personal success. The ability to adjust, evolve, develop skills, and embrace change as we progress through life determines just how much we achieve both inside and outside of work.
Some of the world’s most successful individuals have reinvented themselves during their lives—often more than once. Take Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example: bodybuilder, actor, and governor of California. Or Jeff Bezos: computer scientist, financier, and CEO of Amazon. Or Vera Wang: figure skater, journalist, then fashion designer.
Today, the world is an increasingly volatile place, with rapid technological, economic, and political changes occurring across the globe. Industries are transforming and work as we know it is undergoing a revolution. You need to be able to reinvent yourself to stay in the game and ahead of the competition.
It’s not just a question of survival. On an emotional level, when life becomes too familiar, we get bored and restless, stuck in a rut. We need change in order to challenge ourselves and keep life exciting. Reinventing ourselves is a means to rediscover fulfillment, purpose, and meaning.
The challenge of reinventing yourself
Psychologically, trying to reinvent ourselves is a challenge. Firstly, as humans, we tend to think more short-term than long-term. Studies have shown that we consistently opt for immediate rewards over later ones—even if the later rewards are greater. This makes planning for distant goals difficult.
Similarly, we struggle to imagine the future clearly. fMRI studies show that when you imagine your future self, your brain starts acting as if you’re thinking about someonecompletely different. Instead, we focus on the problems we’re facing right now. Because how can you save for your pension, for example, when you’re not even sure you can pay this month’s rent?
But reinventing yourself is vital to health and happiness. Studies have shown a midlife career shift, for instance, can improve brain cognition, overall well-being, and longevity. And reinventing yourself to live more in alignment with your values can transform your life satisfaction. Having a clear sense of purpose is associated with a whole host of mental and physical health benefits. It’s even thought to lower your risk of death.
How to reinvent yourself
The first step in reinventing yourself is self-understanding. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you feel is missing in your life? Where are you falling short?
Once you have a clear sense of what you want to achieve, it’s time to start setting easy and manageable goals. Be clear and realistic about how long these will take to achieve—whether it’s a day, a year, or several years. Prioritize these goals according to importance.
By taking a big dream and dividing it down into achievable milestones, you are more likely to succeed—and less likely to feel overwhelmed. Plus, your body releases dopamine each time you achieve something, no matter how small. This pleasurable feeling will keep you motivated and focused in the long-term.
Track your achievements as you go along to stay motivated. This will also allow you to see patterns. Where do you frequently experience setbacks? What are you consistently doing wrong? What could help you get back on track?
Surround yourself with people who motivate and believe in you. Social networking, especially professionally, can be inspiring, and help you to keep your eye on the prize. Perhaps consider a mentor, or at least a role model. Someone who you look up to and who can guide your decisions.
Reading a lot of books is similar to mentorship. You can draw on the insights of some of history’s greatest minds and vicariously experience the successes and failures of others through fiction and autobiographies.
Reinventing yourself goes hand in hand with a process of constant learning. Acquiring new skills is essential as you navigate a changing cultural landscape—especially in your professional life. The nature of the workplace is evolving rapidly as new technologies emerge. Artificial intelligence and automation are just two of the ways the world of work is being transformed. One major way you can prepare yourself to meet these changing demands—and begin the task of reinventing yourself—is by learning and developing more soft skills.
As Senior Associate Director of IE University´s Talent & Careers department, Victoria Tornos says, while there are jobs that still require candidates to have very specific technical skills or previous experience, there are more and more job descriptions that prioritize transferable or soft skills over specific knowledge. Descriptions like, “candidate must have a good attitude,” or “candidate must be comfortable working with diverse groups of people,” are becoming the norm.
This means that as technology starts to take over some of the jobs previously held by humans, the jobs that are available will be those that emphasize uniquely human capacities—in other words, soft skills. For example, the ability to empathize and build trusting relationships. Or the capacity to collaborate or manage your time effectively. Soft skills also include creativity. 73% of employees now want candidates with strong writing skills, for example.
This is just as applicable to students. While LinkedIn Learning highlights that practical skills, such as cloud computing, marketing, and analytical reasoning, remain necessary to stay ahead in the workplace, it’s transferable soft skills that allow students to seek internships and jobs in a variety of sectors. This lets them more easily upskill and stay ahead of the competition—even without previous industry-specific knowledge or experience.
At IE University Talent & Careers, we know that our student body is well prepared to meet the demands of the soft skill requirement boom, because IE University prioritizes people skills across all of its programs and schools.
The final say
In a fast-paced world where success is dependent on how quickly you can adapt to new realities, IE University students are leading the way. Thanks to the multidisciplinary and innovative education they receive, along with their diverse personal interests and backgrounds, the ability to change comes to them easily. They were able to quickly and seamlessly adapt to the new challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, for example—a clear sign that they are ready to reinvent themselves no matter what obstacles they may face.