Looking for a more fulfilling career? Try staying put.

Leaders on leadership

Anita Hoffmann

27 April 2018

Anita Hoffmann shares insights from her new book on taking a more purposeful path later on in your career.

Many established professionals find themselves wondering, ‘what next?’ Whether due to changes in their personal life, or a yearning for more meaningful work, the path suddenly seems unclear.

After many years in one field, it can be hard to envisage entering a new one, let alone making a difference in it – or earning a living. But as an executive search consultant, I’ve seen some people do just that.

I wanted to know whether there was a pattern, so I decided to write a book on the topic. It turns out, there is a common path to success. But it might not be what you expected…

Stay where you are and ‘job-craft’

The effective career changers I spoke to stayed at their employers while they went on a journey to discover: ‘Where could what I am really good at make a huge difference?'

They then found a way to incorporate their passion into their company’s strategy, allowing them to spend a part of their time and corporate resources on these projects – so called ‘job-crafting’.

Take Richard Gillies. As Chief Procurement Officer of Marks & Spencer, he wondered whether there was a way the company could use only renewable energy. No business had done this before, so he spent some time figuring it out.

Once he had a proposal, he got it included in the M&S Sustainability Plan A, and spent 10% of his time on the project - the most exciting part of his job! 

After achieving the ambitious green energy goal, he was made Chief Sustainability Officer. Today, he is a highly sought-after sustainability adviser.

Don’t be afraid to explor

It’s easy to feel inadequate when we stand there with our half-baked idea and look at the likes of Richard.

But at the start, he had no idea if his idea would work – nobody had ever done it before. That didn’t stop him from exploring. Over time he pieced together a plan.

Not only did he end up finding a fulfilling new career. He also, unwittingly, laid the groundwork for the Re100 movement (corporates to commit to 100% renewable energy),

That is the joy of going exploring in the unknown – it’s not comfortable, but it could turn out to be the most exciting and exhilarating growth period in your life.

From small acorns, truly big oaks can grow.

Anita Hoffmann is a senior executive search and leadership development consultant specialising in mid/late career transitions, and a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield University’s School of Management’s Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility. 

Her book, Purpose & impact: How Executives Are Creating Meaningful Second Careers, is available from Routledge or Amazon.