Readers of this blog know that I recently left my place of work -- after 20 years!
How did that happen?
Why did that happen?
Is this a good thing?
The root of this change happened in 2006, four years ago, nearly to the day. I had just returned to work from a 6 month maternity leave.
The company was still recovering from the recession of 2002/2003 and things inside were a bit weird. New lines of business, new executives brought on board, and, for me, a new job. The company had asked me to take on a new role, in HR, to help with "Strategy Engagement." The new job was in response to all this change.
CONTEXT: So much had changed in the market, and at the company, that the employees (and executives) themselves were often saying they didn't have a strong sense -- or connection with -- the direction of the company. NOTE: we had just acquired 30+ companies, and half of the workforce -- including the executive staff -- was new to the company in the prior 18 months.
If I was suddenly put on the sidewalk, "I would be okay, but sad."
During the Fall of 2006, I remember thinking that if something out of my control happened to the company (we could be acquired, too), or to me (new executives inevitably come with 're-orgs'), and I found myself on the sidewalk ... I would be okay, but sad. I realized that I had built my entire professional identity as part of EMC. All my networks were either inside of EMC's walls, or were built based on my status as an executive with EMC.
What if there was no more EMC? What if?
I realized at that moment, that I needed to protect myself from that and start building a Plan B, or simply build more options so that I would be happy, rather than sad, if my time at EMC were to come to an end.
What did I do next?
I've long had a career goal to sit on a Board of Directors. It is just about the only job at EMC that I did not have a clear view into, yet it involved every aspect of the company that I had been helping others analyze during all the years I spent in investor relations.
I began reading up on Boards, and when I saw a program happening at a reputable college titled something like "On becoming a Board Member," I signed up. It was October of 2006.
After the program, I went up to the front of the room to introduce myself to the speaker. I handed her my card and before I could even say what was on my mind, she said, "We should have lunch some day." (Think: The Attraction Factor, or The Secret)
We got together the following month for lunch. We shared our professional stories and discussed goals, and what it was like being among a very short list of women executives in male-dominated areas of business. (Perspective for another post!). We connected. She then said I might be interested in getting to know a group of successful women, from around the world, mostly in their 40's who share career perspectives, business goals, and drink a fair amount of wine when they get together. ("Where do I sign up?!," I remember thinking.)
Soon after, this speaker made a virtual introduction of me, to a member of the "group."
Thus began my journey to readiness.
This ("by invitation only") group of women would become my "safe" sounding board, a fertile ground for collaboration, and a rich source of professional growth -- and professional opportunities. The local group gets together for dinner every 6 weeks or so. The national organization gets together twice a year, generally in South America, and New York City.
Since I joined, I have done countless trust- and friend-based business with other members. Examples: book collaboration, speaker at events, guest blog posts, media quotes, guest teacher to college classes. All of this has built both my brand, and EMC's brand. It has been GREAT for ALL.
I Knew The Plan Was Working When ...
Over a year ago, the woman who introduced me to the group had a business snag with EMC. When someone asked her, "Why didn't you connect with Polly?," she replied, "Oh! I forgot Polly worked for EMC!"
I was very proud of that moment. For me, it was when my brand had become separate or distinct from my employer in the eyes of a professional community.
And last Thursday, at a long-scheduled get together with the local group, I was greeted with Champagne and Cheers for my next chapter.
My "What's Next" NET:
"How did that happen?": I planned for it.
"Why did that happen?": I was ready for it.
"Is this a Good Thing?": Yes.
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Do you plan for a "what could be next?"
If so, how?
How long have you been thinking along those lines?
-- Polly Pearson
@pollypearson on Twitter
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