My dad once said he liked starting over because it’s a chance to leave all of your mistakes behind you. I’ve never really liked it, though I do see his point. In a way, I’ve started over a lot – this is my 14th job in my 25 year career. I’ve decided that that many changes is a real advantage, as I’ve learned how to hit the ground running, ramping up my learning quickly. But I also gave some things up with each change. I hate the first six months of every new job until I’m comfortable and contributing. With 14 new jobs, that’s a sizable chunk of my career I’ve spent not yet happy. The far bigger tradeoff is the friends I leave behind. That’s a part of it I hate, but until this most recent change, it wasn’t as hard as that many changes would indicate. Nearly all of those first 13 job changes over the first 24 years were with only two companies. That first change in companies after ten years was definitely hard, but the ethics of the new owner made it a sadly easy decision. Besides, I found a new job with a great company in my backyard, so I could still see my friends regularly. The next move was 600 miles away from where I’d lived all of my life but was with that same great company, so I kept much of my support system. An amazing twist of fate even required me to travel home for the new job. I got to visit frequently not only my friends, but also my grandmothers and mother-in-law before all three of those wonderful ladies left us.
This last job change a year ago was the toughest yet. Maybe getting older makes change harder, but this was also our first move to a place where we all started completely over. The girls missed their friends, a lot. Russ had some health issues and couldn’t help much with the physical aspects of the move. And I walked away from a successful career, a reputation I was proud of, and my support network, so critical to helping me through the daily stress of a challenging job. We knew that we were making the move for all the right long-term reasons, but wow, it was hard.
We’re finally on the back side of the change. There are still things we miss, mostly people, but it’s better now. I even have a handful of hugging friends now at work. And back to my dad, there are those benefits to starting over. While I am very proud of what I left behind, I did make mistakes. I learned from those mistakes and made corrections, but they were still known. I know I will make my share of mistakes at the new company, but it’s nice to start fresh. No one knows I used to have a bull-in-a-china-shop style. No one knows I used to push too hard when I just knew I was right. Hopefully it will be assumed that my hard-won collaborative style is my natural style. I may have left behind all of my prior accomplishments, but I’ve also left behind the casualties that resulted from them.
We gave up a lot in the move; I’m still fully realizing how much. But we also gained everything we made the move for: we’re closer to family, and the girls will sink some roots here, where we want to be long-term. As with all change, it has been a tradeoff. I have been trying to stay in touch with my old friends, to varying degrees of success. I know many of those friendships will fade over time, it always works that way. But I will try, and I will take advantage of the upsides of starting over. I will try to be a better leader and an even better friend, because my past, including those mistakes my dad talked about, have shaped who I am today.
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” –Dr. Seuss