What I learned from Drucker about the Art of Career Reinvention

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By Ricardo Vargas

How have you reinvented yourself in the past year while grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic?

One morning during the lockdown period, I had a long conversation with my daughters. We discussed career, success, and happiness. I could sense the tension with all uncertainty around us. Could I offer them words of wisdom?

A Day of Drucker 2021

Irrespective of what career you have chosen (or will choose), which advice would stand the test of time? How could I support young professionals who are taking the first steps in their careers? I have often found answers in Peter Drucker’s work that spans several decades of research. His thoughts about Managing Oneself were top of my mind and helped me during challenging moments of my professional life.

After being sensitized by their concerns and by many other young professionals, I decided to put time and effort into rethinking and reflect on how life and career have changed. As part of my volunteer work, I recorded four episodes of the What Matters video series, sharing what I learned from my career spanning 25 years.

I started my working experience in a company of three employees in Brazil. Over time, we grew and diversified the business from traditional software sales into IT services. Since then, the company has grown into one of the country’s leading technology groups, with more than 25,000 employees.

And you may ask about my decision to leave that company, AeC, in 2006. It was hard, really hard. But I wanted to dedicate myself to my passion: connecting ideas to reality by delivering successful projects.

This decision opened a unique window of opportunity: to have the chance to serve society as director for project management and infrastructure at the United Nations (UNOPS). It was life-changing. I led several missions in more than 120 countries, and, as a team, we delivered more than 1,000 projects worth $1.2 billion. We built camps, roads, maternity clinics, and housing efforts. For the first time, I was doing something that would have a massive impact on the lives of those who had nothing.

To achieve both success and fulfillment at work and in life, these are the three lessons that I want to share with you humbly.

Own Your Career Journey

I learned that everyone has a different starting point and a different journey. Comparing your life to others is not only unfair but also not valuable for progress ahead. I find joy in fulfilling my passion, building my own roadmap, and staying focused.

Focus to Find a Deeper Purpose

What if you did not have to choose between passion and your livelihood? What would you do? I learned how a sense of purpose associated with planning could help you create options, your best insurance.

Keep Learning to Challenge the Status Quo

I also thought of the advice that Peter Drucker would provide if he were still around. What would he say to us about reinventing our career paths?

Drucker encouraged us to be lifelong learners.

What are we doing to keep learning? Are we exposing ourselves to new ideas and new approaches? Are we challenging yesterday’s processes and ways of doing things?

Learning a new skill is not only reserved for further professional success. Being focused is great. But a deep focus can make us too entrenched in a specific field. It may not help you apply to another one when needed. Skills take time to master, so make sure you create options and mind-space for new concepts.

It makes me more aware and expands my horizon about different concepts.

Our experience with COVID-19 has taught us a lot about the fragility of life. Over the years, I have realized that while we plan, life happens. Unforeseen events can disrupt and distract. It is easy to fall into the trap that we must only think about the short-term.

We should not be paranoid about change. Yet we must be ready to adapt and equip ourselves with new skills that will allow the development of options.

And options are everything in an ever-changing world.

About the Author:
Ricardo Vargas specialized in implementing global initiatives, capital projects and product development. He created and led the Brightline Initiative from 2016 to 2020 and is a former director of project management and infrastructure at the United Nations. He is author of 15 books in the field

This article is one in the “shape the debate” series relating to the  A Day of Drucker on June 30, 2021.
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