I was catching up with a friend this morning. He is currently a senior executive at a $100+MM SaaS company, who like most of his peers, is heads-down, working long hours, grinding to a successful outcome for his company. Compared to me, he is still young, with a couple of kids in late high school, early college years.
Towards the end of the catch-up call, I asked him what he is doing to get ready for “You 2.0”, that next phase in life when you hang up your gloves from the work you have done for the past 25-30 years and move on to the career that you will have for the next 10-15 years. He admitted that he isn’t doing much to even think about what the next phase of life might look like.
This is common for many successful entrepreneurs and executives in tech firms. Building and growing a company is hard work and all consuming. We all strive to that magical exit event when financially we don’t have to work anymore. But that doesn’t change the beast inside us. We are still the same driven individual that ground it out to be successful and still wants to be in the game, but differently. Unfortunately, when the magical day comes, many are not ready for “You 2.0”
Here was the advice that I gave my friend and surprising, it is not that different than the premise I laid out in my article “Career Advice -101” for people early in their career. Spend some time to figure out what you want to be as “You 2.0”. Do you want to do board work, advisory work, interim exec roles, angel investing or charitable work or whatever else you have a passion for. Figure out what skills, experiences, relationships and networks that you will need to be credible as “You 2.0” on the first day of your new career. Do a gap analysis between your current skills, experiences, relationships and networks and those you will need. Start filling in those gaps now.
For example, if you see a future career as a Corporate Director for hire, get on one Board now. If you plan to be a coach or adviser, start pro bono mentoring one or two people outside of your organization now. If you want to be an active angel investor in the future, join an Angel group now.
Sounds simple, but not so when you are all-in on your current gig and working 50 to 70 hours weeks. When I finished my corporate career, I thought I knew it all. Twelve years later, looking back, it is remarkable how little I knew about the 2.0 version of my career.
One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received was when I was leading the PeopleSoft Global Services team in Canada. Andy Aicklen was the Canadian Country Manager. Andy would disappear 2-3 times a month for an hour for a coffee meeting. These were meetings that he would either seek out, accept invitations from others in our industry or to re-connect with people from his past. We were both in high intensity jobs, working long hours, so I asked him why he was wasting his time with these meetings. He said it was just something you have to do to stay connected and encouraged me to start to do the same. To jump start me, he started introducing me into his network and this forced me to make the time for networking meetings. I would not have had the success that I have had in the last twelve years if I hadn’t have started building my network then.
So the advice to my friend this morning was straightforward. Carve out some time to think about phase II of his career. Assess the gaps in skills, experience and network. Start doing things outside of the daily grind of his job to fill those gaps. Start finding opportunities to network, especially when you are traveling on business and have free breakfast or dinner slots on your calendar. Take time to attend networking events. Start trying to give back to your industry through mentoring and connecting people.
If you want a “You 2.0” in your future, the time to start building it is now.