Your Job vs. Your Career: A Perspective on Changing Careers

Ardiansyah Solaiman

I am a filmmaker-entrepreneur with a little more than 10 years of working experience in various creative and management roles in the industry. In the past five years, I have been producing television dramas and movies through my production company and have recently received two nominations as screenwriter for best-adapted screenplay. However, the truth is I am beginning to question my future in the business. There is a growing discontent with the work and now it is difficult to see any growth opportunity for me. On top of that, a recent commercial failure of a project and a painful partnership breakup really compel me to rethink my future.

For many, the goal coming out of an MBA is a great job. However, from my perspective there are real disadvantages when it comes to the job hunting process for “more experienced” candidates (explicit reference to age is not allowed here, red.). According to Matt Symonds, the director of Fortuna Admissions, younger talents are more flexible to train while older professionals are more set in their ways. In addition to that, younger talents are also more mentally and physically prepared for entry level post-MBA jobs than older professionals. Given those considerations, it makes sense that recruiters are more likely to hire younger candidates than older ones. However, what if we think beyond job hunting? What about the pursuit of a satisfying life-long career?

Mark Albion, the author of More Than Money, points out that the greatest fear for career changers is often not financial reason but the loss of identity. This resonates with me because as someone who has been doing the same line of work for more than a decade, my personal identity is inseparable from my professional one. However, apparently, this does not need to be the case.

Herminia Ibarra, a Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, explains in her book that none of us is ever tied up to a single identity. In fact, each of us do have myriad of possible identities just waiting to be discovered. The real work is finding the right one. She argues that we cannot discover our possible identities through introspection alone, we can only truly explore these possible identities through tests and experiments. Her point is, career change is a process that requires experimentation, and planning can only go so far.

Professor Ibarra further elaborates that a career change does not always need to be a radical detour in function or industry. Some of the career changers in her book remain within the same industry and even do the same function. In those examples, some of them are lucky enough to find mentors who help them develop a fresh perspective on their roles. Therefore, it is also important to note that career change is most importantly a change in one’s perspective.

So, fellow career changers, I think it is important to look beyond the job hunting process as one well-known Indonesian career coach often says: your job is not your career.

For me, INSEAD is going to be my laboratory. It is a place to experiment with my possible working identities and a community to build supportive relationships with role models, mentors and peer groups during my transformation. Finally, INSEAD is a home where I hope to rediscover myself and reinvent my future.