Broadcasting legend and former “TODAY” show co-host Meredith Vieira knows all about career reinvention.
After all, she’s had several different high-profile jobs, from delivering the news on several networks, hosting the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and helming her own daytime talk show.
That’s why Mika Brzezinski and I wanted to chat with Vieira about how she figured out her career pivots for our new book, “Comeback Careers: Rethink, Refresh, Reinvent Your Success - at 40, 50 and Beyond.”
Here are some of the takeaways from Vieira, in addition to executive coach Cathryn Carruthers.
Host your own “mini summit”
Vieira told us that when she is trying to figure out her next steps, her first move to ask for feedback from those in her inner circle.
“What I recommend is to choose friends and people that you trust and bounce ideas off of them. So often, you don’t see yourself the way someone else does. I talk to my friends about where my head is. I call them “mini summits” — they are usually walks. We talk about things like: I don’t know that I want to go back to what I was doing before. How can I use all of my skills to do something that will really excite me now?”
Carruthers said Vieira’s got it exactly right. “It is the conversations within the network that usually reveal the answer,” Carruthers said.
What’s your blue sky?
Ask yourself, “How would I define the perfect job?” advised Vieira. When Vieira’s kids were young, for example, she talked to ABC about the perfect job she wanted. That meant doing most of her work from home and going into the studio when she needed to be there.
So, inventory your skills but go beyond that — as Vieira did, to identify your values. Decide how you want to spend your time and design your life. Carruthers recommended asking yourself: What would your ideal work day look like? Working from home or working in an office? Being your own boss? Before you start targeting jobs, answer those types of questions.
Get off Monster.com, now
It may sound counterintuitive, but the biggest mistake people make when they are looking to change careers or jobs is to start a traditional job search, said Carruthers.
“We are creatures of habit, and we self-select out of jobs. We go after jobs we know already,” said Carruthers. “People apply for jobs that are similar to what they’ve got…even if they don’t like their current job.” Instead, prospective pivoters should begin the process by having conversations in their professional and friend networks - just like Vieira did.
These conversations will “spur the feedback from your network, and the back and forth that will lead you to the next thing far more often than going on monster.com and putting in a job title in the search bar, she said.
Get feedback to build confidence.
"You have to practice confidence,” Vieira told us. " If you are comfortable in your skin, that makes other people comfortable."
Your network is a great source of confidence, said Carruthers. She advises her clients to go out and get feedback — what she calls “testimonials” from their network. “Ask them what’s it like to work with [you], what [your] strengths are,” she said.
“When people are asked to give feedback, they give feedback on different aspects of you, which builds a 360-degree view of you.” This single task of soliciting feedback helps to build confidence as well as letting people in your network know that you are looking for your next big thing.
Call B.S. on ageism by knowing your value
Ageism, perceived or real, can chip away at your career confidence. Vieira told me that the challenge is to “develop faith in yourself," and to project that faith and confidence.
"I am 65, and I know that ageism is out there. So when I’m feeling discouraged, I say a mantra. I literally say to myself, ‘Yes, I am an older woman, but with that comes experience and maturity.’ If you project what you want to, it will be reflected back at you," said Vieira.
I asked Vieira what her 60-year-old self brings to a job that her 30-year-old self did not. She told me, “The 60-year-old Meredith brings a much stronger skill set, can handle crisis with calm, and has a sense of humor about myself. I take my work seriously but not myself seriously.”
Most of all, she said, she’s driven to work hard and can bring all of her experience to each new project. “I have a strong desire to work. I have a very strong desire to be there and I know I can make things better because of my age and skills.”
Stop playing it safe.
The other thing that may be keeping us stuck? Fear. Staying put is safe, even if we don’t like what we are doing, said Carruthers.
“The biggest barrier to a successful career pivot is the mindset piece. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career. Everyone, especially women, has imposter syndrome. The reason why we stick with status quo is because it is safe, it’s what we know. Changing careers or even pivoting within a career is risky. That’s the thing that tends to keep us where we are. Once you get that piece cracked, the more practical part — the how do I apply my skills from one industry to another — that piece tends to flow automatically.”
So, if you are looking to pivot, reboot, relaunch or reinvent your career, consider taking a page out of Vieira's playbook and take a hike with friends. Get their feedback on what your strengths are, and what you might consider next. You might be surprised how productive a walk with friends can be.