Gina London: ‘How to stop your detours turning into roadblocks’


Gina London: ‘How to stop your detours turning into roadblocks’

The communicator: Gina London
The communicator: Gina London

Reggie Selma was a CNN photojournalist. Based out of the same Washington, DC bureau as I once was, he was the first African-American cameraman assigned to the White House. He covered every US president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. He travelled the world, notably strolling the Great Wall of China with President Reagan and meeting iconic leaders such as Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela.

Yet change inevitably happens. Even careers as stable and enriching as Reggie’s don’t last forever. For my cameraman friend, his illustrious CNN adventures came to an end when he recently retired.

It’s not surprising that research proves what we all can imagine, that a change in a job situation can catapult a person into a state of confusion, uncertainty or even depression.

But, Reggie has fallen into none of those. Instead of fading into the sunset, he is launching a successful second career as a speaker. He certainly has plenty of entertaining material from decades of covering the hottest stories in the world.

With his energy, humour and vitality, Reggie makes it look easier than it is. In today’s rapidly-changing economy, the London School of Business and Finance reports that over half of the people they surveyed would like to change jobs – but many don’t for fear of the unknown.

Whether you take the leap yourself or you find change handed to you in the form of retirement, redundancy or perhaps something more personal, there are common communications behaviours to will help you improve your next chapter.

Here are a few I’ve observed, not only from Reggie, but also from others who are equally as inspiring.

1 Get moving

This is number one on the list because a survey from Harvard, that bastion of professional research, found that the more you ‘stew’ (their word and I love it) the longer it will take before you make your next move. Sounds obvious to me.

How much did that survey cost? But anyway, I do like that the underlying premise here is not to spend time going over the negative in a situation. ‘Why was I wronged?’ ‘Why does the universe hate me?’ That’s a very unsavoury stew.

2 Enlist support

Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to break out of a comfort zone. Even if the zone you’re in is not particularly comfortable. For instance, if you’re in a job or a town you are not satisfied with or you know you need to lose 10 pounds, it takes less effort to stay where you are than it does to make the change. If it’s a stable job with regular pay and a growing pension, you may be tempted to coast. As I wrote last week in this column, a career coach can help you find the courage and direction you may be waiting for.

If losing weight means you need to hit the gym regularly and skip that glass of wine or pint for a while, you may benefit from hiring a personal trainer.

Reggie has his wife. Hopefully, you have a supportive family too. I also urge you to enlist a neutral third party. Join a networking group. Find a mentor. Surround yourself with encouragement. Just don’t try to go it alone.

3 Layer your purpose

Maybe you’re not the globe-trotter that Reggie has been, but wherever you are as you read this, you have stories, skills and experiences that make up who you are.

My friend Denise Robinson recently moved to Dublin from Northern Ireland. She added an extra layer to herself by launching a blog on Facebook to share her stories of “being a single woman in her 40s”. Her Dee’s Dublin Life site, which tells of “delights and disasters in dating”, now has a large and growing following.

This is a simple, yet powerful example, of how you can add focus and new direction to your life during what otherwise might be a precarious time of change. Take a continuing education class. Do something to layer up.

4 Purposefully overcommunicate

Denise’s blog also demonstrates my favourite tip today: Tell people. Tell a lot of people. Hand-in-hand with the other three tips is my reminder that the more you talk up your next dream to as many people who will listen, the more real it will become. By doing this, you create a virtuous cycle of awareness, interest and responsibility.

5 Create short-term victories

And, finally, be good to yourself. When you retool your CV, when you lose two of 10 pounds, when you reach 500 followers, when you speak publicly for the first time even if it’s only for 20 people, build in small milestones that you can – and do – celebrate.

You might start a blog like Denise or you might start public speaking like Reggie. But even if your next position is not the perfect one, by actively taking on these behaviours, you’ll be gaining new clarity on where you want to go and how to make a plan to get there.

As my friend Reggie so wonderfully told me, and I’m delighted now to share with you: “Don’t let your detours become roadblocks.”

  • Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon. Write to Gina care of [email protected]

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