Though she’s run her business, The Reinvention Institute, in Miami for nine years, Pamela Mitchell still considers herself a Milwaukee girl. The first in her family to go to college, she spent four years at Harvard dreaming of a career in international banking. “After college, I got an MBA and when I landed a job on Wall Street, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve arrived.’”
Six months in, Mitchell realized this wasn’t the career for her. “I thought I had a passion for finance, but I found my interest was superficial at best. I was bored. I asked myself, ‘How can I do this for 25 years?’” For five years, she tamped down her misgivings and kept working. She had a great boss and the international travel was exhilarating. Then the politics of the organization changed and the great boss got pushed out. “Things got ugly very quickly,” Mitchell says. “I quit without another job, without an idea of what to do next. This is a strategy I do not recommend.”
Lesson: People think that if you’re miserable at a job, you won’t be good at it, and therefore if you’re good at a certain kind of work, you should want to do it. Nothing is further from the truth, and thinking this way can hold you back from reinventing.
For Mitchell, though, there wasn’t any option but to quit first and ask questions later. She was miserable, working until two or three every morning. She didn’t have the time or space to plan a new career. “I went looking for a book or a coach to help me figure it out, but all the career advice two decades ago was about climbing a ladder. There was nothing about how to switch ladders.” So Mitchell figured her new career out for herself. “I made every mistake in the book, but I learned from it.”
“Once I got over hating my my job, I realized I liked negotiation and managing international partnerships. But I wasn’t a good personality fit for Wall Street. If I could find the same kind of job in an industry that interested me, it might work.”
Mitchell loves pop culture, and she landed in media and entertainment, but she didn’t network her way to a job right away. “I ran out of money, couldn’t pay my rent. I was temping, doing things the assistants didn’t want to do. It was a watershed moment. Here I had the degrees, a Wall Street career and I was standing at a copier.”