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My Keys to Successful Career Transitions

My Keys to Successful Career Transitions

I may have had more career transitions, into more dissimilar jobs, than nearly anyone else I know. And at all stages of my career.

I’ve been a research analyst; I was an investment banker; I’ve run businesses at mega-companies; I’ve been a CFO; I’ve been charged with turning around scandal-plagued businesses; I’ve been charged with turning around troubled businesses; and now I’m an entrepreneur. And an outside-funded entrepreneur at that. And that at a stage at which one might expect that I would be downshifting.

So how – and why….my husband keeps asking me why – do I navigate these career transitions? Here’s how and why:

I am endlessly curious. I love to learn. I can talk…and talk and talk…but I really love listening and learning more.

I do not see failure as fatal. I do not see success as forever. I fail every single day.

I think what my team and I are doing matters. In my latest iteration at Ellevest, an innovative digital investment platform for women, we are working to close the gender investing gap. Not as well-known as the gender pay gap, the investing gap can cost women hundreds of thousands – for some women, millions – of dollars over their careers. This an under-recognized constraint on women achieving all that they can in their lives.

I think business is a fascinating puzzle, and I like a good puzzle.

I am an optimist. I ended the day after I was fired (sorry…”reorganized out of a job”) pretty sure that better was going to come along. And it did.

I’ve developed pretty thick skin. No, I didn’t like being criticized in the press at certain points in my career any more than the next gal, but I think it’s a pretty small price to pay to get to do such interesting things.

I’ve built a strong network over the years. I try to help my connections as much as I can; and in return, they have been generous in helping me each step along the way.

I work hard. Really hard.

I know what I’m not good at (process…yuck; legal documents…..shoot me now), and I fill my team in to offset my flat sides….and theirs. It always amazes me how a great person on the team makes magic. As a result, I give the stars all kinds of rope.

I mentor younger professionals. Which means that they reverse mentor me. I am flabbergasted by how many in my age cohort are perfectly satisfied to stay in their knowledge comfort zone.

(A conversation, not so long ago. Him: “Hey Sallie, what are you working on now?”

Me: “Ellevest. A digital investment platform for women.”

Him: “Huh?”

Me: “You know, some people might call it a ‘robo-advisor.’”

Him: “What?”

Me: “Like a Betterment or a Wealthfront or a Personal Capital. But focused on the underlying issues that women face in investing, like that they live longer and their salaries peak sooner.”

Him: “What’s a Betterment?”

This conversation actually happened. And it actually happened with a senior financial services executive.)

I recognize that career transitions are increasingly as much about playing defense as offense. The pace of change in business is so great that career transitions will become the norm rather than exception. And the biggest career risk you take may be standing still. So might as well get ahead of it.

And change is fun.

And we are all fortunate that we have been given opportunities that so many others haven’t.

This article previously appeared on LinkedIn.


Sallie Krawcheck is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ellevest, an innovative digital investment platform for women. She is the Chair of Ellevate Network, the global professional women’s network, and of the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund. She is the best-selling author of Own It: The Power of Women at Work.

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