What Does it Mean to Recalculate?

Recalculating book quote graphic lindsey pollak

When Covid-19 first emerged, I started to think about all the people thrown unexpectedly into career transition because of the pandemic, lockdowns and economic fallout. For some reason, I kept imagining the situation as that moment when you’re driving a car and the road forks, or you make a wrong turn, or you miss an exit. If you’re using the GPS on your phone or another device, it will glitch for a few seconds and then a robotic voice will say:

“Recalculating.”

Because of the pandemic, I imagined every working adult on the planet in our cars, hearing this voice, all at the exact same time.

I thought about recent college grads trying to find their paths after college. I thought about people laid off from longtime positions in “dying” industries who now needed to reinvent themselves in new fields. I thought about individuals launching entrepreneurial ventures or freelance careers. I thought about stay-at-home parents planning to reenter the workforce, or those forced to leave it. I thought about people who weren’t sure what they wanted to do, but Covid made them want some sort of change.

Even if the pandemic did not lead you to a major transition, you’ve likely spent the past 11 months making readjustments and pivots to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the world today.

We are all recalculators now.

Recalculating is no doubt a challenge—but it’s also an opportunity. That’s the theme of my new book, Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work.

As I started to think about what happens when a GPS is recalculating, I felt a growing sense of optimism. After all, when the navigation app is recalculating, it’s demonstrating that there are multiple ways to get wherever you want to go. It factors in how far you’ve come already—you are never starting from scratch. And, if you decide to change your destination entirely, it can get you there as well. When you recalculate, you open up infinite possibilities.

My conversations and research for the book also revealed that recalculating isn’t just a singular action at a particular moment in time, like deciding whether to turn right or left at a crossroads. Rather, the most successful and happy professionals described themselves as frequent and deliberate recalculators. Some of their recalculations were big and bold; others were small and nuanced. But they treated recalculation as a vital skill in their professional toolkits—one that they applied over and over again to help guide them to success in the good times and the challenging ones.

Andy O’Hearn, who recalculated from a corporate career to a master’s degree in library and information science, then back to a corporate career, put it this way:

“Recalculation is not a phase; it’s a mindset. Or, in more common parlance, it’s not a bug; it’s a feature.”

How have you recalculated in your career, especially over the past year? I’d love to hear your #recalculationstory.

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