Interview with Liz Ryan: On effectively reinventing your career

Vera: Congratulations on your latest book, Reinvention Roadmap. Your writings in the main one would argue have the thrust of reinvention. What led to a decision to write a book on the subject?

Liz: The working world has changed dramatically in the past few decades. Jobs are not secure anymore. Long-term employment is melting away like the glaciers! We need to know how to manage our careers in this tumultuous new-millennium workplace. I wrote “Reinvention Roadmap” to teach working people of all ages and experience levels how to manage their own careers and get the jobs they deserve, step by step.


Vera: The sub title is about breaking the rules to find the job one wants. Which rules in your experience have people being too loyal to, to their own detriment and need to step away from?  

Liz: Most of us grew up learning rules about work and job search that don’t serve us anymore. We’ve learned to give our power away to recruiters and employers, but that’s not a good idea! We’ve learned to let other people define us and tell us what we are good at and what we’re qualified to do. Now we’re learning that we have to break rules to get the jobs we deserve and to have the life and career we want.


Vera: These days handling uncertainty is one competency that the career-minded need to strengthen but a “Roadmap” suggests a route and some level of predictability? 

Liz:  There is always some uncertainty when we step into new territory. It’s a scary feeling. Reinvention virtually always causes us some stress and anxiety, but it is the kind of fear we feel when we’re taking a step into the unknown. The only way we learn and grow our muscles is by trying new things. I wrote “Reinvention Roadmap” to help people walk through the steps in reinvention with confidence, knowing they are not alone and that the uncertainty and fear will dissipate more and more with every step.


Vera: How does one tell when a reinvention is due and what are the stages and signposts on the reinvention journey?

Liz: Sometimes we learn that we’re in reinvention because a rug gets pulled out from under our feet – for instance, when we lose our job suddenly. Other times the feeling that we need a change comes to us more gradually. Sometimes our dreams tell us that we’re stuck in our career and we need to make a shift. Sometimes our friends tell us. Sometimes we get sick – that’s our body telling us “You have to wake up and smell the reinvention coffee!”


Vera: A strong track record is important for continued career advancement although one needn’t hang onto past success that does not lend value to the present or future. In reinventing one’s self/career how does one avoid throwing the baby out with the water?

Liz: Everything you have ever done is part of who you are, and it’s all valuable to you and to the people who hire you as long as you see its value. Every job you’ve ever held is part of your incredible background. You have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of, even if you got fired from a past job or more than one. I have been fired numerous times from jobs, and every time somebody told me to hit the road, it helped my muscles grow! In “Reinvention Roadmap” you will learn to Claim and Frame your experience. You have to see the value in your path before anyone else will!


Vera: How have you reinvented your own career and what was most challenging?

Liz: Reinvention has been a constant for me. I went to conservatory after high school to learn to sing opera. I fell into HR in the most random way, and I knew that I could make a contribution in that arena because the procedures and the mindset I saw in HR were truly horrendous, not only anti-people but also anti-business. I saw the power of fear and trust in the workplace, and I started out on my mission to reinvent work for people. “Reinvention Roadmap” is a book about personal empowerment. It affirms what we’ve always known in our hearts – that your value to employers and to the world is not in your ‘skills’ and certifications – it is in you and your human story.



Vera: Your broader mission is fostering a more human workplace. What does a human workplace look like in operation and is there anything employers can do to help employees reinvent themselves?

Liz: A Human Workplace is a workplace where fear and trust are topics of conversation every day. Human Workplaces move faster, innovate more, take better care of customers and become the places the most marketable people want to work for. There’s no rocket science involved in building a Human Workplace. I did it twice in my twenties and anyone can do it. You only need to speak up and tell the truth about fear-based management when you see it, and role-model and promote trust-based leadership every day – in your own speech and actions, in formal communications and in management practices, most of which are left over from the 19th century.


Vera: You have a huge following – evidence that your advice is relevant and works. How do you know what matters to people?


Liz: I had no idea when I started writing for publication whether anybody would read my stuff or not. Honestly, I didn’t care if they did or didn’t because I only write for the people who resonate at my frequency – not for everyone. It was definitely validating to find out that millions of people feel the same way I do.

Vera: Finally, the new year is here and finding new jobs will rank high on new year resolutions list. Any tips on what to do to make any career goals stick?


Liz: “Reinvention Roadmap” is a program, like beginning a yoga practice or a healthier lifestyle. It is not a book to skim through – it’s a project that you take on for yourself when you realize that you’re beating your head against the wall in your job search or in your career. There’s no reason to contort yourself into pretzel shapes trying to please people who will never get you. That’s a waste of your precious mojo! Get the book, get your MOJO Journal, get a pen you like to write with and dive in. Enjoy the journey!



Liz’s profile

Liz Ryan is a former Fortune 500 Human Resources SVP and the world’s most widely read career advisor. Liz is the CEO and Founder of Human Workplace, a think tank and publishing firm whose mission is to reinvent work for people. Liz is the architect of the Human Workplace vision and the beloved career adviser to millions of working people and job-seekers around the world. Liz was SVP of HR for U.S. Robotics during its rise from $15M to $2.5B in annual sales and cofounder of vc-funded networking startup Ucentric Systems before its acquisition by Motorola. Liz was CEO and Founder of WorldWIT, the world’s largest online community for professional women, before founding Human Workplace in 2012 to reinvent work for people. Liz writes for, LinkedIn and many other publications and is a sought-after and evangelical international keynote speaker. Liz earned her BS from Loyola University of Chicago and an MS in Communication from Northwestern University. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband, five children, two dogs and two cats. When Liz is not writing, speaking, or drawing, she sings opera professionally.


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