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Hitting Pay Dirt: Five Things Gold Miners Can Teach You About Career Do-Overs

Revisiting a place after years of being away means you get to see your surroundings with fresh eyes.
Perhaps you discover something new that wasn't there before or you view something that's been around awhile but with a different perspective. 
Surrounded by locally-owned cafes and cutting-edge restaurants with side roads leading to some of the best California wineries, revisiting California's Gold Country had me re-exploring the places where miners came to seek their wealth in 1849.    
Reading up on the tips offered to new miners hoping to hit pay dirt gave me ideas on how you might repurpose some of these tips for your next career do-over.

1. Seek Gems Where Others Have Found Them

Seek out gold where others have found it before you. This is low-hanging fruit opportunities, but consider taking a different approach. Expand your peripheral vision to see "gems in the rough". What might these gems look like? They could come in the form of undercurrents that others have missed--new topic ideas or a chance to repurpose something that at one time didn't work. 
Unpolished gems can be found in obvious locations. Events that you regularly attend can get stale after a while, but if you're willing to see the people who attend these meetups in new eyes your investment in time and effort can pay off. Gems also come in the way of new problem solving approaches or creativity triggers. 

2. Sifting for Gold Takes Patience and Resources

Successful miners were patient and resourceful in 1849 and the same holds true today as you seek out new career opportunities. You must be willing to invest time in researching trends in your field of interest. Digging a bit deeper, you can set up informational interviews with people who currently work in fields that sound interesting to you and pique your curiosity.
Depending on how transformative your career goal and your desired deadline, you'll need to budget your time and money appropriately. You might decide to invest in local or even international conferences in order to enhance your existing skill set or to explore an unfamiliar field--conferences are a great way to come up to speed quickly in an industry that you might like to transition to in future.
Face time with people experienced in a field fast-tracks your research, especially if you do pre-research ahead of time. This is a strategic means to an end. You might consider signing up for a workshop (or workshop series) and online courses (free and for-fee). You might want to budget to hire a career or business coach who can help you jumpstart your efforts.

3. Plan for the Right Partner, But Prepare to Go Solo

Your career transformation may explore the possibility of going out on your own, or with a partner, to set up your own business. Just as no two gold miners pan gold alike, no two people approach or operate a business the same way on their path to achieving success. The bigger your dream and endeavor, the more you'll want to consider bringing on a business partner.
A small business operation versus a micro-business start-up are two very different animals to fund and run. You might consider more of an evolutionary approach to your career transformation--a stepping stone approach--where your first reinvention might be to transition from working full-time for someone else to setting up an independent micro-business that includes multiple clients.
You can try this experience "on for size" and if you discover that you enjoy running the show, but now want to grow your business, you can begin searching for a partner (leverage conferences to scope out potential partnerships and possible funders for a business expansion).

4. Select the Right Tools at the Right Time

Miners in the 1800s commonly used the gold pan since it was quite effective in sifting through streambed material--and effective for a solo endeavor. Even today gold miners often use gold pans to sample an area, electing to bring in larger production equipment when the sample reflects "pay dirt" at a location. You can use a similar approach for your career do-over. 
Does a single gold pan suit your career reinvention purpose? Perhaps, you're only looking to refresh your existing skill set. Or do you hope to up the ante because you plan to transform yourself in a way that requires the use of new tools over a longer period of time? 
Your evolutionary reinvention plan or revolutionary transformation plan must include identifying the right tools, deciding when and how to effectively use them, and then determining when you've met your goals using these tools.

5. Know your Landscape

Do you know your playing field? In 1849 prospectors didn't spend much time navigating regulations about where they were allowed to search for gold; something that today's prospectors spend considerable time doing because of privately owned land requirements.
Working for yourself as a freelancer or independent consultant is a different playing field than working for an employer. Incorporating your business where you're solely responsible for the operating profit and loss of the business changes the landscape altogether. Bringing on a partner or multiple partners introduces even more complexity. 
It's important that you consider a swathe of land that gives you enough landscape to consider for your career do-over, but not a territory so broad that you lose perspective and motivation for making a change in your professional life.
Possibilities present themselves where and when you least expect it. Maybe it's time to think like a gold miner--revisit territory that you know well and consider some new ways to hit "career pay dirt".