We all learned by second grade that caterpillars naturally progress to a more advanced condition. You can think of this as the ultimate personal reinvention and a good approach as you work to take your career to the next level.
Charles Best, a history teacher at a Bronx high school, evolved into his own style of butterfly. After shelling out his own money to offer projects for his students, he realized that underfunded teacher projects were a universal problem. Best had the idea to launch a website where teachers could post classroom project requests and donors could contribute to help kids in specific schools and classes. His idea was that anyone with $5 could become a philanthropist and make an impact on kids’ lives. He rallied his fellow teachers to post requests, and Best anonymously funded them all himself to show that the concept worked. Word spread and DonorsChoose.org took off like an Olympic sprinter.
As momentum continued, Oprah Winfrey heard about the site and featured it on her show. Donations of $250,000 were received immediately, and DonorsChoose.org was launched into the public spotlight. With other big-name supporters such as Stephen Colbert, the site now posts projects from all 50 states and over half of all public schools in the United States. In 2012, the site generated more than $30 million in donations and is now fully self-sustaining, with more than 75% of donors choosing to also give to the site itself. Their big goal is to “inspire one million people to give $100 million to classroom projects from 100% of our country’s high-poverty public schools” each year. Best stayed within his field of education, but he evolved into making a much bigger impact than was possible by teaching history in one school.
Mona Bijoor is another butterfly, an especially fashionable one. As a wholesale fashion buyer for Ann Taylor and A Pea in the Pod, she realized inefficiencies in the buying process. In an era where you can buy just about anything online with ease, fashion buying was still being conducted “old school” by telephone and pen and paper. Bijoor’s butterfly moment came when she launched Joor, an online marketplace to connect fashion designers and retailers in a controlled, wholesale environment.
Since launching in 2010, she has signed up 580 brands as clients and more than 30,000 retailers that use the service. By catering to the specific needs of her industry and using her own experience to guide the way, the company processed nearly $400 million in orders in 2013. This is one butterfly that has taken a remarkable flight.
Your own butterfly of reinvention is readily accessible. A law clerk becomes a lawyer then a judge. A dancer becomes a singer, then an actor and finally a director. A software engineer becomes a team leader, then the chief information officer and eventually writes her own code and launches a start-up. Take a look at your current position, and explore what the next logical step would be in your evolution. Once you have your eye squarely on the target, you can begin the necessary steps to seize your desired outcome.
What’s your next move, butterfly?