At a conference I attended earlier this year, I encountered an individual whose career path intrigued me.

A respected photogrammetrist who holds a doctorate in the field, this person mentioned in passing that she started out as a journalist. Now, writers are a smart bunch, generally speaking, but most of the journalists I know would never attempt this kind of career switch. Our right-brained wiring makes it easier to focus on abstract concepts than on hard data and scientific analysis. Still, I can’t help but appreciate the courage it takes to change direction and start thinking in a different way.

We’ve all undoubtedly known people with colorful résumés. For some individuals, the changes are a logical progression. Others can’t seem to stay in one role for more than a few years at a time. In the past, this approach was largely viewed as irresponsible--and certainly it can be carried to extremes. But one thing I’ve noticed about many of the people I’ve known who have held several different positions in the course of their career is that they are usually big thinkers with a keen eye for the next opportunity. They’re not content to settle down and get comfortable because they don’t want to miss what comes next, whatever that might be. While they typically love what they do, they don’t let that define who they are or who they might become. In today’s challenging economy, it’s an enviable perspective.

I’m certainly not advocating that everyone drop what he or she is doing and pursue a new profession. For those of us who enjoy our work and have developed a great deal of skill and experience in our field, drastic changes are neither desirable nor practical. But it’s all too easy to define ourselves exclusively by our past and present roles rather than stepping back and looking at the big picture. How many times have you hit a brick wall--because of economic constraints, client demands, competition or other challenges--and just continued ramming into it headfirst in a futile effort to move it instead of looking for a way to climb over it? I know I’ve been guilty of this behavior.

I have to admire people like Tom Sands, PLS, president of Sands Surveying Inc. in Kalispell, Mont., highlighted in “Surveying to New Heights” on pages 20-21. When one of his clients had specific needs, Sands partnered with other firms that could help him meet those needs using LiDAR technology--but he didn’t stop there. He determined to learn as much as he could about the technology and then made the leap to purchasing his own system so that he could explore its maximum potential. After 25 years of surveying on the ground, Sands found himself launching a new airborne venture--an investment that is paying off through enhanced client satisfaction and new business opportunities.

Such changes are never easy--Sands admits that his decision to invest in the LiDAR equipment led to some sleepless nights. But his willingness to go beyond his comfort zone and keep an open mind about new opportunities is taking his business to new levels of success.

Even small changes can have a big impact on your perspective. I like what marketing guru Seth Godin has to say on the subject: “The certain thing is that you can change everything.”[1] He then suggests a number of possibilities, such as “letting the most junior person in the organization run things for a day,” “firing the 80 percent of your customers that account for 20 percent of your sales,” and “having all meetings in a room with no chairs, and everyone wears a bathrobe over their clothes.” OK, so maybe that last one is a bit odd … but you never know what new ideas might occur as a result!

I like the thought of small changes, so don’t look for me to become a photogrammetrist anytime soon. Then again, I thoroughly enjoy covering the subject in POB. Maybe it’s not such a stretch after all …


1. Seth Godin’s Blog, “Can you change everything?” May 4, 2009, can-you-change-everything.html.