What The Clippers’ New Owner Can Teach Us About Career Changes


Although not all of us have clocked 34 years working for the same company like ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has, changing careers can be tough. It gets easier, however, if we use the opportunity to reinvent ourselves for the better. Here’s what we can learn about professional and personal self-improvement from the man who paid $2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers.


Photo: D.Begley/Flickr/Creative Commons

Leap into a career that you’re passionate about
It’s hard to picture Ballmer as a sports fan, but he’s actually had quite a history with basketball. He established a tradition of pre-dawn pickup basketball games at Microsoft’s Redmond campus and was known for discussing the sport with Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft and the owner of the Portland Trail Blazers. Spurred by Allen, Ballmer finally bought a team of his own and the chance to be a player in an industry he loves.

Establish yourself as your own man
Arguably, Ballmer always lived in the shadow of Bill Gates, even after Gates’ semi-retirement. This makes it easy to see Ballmer’s career change as a chance to strike out on his own. For the everyman, being your own person at your next job might not mean calling the shots, but it can include having a free-thinking attitude, a willingness to stand up for yourself and the balls to take credit for your accomplishments (and mistakes).

Make new connections
It has been reported that Ballmer sticks to Los Angeles these days, but it’s not just because he bought the Clippers. He’s using the opportunity to meet new people and take in a new environment far removed from Seattle, a place he has called home for more than half his life. A change of scenery can go a long way in giving you a boost of creativity and an injection of new connections, both things that you can take to your new job.

Get in better shape
The first thing Ballmer is doing is getting himself back to the gym and improving his golf game. The former especially can increase your confidence, ease some of the stress that comes with making a big transition and keep you healthy down the line.

Rekindle your interests
As part of reprioritizing his life, Ballmer is taking time out to do things he never had a chance to. One of them is learning Hebrew, so that he can recite the Torah. Learning a language is a skill that you can take to your new workplace, but even indulging in interests such as traveling can broaden your perspective.

Find a way to give back
If you’re moving up in the world, consider philanthropy and volunteerism that uses your skillset—employers love to see their workers connect with the community, and you’ll feel great knowing your skills are good for something other than earning a paycheque. Ballmer and his wife are considering ramping up their charity efforts, and he’s currently putting his analytical mind to work finding gaps in government redistribution programs to help improve them.


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