Professional Resume and Career Coaching Services by Barb Poole. I've been helping executives and professionals explore, find, get, and keep career dreams for more than 30 years. It would be my honor to help you!
You’re actively on the hunt for a new job, and growing your network. You’ve been given a new lead, and have set up a coffee meeting with that person.
Whether you’re talking by phone or meeting faced to face, people will be quick to size you up. And they’ll be thinking: “Are you a good person I can trust and would want to hire or refer to people I know? Do I like this person and want to help? The underlying question is:
“But can I trust you?”
In reality – and in this age of constant information and connection “noise,” people are often skeptical of strangers, as well as those folks they haven’t heard from in years. One can’t blame people for being hesitant to talk in the first place – life is busy.
Whether you’re talking by phone or in person, they’ll often be thinking, “Do I like this person and want to help?” “Does this person have sincere goals, or are they just using me?” There’s no science to building trust, but you can practice the art of affecting whether someone feels good about you.
One of my favorite reads was The Likeability Factor, by Tim Sanders. He covers four aspects of likeability. Let’s look at them, and consider the question: How would you rate if we met for the first time?
Do you smile?
Are you enthusiastic?
Would I feel good upon meeting you?
Would you want to spend time with you?
My client, Clarke, told me of an initial networking meeting he had with Bob, someone he’d not met. Clarke was feeling blue and worn out. He told Bob that his job as a security guard was “boring and terrifying at the same time; that he had just witnessed a shooting the night before, and he was glad to get home some nights without being shot.”
Hardly a good conversation with someone you’ve just met. And certainly not if you’re seeking their help.
With coaching, he turned this around. His conversation now frames around, “I was one of the top-seniority security guards at a major corporate facility. I’m proud that they valued my service and competence. At this point in my life, I want to give back. I’m thinking of going into the lay ministry, and know that you are experienced in this field. I’d just love to find out more information from your perspective.”
Now, Clarke had turned a depressing message into an effective networking statement and question.
How well would you and I connect to what I want or need?
Would you share information that’s relevant to me and to our purpose in meeting?
Sharing relevant information is important. Before a job interview, think through what the hiring manager needs and share information about your background that supports that.
In preparing for networking meetings, think through what that person needs to know to be able to give you information or advice, to understand your background, and know that you’re a good guy or gal.
Do you have a sense of what’s happening in my life, or what inspires me?
Beforehand, think about potential objections an employer might have about hiring you; be ready to speak to them. Consider what could make them hesitant, such as your fit with their culture, your motivation to change, whether you’re committed when this job pays less.
In a networking meeting, acknowledge the fact that the person’s time is valuable and that you appreciate their taking time to meet with you.
Do you come across as genuine? Or are you busy trying to impress me in some way?
Don’t exaggerate your background by saying you’ve done things you haven’t; or say you know more about a topic than you really do. If you’re moving into a new career, show your enthusiasm and your humanness. “After years of being a stay-at-home mom – which I loved – I’m so excited to put my accounting background back to use. I’m primed and ready!”
People see through insincerity. Don’t schmooze them. For example, if you wish to meet with a network contact you have not touched base with in years, acknowledge your part in not keeping in touch. And if they agree to talk, make sure you keep the relationship going from that point on.
I guarantee that if you ask people what made them hire one person or another; or meet with someone they didn’t know; their answer will typically frame around something hard to nail down. It was just the way they felt about you!
I always love to hear from you! Please comment below.
As Tom Hanks so crispy put it in the film Forest Gump, “Change happens.”
After years of having Thanksgiving and Christmas at our cabin with our two grown sons and their families, this year is different. Some moved to Seattle. The other to Denver. We sold their adjoining cabin to some nice folks. No opening presents at the cabin or sliding down its hills into the lake. No collaborative tree decorating, reminiscing with stories around ornament histories. Our traditions have changed.
Webster’s Dictionary defines change as, “to make different in form; to transform’; to give and take reciprocally; to transfer from one to another; to become different; to alter; to remove and replace coverings; to pass from one phase to another; a variation or deviation.”
All these definitions resonate with the changes that happen during career transition.
Change is certainly a constant in our lives. It happens anywhere and everywhere. It can be permanent or temporary. You can want it, and plan for it. It can also pull the rug out from under you. One client told me, “I don’t know what happened. I was rolling along, and suddenly I had no job, and no idea of what to do next.”
People resist change because they:
Want to keep the status quo – still dreaming of how things were: “I miss my job, even though I knew it in my sleep, and found it boring; I wish I were still there.”
Don’t feel ready: “Why couldn’t this have happened a few years down the road? I’m not ready for a workplace downsizing now!”
Are stuck in old habits or routines: “I’ve been checking in every day with my staff to see how my project is going.”
Fear the unknown: “I can’t picture doing something different. I’ve done this work most my life. I have no idea what I can do next. I feel anxious and scared about the future.”
Want to hold onto tradition: “I’ve always done it like this. I’m used to it. How do I change now?”
Fear taking a risk or what others will think: “I’m not comfortable networking to find a new job. I’m overwhelmed by the internet in searching for a job too. Where on earth do I start?”
You can resist resistance to move forward:
Pinpoint and undo the ties that bind you.
Confront and challenge the problems and barriers that are preventing you from acting.
Get to the work of developing a realistic plan of action.
My client, Pat had worked his way up the ladder with a Fortune 500 company. He started as a junior accountant, and steadily moved up to the role of Senior Vice President of Finance. When his company downsized, he faced an unexpected life change. “After 35 years with the same company, my life has been full of patterns and routines. I felt that I was losing both my stature and my network,” he told me.
He said that initially, he intended to stay busy job searching. He did land interviews and networking meetings. The feedback was that he was too expensive. “At age 60, doors were closing all around me,” Pat said.
So, when a cousin suggested they move near him in warm, sunny New Mexico, Pat and his wife decided to take the plunge. They sublet their apartment up north for six months, and moved. For a while, Pat worked for a well-known coffee franchise in his new home state, directly serving customers behind the till. Then, he opened his own store! His change in employment inspired him to try new venues and options. He hired good managers, explored the business of coffee shops.
In short, Pat spent time in a neutral zone of exploration, without fully giving up his past roots. The lessons George learned were:
Don’t reject an idea until you’ve tried it.
Explore options that appeal to you, even if they seem unusual.
Breaks from the old patterns can be a time to find your authentic self.
Change can be uncomfortable. And so many of us are resistant to change. It’s not always easy. I’m reframing my own thoughts from “no more cabin holiday celebrations” to “certainly there might be future cabin celebrations during the holidays; and I get to visit two amazing cities where my family is healthy, waiting and ready to start new traditions!”
“We must be the change we want to see.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
How are you tackling change in your career or life? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.
Today, career management is an entrepreneurial role. We are all CEOs of our own careers. So, if you’re thinking that you want a promotion, what does that mean to you?
The answer to this question will vary by the uniqueness of folks’ self-assessment and situations. Some want more money or perks, a title, new types of projects to work on, more responsibility or recognition, a bridge to another role, a feeling of success and value … the list goes on.
You should know what’s driving you, your company’s situation, your target, and how you can contribute in this promoted role. If you feel you know this, as part of your strategy, here are five slip-ups to avoid:
Pestering your boss with too-frequent reminders of wanting to be promoted. Think carefully about overusing terms like “my career” or “promotion” with your manager. If you have had conversations about this – where you’ve been clear in your expectations and have received feedback from your boss on what you need to do to move forward, leave it there. Just calendar a time in a few weeks or months when you can revisit the topic. Meanwhile, work with “your best” and “positivity” in mind.
Taking too big a leap in accountabilities too soon. For example, a new scientist with a biotech company learned that a scientist two levels up from her role was leaving. She immediately went to her boss with a list of why she was qualified to step in. But her plan did not work. Her supervisor saw it as too big a stretch. She was left without a promotion, when she might have landed it with some strategic action in smaller baby steps.
Behaving negatively with whining or glowering. Again, you’re CEO of your career. Act like a leader! If you’re frustrated because a promotion is not coming as you wish, keep your irritation to yourself. Focus on doing great work; that could mean all the difference if a situation arises where you could help. And never, ever say anything negative or disrespectful about your boss. It never ends well. An attitude of gratitude carries much more weight.
Asking to be promoted without having shone in your current role. Employers don’t typically promote folks for just doing what’s expected. Just showing up is not enough. You want, if possible, to go above and beyond your job description and requirements. And you want to show measurable progress in any areas summarized for improvement on prior performance reviews. If you haven’t, why would your boss have you top of mind for a bigger role?
Failing to brand yourself. You want to be prepared with talking points about the value or return-on-investment you’d contribute in the new position. Be able to articulate orally and in writing, your career value and your career charisma. And don’t overlook your physical appearance. Dress like the people two levels above you. If you find there is anything you’ve been wearing that detracts from your message, such as too much jewelry, a strong cologne, etc., then scrap it.
I always love to hear from you! Please comment below.
“If I’d known what this job was like before getting into it, I never would have gotten into it!” I’ve heard this more than once; I imagine you have too.
Reality-testing isn’t for everyone. Some things are hard to know until you’re in the mix. Change happens. Personalities and politics to deal with are everywhere.
Reality-testing can be helpful for those folks who would eliminate themselves from trying a career if they did not investigate it. This may or may not be you.
Let the career idea incubate before evaluating it.
While you’re thinking of career ideas, let your imagination go free, without reality intrusion. Let your thoughts resonate. Follow yourself around. What tasks are you performing in your day? What people are you interacting with? What are your best moments? Career ideas must get born before reality-testing them. So what if it doesn’t fly when you let it out the door? Deal with that later. Career ideas need room to breathe.
Any career idea can be tested by YOU.
Reality-testing focuses on two key questions:
Am I good enough to make it in this field?
Is this field what I think it is, and will I like it well enough?
If possible, use all these ways to answer the questions.
Observe the work being done.Follow around and observe a person at work. Ask yourself, “Could I do that, with training?” Remember that you’re likely watching those very good at their work. Often though, firsthand observation will give you some idea of the ability required. Don’t make a final judgment yet. Move on to other reality tests.
Simulate the experience. Sometimes you can’t get immediate experience. For example, you can’t insert yourself into a courtroom with the DA to see how it goes. A simulated experience is one in which you test the skills and personalities needed in the real career. For example, you can test the verbal skills of a legal litigator, argue for your point of view. You can test corporate executive leadership skills by getting involved in management of a community or campus organization. The examples are numerous.
Read about it. The Occupational Outlook Handbook and many other online and offline resources provide concise information about specific fields – nature of the work, methods of entry, qualifications required, job outlook, places of employment, and employee feedback. Your local universities or libraries can be wonderful resources.
Talk to people in the field. We tend to stereotype fields of work. All lawyers are highly argumentative. Accountants are reclusive. Musicians are free spirits. Talking to people will enable you to reality-test whether the challenges and opportunities of that field appeal to you enough to weather the preparation you must go through. Talk to both successful and unsuccessful people. Ask them about the good and bad points. “What keeps you in the field?” “What would (or has) driven you away?”
Firsthand experience. This is the best test for finding out whether you like a field enough to commit to it. An all-or-nothing mentality often keeps people from using experience as a reality test. They believe mistakenly that if they try out a new kind of work, they are committed to it. Volunteering can be a great test. Unpaid work is a useful bridge between careers, but many do not take it seriously. Know that you can be paid in ways other than money!
Evaluate each reality-test yourself.
Be your own judge. Others may be more than willing to share their advice, “That field is too crowded … too demanding,” etc. Their opinions may also be overly positive. Base your decisions on whether you were attracted to it or can perform well. In short, if you still feel good about the field and think you might be a good fit, give it a shot.
You don’t have to be better than everyone else.
“If I can’t be the best, I don’t want to do it.” Rubbish! If you are good enough to earn a living at it, and people respect you for it, you’ll be all right in that kind of work. We compare ourselves to others too much. Give yourself credit for jobs well done. Be your own judge.
It may not be the right time, but you can try later.
Sometimes you do your reality-testing when conditions are not quite right. Family matters require your attention. Your confidence has taken a hit lately. You have health issues to take care of. It’s okay to come back later and test again. I’m not giving you excuses to procrastinate. I am giving you permission to repeat testing when it might be better for you.
Make a career move about one week before you are completely ready.
Why? Because you will seldom feel completely ready, that everything is right, and the stars are aligned! If you feel you’re within one week of hanging “All Systems Go,” then do it. Yes, there is a risk, and you’re not sure what’s going to happen. Do it anyway. If you find out you were wrong, you will still be right, because the experience of trying a new field will teach you something about yourself you did not know. And you will use that experience to move on to something else.
I also love to hear from you! Please comment below.
Whether in job search or employed, many of my clients share that they worry. Some are in pain from an unexpected layoff, discouraged about unemployment, fearful of managing their financial reserves, worried about how as introverts, they can assertively network or do well in interviews, not sure of how to handle issues at their workplace, or anxious about balancing career and life demands. The list goes on.
Worry is a common emotion experienced by folks in any change process. And worry is not overall a bad thing; it can often motivate you to do your best. But sometimes, it can be paralyzing and lead to avoidance. It can impact every aspect of your career, from avoiding or procrastinating tasks, to becoming overly anxious in networking or interviewing activities. You are not alone! Here are some ways to manage that worry.
9 Tips for Managing Worry
Take an inventory of your worries and see what they accomplish. Did worrying about any of the items on your list ever change their outcomes?
Realize you have a choice to worry or not worry. Think positively. Choose not to worry. Label your worries as negative thinking and undeserving of your attention.
Find something constructive to do instead of sitting and indulging in worry.
Face your fear. What is the worst thing that can happen? What would you do if it happened Consider the options you have. Make concrete plans of action.
If you find yourself worrying, look in the mirror, put up your hand and tell yourself to stop. This is called “thought stopping.”
Reward yourself for minimizing your worry and do something you enjoy that brings you joy.
Practice relaxation breathing techniques.
Challenge irrational fears that are causing you to worry. Look at your irrational thoughts and substitute positive, rational thoughts in the form of positive self-talk. Example: Irrational worry: “This has always been a problem; how will I ever be able to handle it now? Rational thought: “I can handle this problem.”
Recognize the wisdom of accepting life’s doubts and uncertainties.
You are CEO of your career. Dream big, and step into your power. Calculate your risks and ponder action steps. You DO have the power to break through roadblocks, whether known or unknown. The world is full of opportunities. Changing your mindset can go a long way toward reducing your worry. Look at change as an adventure. Focus on the positive. Your life is what you make it!
“We all need to decide whether to ‘play it safe’ in life and worry about the downside, or instead take a chance, by being who we really are and living the life our heart desires. Which choice are you making?” ~ Charlie Badenhop
I always love to hear from you! Please comment below.
For most folks, their career change doesn’t arrive with that instant lightbulb moment of clarity.
Nancy wanted to have her own business. She set up an office cubicle. Then what? She wasn’t sure. Oh! She loved to organize things. So, she’d make a gazillion bucks on an organizational consulting business. Then what? She had no clue. Barry hated sales. He liked his industry. He told me he had no idea how to hone in on – let alone, navigate – that change.
While it’s nice to think things will hum along, I’m going to tell you what many don’t want to hear. It’s a step-by-step process. It includes icky words like “research” and “soul-searching” and “brainstorming”.
How committed are you?
On a scale of 1 to 4, (with 1 as strongly disagree and 4 strongly agree), rate the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following statements:
_____ If it’s going to take more than 30 days to make this change, that could be a problem.
_____ If I must think, never mind.
_____ I hate doing research and probably won’t do it.
_____ If I must use my imagination, not happening.
_____ If must think about my feelings, forget it.
_____ I don’t want to go out there and talk to people.
_____ I’m not great at making and keeping goals.
_____ It’s hard for me to go against the status quo and others’ requests.
If you scored between 24 and 32, ask yourself if you’re really committed. Honesty, you probably won’t do a comprehensive, strategic job of exploring career change. And that lowers the odds of your finding a new career that is meaningful and satisfying to you.
If you scored between 8 and 16, you’re realistic about what it’s going to take in the career transition:
A realistic timeline.
Input from other people.
Going against the grain of what others say or what you’ve been told you “should” do.
You know exactly what you want to do next in your career. You haven’t a clue. It doesn’t matter. What does, is that your gut, inner voice – whatever you want to name it – is telling you to: 1) do something different (or at least investigate it). 2) do that thing you know you want; or 3) figure out what you do want.
Which are you?
_____ I know exactly what I want to do next. (Clear)
_____ I don’t have the slightest idea what I want to do next. (Oblivious)
_____ I’ve got some idea, but … (Vague)
If you identified yourself as “Oblivious,” you are like most folks who tell me they don’t know what they want next. A job search process will help you connect the dots.
If you identified yourself as “Vague,” a process helps you further clarify whether your ideas are a good fit.
If you’re “Clear,” a process is a good test to see if what you think you want is aligned with other realities. It can also help you expand the thoughts you have about your next career; and show you how to go about crystalizing your milestones to land in a new and happy fit.
Do you want more in your career? Do you think, “Is this all there is?” There is a process in job search that take you to where you want to be. Having a process is leg work. It’s hard. But it also gives you control and relieves a whole lot of stress.
You get to choose. Are you committed to beginning?
I always love to hear from you. Please comment below.
Fun truth: People generally like to tell you something you may not know. They love to give advice and tell you what they know. As a job seeker, take advantage of this activity by doing just that – tapping the brains of live human beings. You’ll not only find out what they know, but you can prove or disprove what you discovered and find out about what you didn’t learn from your research so far. People will also be able to tell you the type of information only someone close to the field would know, which will help you look at reality – something you need to do quite closely in the process of your job-search due diligence and informational conversations.
Confronting reality is important, and the best way to do it is to talk to people. Yet, so many in career transition do not do it.
Who to talk to
Talk to two categories of people:
1. People you already know who could either:
a. Give you input on your areas of interest, or
b. Refer you to someone to get input on your areas of interest.
If the people you know don’t work directly in the area you’re interested in, they should have knowledge of it. They could have once worked in this area or dabbled in it. If, for instance, you’re interested in learning more about nonprofit jobs, find someone who worked for an association, nonprofit, community organization, etc. Maybe they’re on the board of a service club or organization like United Way. They could work for a company that uses grants or has a footprint in community affairs.
Look around at who you know from various parts of your life – relatives, friends, fellow committee members, or people who attend your place of worship.
Who do you know who might have ties to or knowledge of your areas of interest? Think about professionals you deal with – accountants, attorneys, physicians, business people, tradespeople, and who they might know and refer you to. Don’t assume they don’t know anyone who can help you. They all have friends, neighbors, and relatives too.
The best way to approach your acquaintances is to share your objective and ask if they’ll give you input or refer you to people who can.
2. Specific people or types of people you want to talk to but don’t know:
They can include folks you have read about in your research, learned of or know of in some other way. For example, if you’re interested in selling medical devices, the person might be a local authority in the field or someone quoted in an article. They might have written a book about the area you’re interested in.
You can approach these people with phone calls, letters, or emails explaining your objective and asking for a half hour of their time. You could also ask people in the first group if they know this person and ask to be referred.
When my client, Anne, a mechanical engineer from an automotive manufacturing environment, got to this part of the process, she didn’t have a specific person she wanted to talk to. But she did have a type in mind: people who work in the field of materials in the biotechnology industry. She found them by attending a meeting of the local chapter of industrial designers.
How to kick off the conversation
When Anne reached the point of talking to people, she started by delivering a 30-second introduction that included key points of her objective. She told people:
“I’m exploring how to capitalize on my mechanical engineering background and love for healthcare, specifically to apply innovative technology to health-related products. I’ve spent 15 years honing my strengths. These are the ability to research and analyze; the design and usability of new products; my talent for connecting with engineers, designers, and customers; and my success in solving functionality issues. One area that I’m looking at is materials engineering in biotechnology. I’m exploring both hands-on design or R&D; and liaison roles between the designers and clients.”
You also want to be able to elaborate on your background.
What to ask
Ask yourself, “What do I need to know to be able to assess if I match up to this type of career?” Some questions you might ask people in your conversations might include:
What does it take to get into this field or profession? Or company?
What social, economic, political, environmental, cultural, and technological forces influence in this area?
What you like about it? What do you dislike about it?
What’s an ideal background?
What’s a typical day like?
What education do you need?
How much does experience count?
Can you see someone like me fitting in? If so, where?
What obstacles might I run into? How could I overcome them?
In their book, Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right, authors Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan advised businesses on how to succeed. They said the greatest damage to business is the failure to confront reality. They wrote, “Mostly, you need to converse.” This applies to the job seeker. Talk to people proactively. Ask questions. Listen. And keep an open mind to explore the answers and how they apply to your search.
I always love to hear from you! Please comment below.
The chance that you’ll be asked to take some sort of a test or assessment as part of the interview process is greater today than ever before. Companies of all sizes and in all industries, are increasingly using different types of tests (aptitude, personality, handwriting analysis, honesty, etc.) to supplement feedback not confirmed by impressions they form during interviews.
Whether the tests you are expected to take are a valid indicator of your ability to perform a specific job, is a sensitive and controversial issue among human resource, career, and organizational experts.
My client, Linda called me saying in a trembling voice, “I don’t perform well on tests! I’m sunk! I tighten up and break into a sweat! “I’m scared!” We talked about first, relaxing! Then, a few more points:
In most situations, your test results are only one of the factors that will determine whether you’ll be hired. You don’t have to ace the test to stay in the running. You just have to fall within some broad norms. Experienced interviewers know that not everyone who gets good grades in school does well in the workplace. They also know that your basic aptitude is only one of the many factors to consider.
It can be helpful to find out which kinds of assessments you may be asked to take, what the tests are designed to measure, and what, if anything, you can do to ensure that how you perform on these tests won’t hurt your chances.
Aptitude tests are designed to measure how adept you are at certain physical tasks; or how well you handle certain mental tasks, such as logical equations or problem-solving. The theory behind these is that if you lack specific skills or abilities that are deemed necessary for the job, you’re not going to excel; and would be a hiring risk.
Unfortunately, you can’t do much to conceal weaknesses that an aptitude test might unearth. BUT, keep in mind that you usually have a wide margin of room for error. Keep in mind also, that if you really don’t have the aptitude to perform a job, it may not be your best fit.
Psychological and honesty tests.
These have become one of the most common tools used. Typically, you’re given a series of statements and asked to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree. The statements generally measure your attitudes toward situations and issues that directly or indirectly relate to honesty and integrity.
Psychological tests (also referred to as personality tests) are designed to measure certain traits and predispositions perceived to underlie a successful performance in certain types of jobs. Again, there is much debate among human resources and other professionals as to the weight they should play in hiring.
These are designed to test your ability to think and problem-solve; and usually take the same general form as the IQ and SAT-type tests that high school and college students take. If you’ve done well on these tests in the past, don’t worry. There should be few surprises.
On the other hand, if you’ve struggled with these types of tests in the past or not had them at all, you can get SAT or similar software packages (or online sites) that enable you to take practice runs of the kinds of tests you may be asked to take.
Depending on the kind of job you’re applying for and the company offering you the job, you may be asked at some point to take a drug test as a condition of employment. You have the right, of course, to refuse to take the test. But refusal isn’t likely to help your chances of being employed. If you’re concerned about privacy issues, you can always ask to have the testing done through your personal physician.
If you agree to take a drug test, make sure that you give a detailed account of all medications that you’re currently taking. This ensures that the results don’t depict you as something you’re not. Also observe your diet. Certain foods – poppy seeds, for example –can sometimes produce false positives. Consult your doctor for more information.
Don’t’ try to “game” assessments; employers will know inauthenticity. And you don’t know exactly what they want, so answer questions honestly and to the best of your ability. Try tapping your network to ask people who’ve taken them, what they’re like. Find sites where you can practice various assessments. And give it your best shot!
I always welcome your thoughts and insights. Please comment below.
The actual first step in career transition is to take time for self-analysis of your career likes, dislikes, skills, and values. Then, it’s time to move into three more steps that will keep you moving forward!
Step 1: Brainstorm career possibilities.
Your goal is to brainstorm career options that you feel meet (and vice versa) your own job criteria. Here are two great ways:
Brainstorming Buddies. Reach out to two or three brainstorming buddies. Find people who are open to exploration of options, who have worked in diverse careers or settings, and who are not biased about what you should do. Send your brainstorming buddies a document listing everything you’ve found out about yourself. Add any notes you think would be relevant, such as not wanting to relocate or retrain. Ask them to take a half hour and brainstorm as many possible career options as they can. Give them at least a week to complete it. Then collect!
Collaborative Assessment. When you receive the brainstorming feedback, have a one-to-one with a trusted friend or colleague. Look at the choices together, and narrow them to three or four options that interest you. You’re ready for research. You can always go back and modify this initial list. For example, let’s say that you selected “management consulting” as one of your options. If further research changes your mind, just remove it and add another option.
Step 2: Research roles and industries.
Having narrowed your options to a few, start researching to learn more about them, and decide if you want to follow them further. At this stage, you may well still be unsure! That’s okay!
There are others: company websites, association websites, LinkedIn, glassdoor.com, Indeed, and on. These resources enable you to explore occupations and industries and learn more about the realities of working in the scenarios.
Another way you can research a potential field is to organize informational meetings with individuals currently working in them. For example, if you are interested in potentially being a medical device salesperson, first research in the above-type databases. Then if you’re still interested, set up meetings with other sales people in the industry to gain their perspectives.
Step 3: Dip your toe in the water.
So, after you’ve narrowed down your potential choices, there are ways to either get real-world experience if it’s a major change; or add to your qualifications if it’s related.
Volunteering is a great way to position yourself within an organization that interests you. It can arm you with a clear view of how your skills match up, and can open new networking avenues for you.
Part-time work is another way to stay with your current job, while transitioning into a new role. So much work is contracted out that you can get experience working in a prospective career through freelance work, temp work, or contract work. It will ramp up your schedule of commitments, but in short-term will bring in money while offering experience.
Transferring is often a possibility for folks. If you like your employer company – just not your job – it can serve you well to explore the possibilities of moving within the company. It also lets management know that you’re ready to assume more accountability, loyal to the company, and on.
Enhancing your skills and knowledge is another way to shift career direction. If you can’t afford to go back for a full degree or certification program, you can enroll in individual classes or part-time studies that bring your skills to a marketable and competitive advantage.
There are, of course, more steps to the job search. After Step 3, you want to prepare your resume and marketing communications. You want to network. You want to ace the interviews. But these three steps are often not prioritized early; or are not applied at all. And it can make all the difference!
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When asked to describe their skills, many folks often fall short with vague phrases like, “I have excellent communication skills,” or “I’m an excellent problem-solver.” While the statements may be true, they are generic, overused, and less than impactful. Employers hire people to meet a particular buying motivator: solve a problem, streamline business, make money, save money, etc. You’re not hired because you are a good, all-around person.
Skills come to life when you describe them as strengths. This mean inserting them into a story which is not about the skill – but about you! My client, Annie, initially described her strengths as “getting along with people” and “being very efficient”. Through our coaching, she came up with a new way to describe herself on a moment’s notice if asked about her skills or what she did:
Annie: “I’m a cancer warrior / survivor and top-of-the-class phlebotomist. I transform scary unknowns and situations into welcoming visits with family-like support. At St. Luke’s Cancer Center, I drove patient survey satisfaction ratings from 11% to 57% my first 5 months on the job. I did this in tiny and visionary ways, from day-to-day personal care to two patient advocacy programs that cost zero dollars to implement and run.”
A good resume (and other career communications) contains defined evidence of your skills and expertise. These are valuable to your networking and interviewing as well. Here are some questions to help you deep dive and dig them out:
Begin with supportive family, friends, and colleagues. Ask them to remind you of things you did well, where you have made a difference, and what you are like when you are at your best.
Look back through all your work documents – emails, performance reviews, letters of recommendation, LinkedIn profile and recommendations, old resumes, etc. Stop and think about projects in detail. What did you actually do? What were you capable of doing at the end that you couldn’t do at the beginning of the project?
Think about times when you faced clear problems or obstacles. How did you go about solving the problem? What was your strategy? What was the impact? Why did it matter?
Look at initiatives where there was a clear outcome, where something changed.
If you served on a team or teams, focus on moments where you did something.
Where have you learned something very quickly in order to get something done?
Collect tangible evidence of accomplishments – numbers, margins, percentages, and timeframes help. But don’t overlook a letter from a thrilled client, a great evaluation at work, an award, etc.
Mull over times when you used “soft” skills, such as persuading, negotiating, coaching, etc. Talk about what happened as a result of those interactions.
Examine the job description for your last position (or several back). In what ways did you recharacterize or expand the job?
Seek out examples of times when you delivered more than people were expecting or went above and beyond to get to the desired results and impact.
Think about times when you introduced new ideas or adapted something resourcefully.
Identify moments when you turned lemons into lemonade; and turned failure into success.
Don’t forget to include successes that showcase strengths in your non-work life. It’s often there that you find undervalued or undeveloped skills – and strengths!
Build the stories that demonstrate strengths, and dig out the achievements within those stories. How will you know when you have enough? I ask my clients to build from 10-20 success stories capturing certain strengths (and tie-ins to employers’ needs).
But another way to know, is that you will have evidence of your skills and the broader picture – your strengths! You will have the beginnings of stories which will communicate how you used these strengths and what you accomplished, rather than just a generic list of skills that do not connect you to employer’s pain.
I always love to hear from you! Please comment below.