Human Workplace was founded by Liz Ryan, a former Fortune 500 HR SVP and the world’s most widely-read career adviser. Liz is the architect of the Human Workplace vision and a highly sought-after public speaker. Liz Ryan is among the top LinkedIn Influencers, a contributor to Forbes.com and many other publications and the beloved career guide to millions of people around the world.
I must be having a mid-life crisis, because I’m restless and unsatisfied. It’s been this way for over a year. I got promoted at work in 2017 and I should be over the moon about it, but I’m not.
My new job is just a higher-level version of my old job. Nothing else has changed. I got a pay raise and I’m grateful for that, but the extra money in my paycheck is insignificant.
I can’t blame my boss for my unhappiness at work. He’s a good guy. He cares a lot more about the business than I do. He cares about his job more than anything else in his life.
I feel stuck and stymied. I have a lot of ideas for ways to improve my company but nobody really wants to hear them. My company relies on me, but they also discount everything I tell them.
My boss’s boss “Arnie,” our VP, says “Listen to Charla – she knows the customers better than anyone! She should be CEO. We’d all make a lot more money if she was.” Then he laughs like he just told the best joke in the world.
The thing is, Arnie is right. The company would be doing better than it is if I had more power to make changes. That’s not arrogance, Liz — it’s true.
I often feel like the reason I’m so muzzled here is that they know I have good ideas for improving the business, and nobody wants to admit it. I’m not an executive. I don’t go to senior staff meetings, but every VP comes out of those meetings and asks my advice about how to implement their plans.
Do I need a career change? Where would I start that investigation? What’s broken in my career, and how do I fix it?
We never know when we are going to get a signal that says “It’s time for a change!”
You are getting one of those signals right now. Nothing is broken in your career, but you are at a turning point.
You can start a job search and find a better job, but the question to mull over is “Will any new job keep me happy for long?”
Many people get to your stage of a career and realize that they won’t reach their intellectual, financial or philosophical goals working for someone else. They realize that they need to work for themselves. They have creative ideas they’re aching to try out and wisdom they want to share. They know that a lot of leaders could use their help.
Why should they pick one leader to work for, when they could work with lots of clients?
Here are ten signs you would be happier working for yourself, too:
1) You have ideas you want to put into practice, but your managers don’t want to go through the effort of changing things. They love your ideas, but they won’t take Step One to make your ideas come true.
2) You keep a lot of things to yourself at work, because you don’t want to upset the status quo.
3) You daydream about making decisions your current job doesn’t allow you to make.
4) No matter how productive you are at work or how much money you generate for your employer, you’re going to be lucky to get a three or four percent pay increase every year. That’s assuming you keep your job as your salary goes up.
5) Your customers tell you “You are truly an expert!” but nobody in your organization seems to view you as an expert — not in any way that matters, at least.
6) You struggle to get your senior leaders’ attention even though you are among the most credible and competent people on your team. They can’t see your brilliance, because they are too close to it. They take it (and you) for granted.
7) You get asked to speak at conferences, but your boss says “Nah, that’s not important. We need you here, at your desk.”
8) You don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel in your current organization. You don’t see things changing such that you would have more latitude, more power to make decisions or more flexibility in your schedule and responsibilities.
9) People close to you tell you “Why are you killing yourself to make those people rich? Why don’t you make yourself rich?”
10) In your body, you know that it’s time to step out on your own.
You can take your time planning the launch of an independent consulting business, or you can join with a group of consultants who are already up and running.
You can take some time to think about what you want next in your life and career, and what you want over the long term.
The world is changing fast. Full-time employment is shrinking, like the glaciers. You are an independent economic unit whether you work for someone else or work for yourself. It’s your company, either way. Your career is a business, no different from any other business.
Why not run the business called Charla’s Career the way you want to — answering to your clients, instead of one insecure boss?
Whenever we teach a job-search workshop at Human Workplace we ask the participants “How do executives in C-level jobs — the folks at the head of a corporation — get hired? They don’t fill out online application forms.
“They don’t pitch resumes into Black Hole recruiting sites. How do they ever get hired without following the traditional job-search process?”
C-level folks like a CFO, CEO or Chief Anything Officer don’t follow the rules laid out for job-seekers, but they get hired anyway.
How do they do it?
Here’s what C-level executives do that anyone can do, whether you’re pursuing your first career job after college or looking for a job in the executive suite:
They treat their careers like businesses. They decide what kinds of jobs they want and go after them. They don’t let the Help Wanted ads dictate where they’ll end up working. They talk to people who have job openings and people who don’t. You never know who knows somebody you might be glad to meet!
They brand themselves for the jobs they want. They don’t go to the talent marketplace saying “I can do everything — please, somebody, hire me!”
They know what they’re good at and what they love to do. In their LinkedIn profiles and their Human-Voiced Resumes, they differentiate themselves from other people who may have held the exact same job titles they have.
Let’s say that you’re a head of HR. There are a lot of those folks around, of course — there are gazillions of employers, and every one of them needs a head of HR. The executive HR position is called CHRO — Chief Human Resources Officer.
Every CHRO is a little bit different from every other CHRO. Some of them are formal and some are informal. Some of them love numbers and others love the people side of the job. Every single CHRO has a slightly different brand and persona from every other one — after all, they are people!
You have your own unique brand and persona too, and your job is to figure out what you’re meant to be doing and which environments are exactly right for you. Then, you’ll brand yourself for those opportunities specifically. You’ll pursue the jobs you want, rather than letting the job ads dictate where your career is headed.
Over time in the working world, you will learn which workplace cultures reinforce who you are and which ones will never be a good fit for you.
Then you can use your energy and time to go after the opportunities where you will make the greatest contribution and have the most fun!
C-level job seekers network. They talk to everybody, including people they’ve known for years and new people they’re meeting for the first time. They sit down for coffee with old friends and strangers and when they do, their job search is not the focus of the coffee conversation.
The point of a networking get-together is the relationship you are building. The focus is not somebody’s job search or somebody’s new-client-acquisition project but the relationship itself between the people having coffee.
Networking done right is not about a transaction. If you ever go to a networking meeting with a person who is desperate to get something out of the meeting (an introduction or a job search lead, for instance) you will be able to feel that fearful energy and it doesn’t feel good.
Networking is a long-term activity, like tending a garden. You don’t plant seeds and harvest them on the same day!
C-level job seekers are consultants. All of us are consultants now. C-level job-seekers can always find something useful to do and figure out how to earn a little money doing it.
Some of the consulting gigs will turn into full-time job opportunities and others won’t.
If you run your career like a business and focus on Business Pain and its solutions rather than the cozy security of a full-time job (I’m kidding) you will see that your career possibilities are much broader and more exciting than you may have believed.
You can get a C-level job when there is no job advertised. You can make your own position. You have to cultivate a nose for Business Pain and know how to start a conversation with a leader in distress. C-level job-seekers don’t grovel and beg for a job.
No one would ever hire them if they did, because the CEOs, Presidents and Board members who hire C-level executives don’t hire people who beg for a job. They hire people they trust to run an organization — a far different yardstick!
The last thing C-level job seekers do is use more than one channel in their job search. A channel is a way to reach buyers. In a job search, the buyer is the manager in pain who might pay you to make his or her pain go away.
Recruiters are one channel, but a C-level job seeker (or any job seeker) could get old and die waiting for a recruiter to call with the perfect opportunity. You have to make your own channels, too! Networking is a channel. Consulting is another one.
Believing in yourself is a far more important ingredient for success in your job search and career than any other factor, including your education and your work experience.
People trust people who know what they bring over people who look to an employer to save them from the state of unemployment.
The economy is getting much better, but the pain employers face is no less severe when the economy is bad than when it is good! Luckily for job-seekers, there is pain everywhere. Can you spot some and start a conversation about pain and solutions this week? Your muscles will grow more and more every time you do!
As recently as the nineteen-eighties there were people who got through their entire careers without conducting even one stealth job search.
What’s a stealth job search? It’s a job search you conduct while you’re working at a full-time job. You conduct your job search in stealth mode, right up to the minute you walk into your boss’s office and say “I’m outta here!”
Back in the day most people didn’t have to know how to job-hunt and work a full-time job at the same time. Now we all need to know how to do it!
It has become an essential skill for every working person to know — how to get a job when you already have a job. Here are the steps:
First, decide what sort of job you want. Don’t just pull up job ads and start applying for new jobs at random. Doing that is the best way to leave your current job and start a new job that you like even less! Take your time. You have a job, so you are many employers’ favorite type of candidate. Decide what you want. Remember that your career will be most successful (and so will your life) when you’re moving toward something all the time, rather than away from something.
Next, brand yourself for the jobs you want. In your Human-Voiced Resume, emphasize the stories from your career so far that highlight your talents at the very things you plan to do in your next job.
You can’t update your LinkedIn profile too much when you’re about to start a stealth job search, in case one of your co-workers notices the changes and rats you out to your boss. That’s okay, because you can let LinkedIn know that you are open to contacts from recruiters. That’s a good thing to do as you launch your stealth job search!
Don’t rest your job-search hopes on recruiters — create your own job-search engine, too! Start by creating your Target Employer List.
Now, use LinkedIn to search for your own, specific hiring manager at each of your target firms. Your hiring manager is not an HR person or a recruiter (unless you’re applying for HR or recruiting jobs). It’s the department manager of the department you plan to work in, like Purchasing, Finance or Sales. Use the search bar at the top of your LinkedIn homepage to search on the combination of the company name and the job title your manager is most likely to have.
You can also use Google and the company’s own website to look for the name of your hiring manager. When in doubt, you can move up the organizational chart and write to the head of your function instead of your own hiring manager.
Compose a thoughtful Pain Letter to each hiring manager on your list. A Pain Letter is like a cover letter in the sense that it accompanies your resume, but that is the only thing cover letters and Pain Letters have in common.
Now, customize your Human-Voiced Resume so that it suits the hiring manager you are writing to today and his or her organization as closely as possible. The power of a Pain Letter is its relevance to the reader — your possible next boss — and your Human-Voiced Resume must be relevant to your hiring manager, too!
Print your Pain Letter and customized Human-Voiced Resume and staple the two documents together with one staple in the upper left-hand corner of the Pain Letter. Send your Pain Packet to your hiring manager at work, at his or her desk! Log the outgoing Pain Packet on a spreadsheet or whatever app you use to track your job-search progress. Celebrate with a nice gelato!
You can enlist your friends in your stealth-job-search army, but don’t do that by means of a blast email sent to all your friends at once. If you try that, one of your friends is sure to inadvertently forward your message to their friends and then your secret may get out.
What should you do if despite your best efforts, your current boss finds out about your job search or suspects you are looking? Your good instincts will serve you in that moment, but here’s what Eliza did when her boss surprised her with a question.
Nora, Eliza’s evil boss: So Eliza, are you happy here?
Eliza: Why do you ask, Nora?
Nora: There’s a rumor that you’re job-hunting.
Eliza: Nora, everyone is job-hunting in a sense. Everyone has their eyes open. You mentioned just a few weeks ago that if Google opened an office in town, you’d have a hard time not sending them a resume.
Nora: Yeah, but Google doesn’t have an office in town.
Eliza: Nora, if you ever want to talk about my plans and aspirations that would be fine with me.
Nora: No, I don’t have time for that. Just don’t quit. I need you on my team if I’m going to hit my goals this year.
There is nothing like the power you will feel when you find the right job and accept a job offer, then go back to your current workplace and tell your boss “Thanks for everything, but I’ve accepted a new position.” You will feel your power in your veins then!
Mastering the art of the stealth job search is a new-millennium career skill everyone needs to cultivate, and luckily it isn’t hard to do. You can take a step in the direction of your next job right now!
P.S. Want to discover how to find the job you deserve? Check this out…