Monday, October 19, 2020

Get Organized Up Front for a Better Search

Getting organized up front in your job search will yield quicker and better results!

There’s nothing as frustrating as not being able to locate a critical email or a certain copy of your resume when you need them . . . such as  . . . 

 . . . when a recruiter unexpectedly calls during dinner and you can’t find the copy of the resume you sent to his company.  Or, 

. . .  when you’re all set to leave for a meeting, and then you realize you can’t find the email that contains the address of your meeting.

If this has ever happened to you, you know what a crimp this can put in your day, your mood, and even in your job search project . . . not to mention the time you waste searching for the missing item.  The result of this disorganization can be a lost, or at least diminished, opportunity.  

While there is no foolproof system of organization that can guarantee that you won’t ever misplace an address or lose a resume again, getting organized up front will go a long way toward lessening the likelihood of these occurrences happening down the road.  So, do yourself a favor, and take the time at the beginning of your job search to get organized.

Set up the supporting materials and tools you will need to conduct your search.  Doing so will increase your efficiency, since you’ll be able to put your finger on things you need . . . when you need them.  Although it may not feel like it at first, this time you invest up front in preparation of your workspace and job search tools is one of the best investments you can make in your job search.
    ●    It will speed things up.
    ●    In doing the activities involved in getting organized, it will help you think things through.
    ●    It will pay off in enabling you to conduct a more focused, faster, and rewarding search.

Seven actions to take to get your job search project organized are described as follows:

Action 1:  Set up Your Office

Establish your workspace.  If finding a job is a job . . . and it is . . . establish and set up your office or
workspace as you would to do any job – in other words, set up a workspace conducive to getting the job done!

First, if you don’t have an actual office, then carve out a space in your home, or facility available to you, that will be designated your office workspace for the duration of your search.  It is yours and yours alone, so ask roommates, family, and friends to respect your space.  Your productivity will be higher and qualitatively better if you are not continuously setting up temporary workspaces, reorganizing, and endlessly searching for things.

Second, collect the office tools you will need to conduct and manage your search, as you would with any project.  Take the time up front to gather office materials to set up your workspace, such as:

  • A desk or table with adequate surface space to spread out
  • Good lighting, such as a desk lamp, or even a sunlit lamp for burning the midnight oil
  • File folders and desktop file stand to hold current files you’re working on
  • A comfortable chair, with good lumbar support since you’ll be spending some time here, especially at the start of your search
  • Office supplies - Stapler, tape dispenser, paper clips, scratch pads for taking notes, color highlighters, desk file trays, etc.
  • Notebook to take to all meetings to jot down information, as well as take notes during phone conversations.   Yes, while many choose to use a computer notebook, a pen-and-paper format is a lot less obtrusive when you need to make some notes during an interview or meeting.
  • Printer (many combine copying, printing, and faxing functions)
  • File cabinet

Third, make it comfortable.  You’ll l be spending time in your office or designated office space daily, especially at the beginning of your search when you are developing your marketing tools.  So, make it a comfortable space, one that you like spending time in.  

Action 2:  Set up Your Computer

Whether you are using a desktop computer, a laptop, or computer notebook, set up your computer to keep track of the information you acquire as you conduct your search.  It will grow exponentially if you conduct a proactive search!

Initially, you can keep up with the emails and resumes you send to two or three or even a half dozen or so companies and organizations.  But if you are conducting a very proactive search, you’ll will generate a lot of correspondence and information to keep track of.

Set up your computer with file folders and label them correctly and specifically (Any corresponding paper files you set up should be labeled identically; this can be a good cross-reference.).  For instance, if you send a resume to a company, set up a file folder with that firm’s specific and correctly spelled name (Misspellings can get you tossed out of the competition before you even begin!).  All correspondence related to that company goes in that file folder.  Remember, a file folder labeled “Resumes Sent” won’t be very helpful when you receive a call at dinner time from a recruiter, and you find yourself sifting through the dozens of resumes it contains to find THE ONE you sent to THAT recruiter!

To begin to get your computer organized, create file folders for the categories of information shown below.

    ●    Master Resume.  A master resume contains your complete professional history, so put everything you’ve ever done on it.  Go back to the beginning of your work history and work your way to the present. NO ONE WILL EVER SEE IT BUT YOU, so don’t worry if it turns out to be a lengthy document.  Serving as a basis for all future resume submissions, it will save you a lot of time and angst in the long run.  
    ●    Generic Resume.  While resumes should be customized for specific job submissions, there are some non-job specific activities for which you need a resume, such as attending job fairs, meeting with network contacts, etc..  So, create and have on hand one generic resume that represents you and your skill set overall.  Then, after the networking meeting or talking with recruiters at a job fair, you can customize your resume in relation to the needs expressed by each of the people you met with, and resend it to them.
    ●    Letter Templates that get results.  As you develop cover letters, thank you letters, referral letters, letters requesting information or assistance, etc. that get results, insert two or three of your best into your file and keep them as templates for future correspondence of each type of letter.  It will save you a lot of time.
    ●    Marketing Plan.  Develop and keep a few copies on hand of your Marketing Plan.  While its primary purpose is to give you both long-term and daily direction aimed at achieving your goal, a Marketing Plan is also a helpful document to take to networking meetings.  It can help your contact better understand your goal and be able to help you.
    ●    Companies/Organizations.  Set up a general folder called Companies/Organizations or Target Companies/Organizations and within it set up subfolders labeled with each company’s name that you apply to or target.
    ●    Network Contacts.  Set up a general folder called Contacts, Network Contacts, or Networking.  Then set up subfolders within it labeled with each person’s name with whom you interact.  
    ●    Job Fairs.  Job Fairs are great vehicles to get a lot of information in a short period of time.  They are an efficient way to collect information about companies in your field and their personnel . . . and occasionally a job.  Set up a Job Fairs file to keep track of the fairs you attend, and recruiters and hiring managers with whom you interact.   Keep names, contact information, and date(s) of interaction(s) so you can thank them for their assistance right after you meet, and then have a name to send a resume to when you apply for a job in their firm or to ask questions of.
    ●    Professional Associations/Conferences.  Keep track of associations you find useful.   They may hold meetings or conferences, have a great website, or employ helpful people on the help desk.   Set up an Association file, as well as noting on your calendar association events that you plan to attend.
    ●    Industry/Profession/Job-Related information you acquire.  This is your “catchall” file.  Have a file to store information you acquire that you think could be useful now or in the future.

Action 3:  Set up Your Phone

Your phone becomes as important a management and organization tool as your computer when it comes to job searching.  It also serves as a marketing vehicle for you via the voicemail message folks hear when they call you, as well as messages you leave with people you call.   So, make sure it is a reliable phone that you can depend on to receive calls, get messages, make calls, and comfortably talk with people.   If it is static-y and makes it hard to hear, or drops calls, figure out an alternative.   Having to continuously repeat what you or the caller is saying gets annoying.   A reliable, clear phone service is one place it makes sense to invest some dollars.  Your next job may depend on it.

    ●    Choose One Phone Number.    To avoid confusion and lost opportunities, settle on one number that will become the primary phone number you give to people during your search.   It should appear on any of your correspondence as well as your personal-professional business card.   To further avoid lost opportunities, inform family members or friends that during your search this is the phone and the number you have designated for your search.   If you share a phone with other family members or friends, inform them that you will be receiving lots of calls during your search, and how the phone is answered is critical to your success.   Ask family and friends to answer politely stating that the caller has reached you, but you are not available, and may they take a message?   
    ●    Keep it Professional.   Phones today can do all kinds of things, and it’s cool to have a phone whose ringtone is fun and voicemail message even funnier.  However, this tool needs to work for you . . . not against you during your search.  You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so minimize the chance of annoying or even offending people by keeping it professional.
    ●    Ringtone.  A jarring or outrageous ringtone may be fun, but not when it goes off during an association meeting or conference, or interrupts a networking meeting or interview.  Remember that people are judging your professionalism from any contact they have with you, and, in many cases, are judging you with little actual knowledge of who you really are.  So, don’t give them an excuse to eliminate you from their network or candidate pool.  Set a ringtone that is simple . . . an old-fashioned phone ringing sound will work just fine.
    ●    Voicemail message.  Same as ringtone:  Keep it professional.  This is not the time for callers to hear your favorite song, your child’s adorable voice, a message containing four-letter words offensive jokes, your political or ideological leanings, religious messages, or controversial issues.  Your message should tell the caller that they have reached the right person – YOU, and what you will do upon receiving their message.  That’s it! 

    Include in your message the following information:  

  1. Your full name
  2. A statement that their call is important to you
  3. The action you want them to take - Information (name, best time to call, reason for their call, information they desire from you) you want them to provide? 
  4. The action that you will take.  You can assure them that you will return their call as soon as possible, or provide a time frame such as within 24 or 48 hours.    

Your voicemail message could sound something like this – “Hello.  You have reached Sarah Jamison.  Sorry, I am not available to take your call, but your call is important to me.  At the sound of the beep, please leave your name, contact number, and the reason for your call.  I will return the call as soon as possible (or in 24 hours, 48 hours, by COB next day, etc.).  Thanks for calling.”
    ●    Answering your own phone.   Keep it professional by answering with a greeting such as “Hello” or “Good Morning” and then stating your full name.  Saying “John Smith speaking” or “Amy Brown” immediately after saying “Hello” assures the caller that they have reached the right person and saves time.
    ●    Check it!  You’ve gone to a great deal of effort to professionalize your phone image.  Call yourself and see how your message sounds.  Change it if it’s not clear or not quite right.
Check your voicemail two times a day . . . at a minimum.   All of this work and preparation is for naught if you forget to check your voicemail and miss important messages.  Recruiters, and even network contacts, will call two or three times, but move on to the next candidate if unsuccessful in reaching you.  Finally, return calls as you said you would in your voicemail message.   It’s important to do what you said you would do in your message; doing so shows your professionalism.  Not doing so detracts from your image.

Action 4:  Set up your Email

Your email is next on the list of management and organization tools to develop.  Although some paper correspondence is still done, primarily your correspondence is going to be carried out through email.

Like your phone, email serves as a very important marketing tool via the image you project and the impression you make when one of your emails shows up on a recruiter, hiring manager, or network contact’s computer.  As with your voicemail message, the reader makes an instant judgment about you and your professionalism, seriousness, and capabilities based on what they see when they receive and read your email.   Misspellings and typos (especially the recipient’s name or company name), hard to read text, inappropriate images or words, inappropriate taglines, etc. detract from the image you are seeking to present of a serious-minded job search candidate and a professional they might like to work with.

    ●    Choose One Email Address.  All of your job search correspondence should occur via only this account.  Doing so lessens the chance for missed opportunities because all your job-search-related emails go to one place.  It makes checking your email a lot more convenient too.   Many job seekers create an email address which is easy for folks to remember, or even figure out, if need be.  They simply use their name . . . or   Your email address should appear on any of your correspondence as well as your personal-professional business card.  
    ●    Keep It Professional.    Learn to write a professional email; your emails should read like professional letters.  Don’t take shortcuts.  Assume your emails will be forwarded to others in the companies you apply to, to referrals of your network contacts, and to other recruiters from the recruiter or headhunter to whom you initially sent an email.  If business English is uncomfortable or unfamiliar, or English is not your first language, find an editor, find someone to read and review emails and other written materials you produce
    ●    Spell it out and spell it correctly.  Any email you send as part of your job search correspondence should be clear, correctly spelled, and grammatically correct with correct punctuation.  Save the popular abbreviations of words for your texts; spell out the words in their entirety in your job search email correspondence.  You appear more professional and eliminate potential confusion over what you mean.
    ●    Address the recipient.  The typical address, or salutation in a traditional letter, is: “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear Joan.”  While some may choose to begin with an informal “Hello Sam” or “Hi Sarah or “Jim,” traditional and conservative keep you safe.  When it comes to job search, err on the side of the conservative and traditional, until invited by the firm or contact to do otherwise.
    ●    Keep the content succinct, relevant, and to the point.  Emails that go on for pages have little chance of being read, and certainly not in their entirety.  A treatise on your philosophy of work or life (Don’t laugh . . . I’ve seen it done by candidates.) while possibly interesting won’t get the results you desire.   While each email should be customized, following the format outlined below should up the odds that your emails will be read:
            - First Paragraph:  State your purpose for writing.  Also note that you are interested in the firm and why it’s of interest to you.  If you are unknown to the recipient, briefly introduce yourself by name, profession, and if a referral to them, mention the name of the person who referred you (that in and of itself will get your email read).
            - Paragraphs 2 - 4:  Show how you meet the requirements of the job and could benefit the firm.  List some of your key qualifications and stellar accomplishments that relate to the recipient’s needs and requirements.
            - Last Paragraph:  State your immediate objective in writing, such as a meeting or interview with a recruiter; a meeting with a  network contact.  State that you will look forward to hearing from them, but that you will also follow-up and when.
            - Closing:  Close your letter with a standard closing, i.e., “Best regards,” “Best,” “Sincerely,” and “Sincerely yours” are standard business closings.  Follow with your name underneath.
            - Signature Box:  Set up a standard signature (referred to as signature box) that will automatically appear on each email you send; it will save you lots of time, ensure consistency of content, and prevent errors and misspellings . . . including your own name (It happens!).   Include:  your full-name with titles you usually use such as PMP, MBA; a generic title for your profession; phone number; email address; LinkedIn Address; your own website if you have one
            - Check it!  

Action 5:  Set up your Marketing Tools

Create, or revise, your job search marketing tools.  To many job seekers, this means a “resume,” which no one would argue is an important marketing tool.  But your marketing tools go way beyond a resume.   Also prepare a Marketing Plan, Elevator Speech, personal-professional business card, and Networking Plan.  These are the basic tools to get you going!

Action 6:  Set up your Portfolio

Your professional portfolio, comprised of samples of your work and documentation of your performance, is another job search management as well as marketing tool.  A portfolio allows you to put your money where your mouth is!  It enables you to show proof of what you say you can do.

All job seekers make claims about their capabilities, professional experience, and the results they’ve achieved.  But few show any real evidence to back up their claims.  Assembling materials in an attractive format, whether in a presentation binder or in an electronic format, provides employers with greater certainty that you’ve done what you said and could do great things for them.

Action 7:  Set up your Budget

How much does it cost to run your household or lifestyle?  Don’t know?  Find out . . . before you start your job search.  You may be thinking: “Of all the things I have to do to begin my job search, why do I need to do a budget?”  You have more important things to do, right?  Wrong!

The obvious answer to the question is that you need this important number in order to operate your life and household in a financially responsible way.  Any financial coach would tell you that.  But there are three other reasons to set up your budget, reasons solely related to your job search:

  • First, you need to know how low is too low in terms of a salary level you can accept for a job that you may want - especially true in the case of a lateral move or career change.
  • Second, you need to know your true bottom line in order to negotiate your job offer’s salary or compensation package.  Finding out what your capabilities pay in the marketplace will give you an idea of what a reasonable salary increase might be for your new job; take into account your financial goals for the future, and what it will take in income earnings over your projected remaining years of work to achieve them.  These will help you figure out what your desired optimal increase would be.
  • Third, you need to anticipate, plan for, and be able to afford the costs associated with running a proactive job search,  including such things as:  Printing business cards, miscellaneous printing, basic office materials, paying for the coffee at networking meetings, professional association monthly meeting fees, travel to meetings/interviews, additional phone usage/phone upgrade.

So, do your budget.  As part of your management of your job search, prepare to be fiscally responsible.  Doing a budget will tell you not only what your line in the sand is, but it will also tell you a lot more.  It will point out areas where you may be able to reduce costs during the time of your search, especially important if you are unemployed while searching.  Your budget will tell you what you can afford, what you can’t, and where you can make cuts or trade-offs in your spending.

Getting Organized Yields Benefits Down the Road

Beginning at the beginning by taking action, as described in Actions 1 – 7, will set you up for a better job search with a better result.  You’ll experience fewer surprises, and by way of being prepared, will be better able to handle those surprises that do come your way.  Your preparation will also help you appear more confident, capable, and in control – all qualities sought by employers in their employees.  It just makes good sense!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Finding a Job in Tough Times . . . First Step: Get Prepared

Way back when in the First Quarter of the year, you made a New Year’s Resolution:  This would be the year you land that new position!  And then, life happened!  The events of this year may have changed those plans.  It's happened to a lot of folks and it may have happened to you!  However, as you look at the remaining months of the year, know that it is not too late.  You can still achieve your goal . . . your New Year's Resolution.  So, if a new position or new career direction is your objective, NOW is the time to prepare for a successful job search. 


What's Your Strategy?

You may have spent some time during the last few months crafting a resume that tells your career story pretty well.  So then, with your resume in hand, you're ready to go!   Right? . . . .  Wrong.  

If your entire plan, or strategy, is to take your painstakingly written resume and just start sending it out in response to any and every openings you see . . . . think again.  You will join the ranks of the many job seekers who can count 100's, if not 1000's, of submissions with no results . . . especially true in difficult times.   


Hiring in Tough Times

In fact, many job seekers' strategies, during adverse times, are just to "wait it out" and then begin their job search down the road when things get better.  However, I can tell you that . . . 

  • Jobs can be found in good times and bad.
  • Employers hire in good times and bad.
  • And job seekers find new positions and change entire career directions in good times and bad.  

BUT  . . .and it's a big BUT, they just don't send out resumes willy-nilly and hope for the best.  They have a strategy beginning with a goal and a good set of marketing tools to achieve that goal.  


Job Seeking is a Sales Process

What tools will you need to begin to market yourself for a new job?  Remember, finding a job boils down to sales.  You are selling yourself.  You will need to identify opportunities (industries, and then companies in those industries, and then jobs within those companies) that could use and value your skills and experience.  Putting this information together is really creating your Marketing Plan - another of your marketing tools.  That done, you will then need to develop the rest of your marketing tools.  Here they are:

Job Search Marketing tools you will need to sell employers on hiring you:
(1)  Resume
(2)  Marketing Plan
(3)  Elevator speech
(4)  Networking Plan
(5)  Personal-Professional Business Card
(6)  Linked-In Profile
(7)  Cover Letter Template
(8)  Thank You Letter Template
(9)  Portfolio
(10) Follow-up strategy

Without a full set of marketing tools, simply applying for positions online and sending out some resumes is not enough!  But with a well thought out set of marketing tools in hand, you now have the tools you will need to:

  • Identify real, potential job opportunities, and 
  • A way to communicate to those potential employers in an impactful, attention-getting way of the value you could bring and the benefit you could offer to their companies.  

In other words, you have the tools to show them that hiring you would be a "Smart Strategy."

Author's note:  Next time . . . Get Organized          for your career path   

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Changing Your Career WITHOUT Starting at the Bottom

Changing Your Career WITHOUT Starting at the Bottom

Changing jobs is hard. . . . . . . . . .Changing Careers is harder.  But if doing something different is on your mind, don’t let anything stop you.  Know that changing your career’s direction is very doable providing you are realistic about what it will take to achieve your goal. 

As job markets improve, unemployment lowers, and hiring increases, many job seekers’ thoughts turn to moving on to a new job opportunity.  For most, this means moving onto a new but fairly similar job.  However, for some, who have been dreaming of doing something different, this can mean moving on to a new type of job type, field, or level of responsibility.

Can you do it?  Absolutely.  Making a change in your career’s direction  – new field, new job type, new level  – is very doable.  But, remember the three P’s:  It will take Planning, Perseverance, and Patience.  It will also take hard work.  The question is:  Is it for you? 

Career Change Statistics

Is a Career Direction Change for you?  Well, you know that changing jobs is hard.  But know that changing career direction is harder. It will generally take more time, more energy, and often more resources than a regular job search.  So before you embark on a career    and often life    change, be sure it’s a change you want to make. 

Is it doable?  Well, today the workforce changes jobs and career directions multiple times before they end their careers.  Long gone, for the most part, are the days when an employee hired into a company or organization and stayed for the duration of their career as evidenced by the following statistics from the Department of Labor, and other sources that study employment.

It will come as no surprise that people now change jobs frequently.  Employers expect, or at least accept, that workers will be changing jobs a lot more often    about every 3 years.  So, by the age of 42, many workers will have had about 8 - 10 jobs.                                                                                                         

However, these sources cite a statistic that may be something of a surprise:

The average person will change careers 5 - 7 times during their working life according to career change statistics.  (I have seen sources which cite this figure as high as 12.)

So, take comfort in the fact that job and career change is no longer seen as out-of-the-norm, thereby making it a little easier to achieve such a goal. 

What is a Career Direction Change?

A Career Direction Change (C.D.C.) is not merely changing jobs.  For our purposes here, we are defining Career Direction Change as changing an employee’s:
1.   Field of work
2.   Type of work within a field
3.   Level of work (responsibility).  In each circumstance, this type of change will require a change in duties, knowledge, and, importantly, skills to perform the work. 

Obstacles to Career Direction Change

Many, if not most of us, have probably dreamed at some point of doing something entirely different . . . doctors who wanted to be lawyers, engineers who wanted to be astronauts, program managers who wanted to be antique dealers, . . . Do they succeed in making the transition?  Some do, but the majority of job seekers I’ve worked with over the years - probably 1000's by this point in time - don’t.  Something stops them.  For many, the deterrents come down to these two obstacles:

!   Fear of the unknown

!   Reluctance to start at the bottom . . . again.

However, don’t let these obstacles stop you, particularly if after doing some homework you find you really are serious about making a real career change. 

First, just doing some research (as described below) can help you begin to overcome fear.  As your knowledge grows about the career change you intend to make, so will your comfort level.

Second, there’s good news!  You don’t have to start at the bottom.  By skillfully identifying your Transferable Skills, you can move into your new profession at a level that is more comfortable and familiar to you.  Yes, it may require a step or two down, or a lateral move, for a period of time, but this can be a far cry from starting at the bottom.   

The Secret to a Career Direction Change:  Transferrable Skills

While I have long maintained that when it comes to job searching, there are no quick fixes, no magic pills, no secrets to success, when it comes to changing career direction there is  “one secret-of-sorts” to achieve a change.   It is Transferable Skills.  

Transferrable skills are skills that are relevant and applicable to a wide range of different jobs and industries.  They’re usually gained over time, and can be gained from previous positions, charity or voluntary work, hobbies, and interactions with family, friends, and acquaintances.  These skills can be moved from one place to another – one organization to another    one job to another.  Think of them as Portable Skills. 

Through the strategic incorporation of your Transferrable Skills into your networking conversations, marketing materials (including Elevator Speech, resume and cover letter), applications, and interviews, you can show that while you may not have all the in-depth skills of a competitor, you have enough skills, ability, and experience not to start at the bottom!

Preparing for a Career Transition

There are good reasons and bad reasons to change your career direction.  What’s driving you?  Being clear about why you want to make a Career Change is the 1st step.  Here’s how to gain clarity about what’s driving your desire for a Career Direction Change:

1.  Assess your motivation for making a Career Direction Change.

Why do you want to make a career change?  Be honest.  Take a hard look at yourself and your motivation.  Take the time to explore your motivation:
!   Is your drive internally based, i.e., driven by your own deep-seated goals, needs, and desires?

!   Are you being enticed by unrealistic expectations or perceptions of different career fields or career levels – the grass is greener phenomenon?   Use your research to determine if this a dream or a pipe dream!

!   Is your drive externally based, i.e., influenced by another person in your private or professional life?

Answer these questions honestly.  Changing career direction is hard, more often than not requiring a lot of networking and selling prospective employers on your ability to do the job.  If your goal is not driven by internal motivation, it ups the odds that you won’t stick with it.

2.  Understand the benefits and losses of making a Career Direction Change.

 What’s In It For You WIFFM)?  There are real benefits to be derived from a Career Direction Change:

!   You are less likely to be bored.
!   You will be exposed to a greater variety of work experiences and Organizational Cultures (the way an organization goes about getting work done, resolving problems, and acknowledging and rewarding achievement).
!   You will meet a lot of interesting people – and build your network at the same time.
!   You may find greater professional satisfaction and fulfillment. 

There are losses / negatives too, such as:      

!   Having different career choices available means that you might be tempted to change careers too frequently – especially if you find you’re good at it!
!   Some prospective employers may see you as a “job hopper,” and fearing a short tenure, their perception may lessen your chances for hiring into their firm.
!   You may also miss out on the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder due to short tenures.
3.  Expect your C.D.C. to take time.

Adjust your expectations.  While it may have only taken you a few months to find earlier jobs, entering a new field or trying to increase your level of responsibility takes time. 
!   Exhibit patience. 
!   Don’t rush the process.                                  
!   And, importantly, don’t give up!

Steps to Take to Change Your Career Direction

If, having done your preparation and assessment, you find that changing your career’s direction is still for you, take the following steps to make a successful change.
Step 1.  Identify What You Want To Do And . . . What You’re Qualified To Do

Put into words what you want to do in this new phase of your career; this step moves your desire from thoughts-in-your-head toward reality.  Begin to determine how qualified you are to enter this new field, type of work, or level.

Step 2.  Identify and Evaluate Your Current Skills

Identify the skills you have and evaluate them via a Career Analysis as shown below:
!   Review your professional, technical (technology), and social networking skills and capabilities.  Evaluate them:  What are your strengths?  Weaknesses?
!   Interpersonal skills are key, and often the lynch pin, to making a C.D.C.  Your skills, knowledge, and experience become the selling point for why an employer should consider you or a network contact should refer you.  To do so effectively, you must identify your interpersonal skills’ strengths and where you fall short.  Try to fill the gaps.
Creating a matrix may help you sort out and sift through your abilities.  Create a 3-column chart, labeling your columns:  Subject Matter Knowledge, Skills, and Likes / Dislikes.

                                                           Career Analysis Chart
Subject Matter Knowledge

Likes / Dislikes
Now fill in your chart, analyzing what it tells you about choices that are likely to pay off for you.  For a real-life example of a Career Direction Change, please refer to “My Story” at the conclusion of this article.

Step 3.  Identify the types of skills needed for your new career.

Action 1:  Get educated.  Learn about the type of skills needed to make your Career Direction Change. 
1.   Read Job Descriptions, position advertisements, industry news, . . . to help you identify necessary skills. 
2.   Network with people in your new profession or familiar with it; ask questions about what it will take to both enter this new area and succeed.

Then utilize a “T” chart to compare the requisite skills with your own to see how close you come to meeting job requirements.  Identify your Transferable Skills.  Determine which skills will help you make this transition.  Identify skill gaps and plan to fill them.

Action 2: Review your Career Analysis from Step 2.  Ask yourself two questions:    

1.   “Does my Analysis confirm that I HAVE ENOUGH of the skills (along with knowledge and likes) required by my prospective career to be seen as a viable candidate for a job?”
2.   “Does my Analysis show that I lack the necessary skills to do the job?”

If your answer to Question 1 is “Yes,” you’re off to a good start.  However, even if you have the skills, identify any small gaps in proficiency and take action to strengthen them.

If your answer to Question 2 is Yes, get the education and training you need to at least begin to fill the gap(s).  Get certified    Finish or begin a new degree    Take a  course. While you can NOT make up for a lack of experience with education and training, it can provide you with an understanding and often some hands-on practice in performing the skill(s) as well as demonstrate your seriousness to anyone you talk with.

Step 4.  Get experience.

You can’t invent relevant skill(s) experience if you don’t have any.  However, there is a way you may be able to gain a little hands-on experience.  Volunteer.  The hands-on activity of volunteering will also give you a realistic assessment of whether you really want to pursue this Career Direction Change.

!   Finding volunteer activities available in your prospective career is a way to gain and practice skills, as well as to demonstrate that you have some experience in performing these skills. 
!   If there are no opportunities to volunteer in your new field, job, or level type, finding volunteer activities utilizing a skill that would be valuable in your prospective career can still help provide you with experience in using the skill.  For example, while you may not be able to find a “Program Manager volunteer role” in your desired profession, volunteering to manage a project for a local charity or association will give you practice in utilizing the skills of a program manager as you direct a project from inception to completion.  

Step 5.  Attend and Network, Network, Network!

Because your competition for jobs will come from job seekers who actually have real hands-on experience, non-traditional ways of finding jobs rises in importance.  And, networking, with a revised Elevator Speech in hand, focused on the type of job, field, and level you want in your next position, becomes paramount to making a successful change. 

Let’s face it:  Your resume or job application when breaking into a new line or level of work CAN NOT be as strong as a resume from an experienced worker.  So, utilize opportunities to show and tell others about your desire to make a C.D.C. and your qualifications for doing so::

!   Network professionally and informally.  Attend everything you’re invited to, business cards in hand and tell your story.
!   Target and contact companies and organizations that might hire you and try to arrange appointments to talk with them.  Arrange “informational interviews” if you can.  Even a short phone call can add to you knowledge.
!   Identify a professional association that focuses on the field  and level of job you are interested in.  Attend, participate, and volunteer for tasks.
!   Attend relevant conferences.
!   Show up a lot!

Step 6.  Spruce up your resume, LinkedIn profile, and cover letters.

Experience is not the only thing prospective employers are looking for.  Finding the right “fit” is important to most organizations, meaning this new employee might actually stay a while and contribute.  Address your strengths, skills, and relevant experience in all of your job search communications.  BUT remember to address “fit” too, showing that you understand the qualities that are sought by the hiring firm and that you possess them.

Step 7.  Search for your new position.

Enjoy your search for your new Career Direction!

Go for it!

Are you up for the challenge of making a Career Direction Change?  Being forewarned about, prepared for, and educated about your desired change is half the battle.  Employ the three P’s:  Planning, Perseverance, and Patience and . . . Go for it! 

In the end, it’s your job, your career, and your life.  How do you want to spend it?

Best of luck,


Bonus:  An example of a Career Direction Change:   “My Story”

Is a Career Direction Change doable?  Yes.  I did it and here’s how.

Several years ago, I was working in my 3rd defense engineering firm, and although I was still quite happy and successful in performing my various roles, I started to feel a teensy bit antsy as the major project I had hired on to do was implemented; although it still required continued development and maintenance, in fact, the challenge was gone . . . done.  And, I started to find myself wondering what else I could do and how I could use my background to do it!

As I wondered about what I could do that might be new or a little different, I found myself running through a list of Subject Matter Knowledge (SMK) I figured I possessed and skills I had.  I thought: If I combined my subject matter knowledge with my skills, what fields could they open up for me?  Then, I started to question when I was happiest in a job?  And when, instead, did I find myself taking long lunches?  I decided to put this information down on paper and came up with a chart: My Career Analysis Chart.
As I filled in my Chart, I identified 8 areas in which I possessed Subject Matter Knowledge, and 8 areas of skill.  As I studied my chart, it occurred to me that my Top 3 strongest areas of SMK occurred in:

1.      Construction (where I had spent an earlier portion of my career)
2.      Education and Training / Human Resources (doing a lot of workshops, seminars, and manager and employee coaching
3.      Sales and Marketing (of Construction, Retail, Training Services)

Looking at a list of skills areas told me that training, public speaking, fixing problems, and managing/implementing projects topped my list. 

Then, I looked at what made me happy in a job - a key, I figured, to staying in a job a while.  For me, topping my list were autonomy, interacting with people at all levels, and strategizing / starting / implementing / and then handing off projects or programs.  A micro-managed situation was not for me.

I took this new-found way of looking at my background and asked myself:  How could I put it to use in a new way?  I initially reasoned that certainly construction offered avenues, as well as Human Resources, as follows:

!       Construction – offered education and training opportunities, and to a lesser extent HR and sales and marketing positions in construction companies.
!       Education and Training - offered opportunities in education and training firms, or sales and marketing of education / training services to, construction companies; I also looked into HR positions, particularly those with a training component.
!       Sales and Marketing -  To a lesser degree, I looked into positions in sales and marketing that came across my desk when I discovered them in industries I was familiar with:  Retail, Defense, Engineering, and Publishing.

I networked like crazy, one person referring me to another and to another.  Through this networking activity, as well as “library” research, I discovered two new avenues to employment.

4.  Construction Training Companies

5.  Construction Trade Associations       

I explored them all.  To make this long story a little shorter, I won’t go into more detail other than to say I worked really hard.  It took me at least 3/4 of a year.  At the end of that time, I found myself being hired into my new job, utilizing my knowledge and skills, but in an entirely new and previously unthought of field:  I was hired as the Education Director for a Construction Trade Association.  This position was a great fit; I had a great challenge, worked with tremendous freedom, interacted with members from all over the country - and world - and traveled a lot.

So, when it comes to Career Direction Change, is it doable?  Absolutely.  Is it hard work?  Indeed it is.  But with the application of the three P’s  – Planning, Perseverance, and Patience  – you can make a desire to change your career direction a reality!