Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Holidays . . . The Most Dangerous Time of the Year

Holidays, the most dangerous time of the yearThe holidays – the most wonderful time of year. Except when it comes to job seeking. Then they can become the most dangerous time of the year!

Why?  . . .  Because the holidays, fraught with frustrations, temptations, disappointments, and misunderstandings, can lead to the demise of your job search – that search that you have been working on so diligently until holiday activities seem to overshadow your search.

Now, in the midst of major holiday activity, many job seekers may be ready to just give up. As the holiday season has progressed, and as people become more and more immersed in holiday preparations and festivities, thoughts turn from the business of business and more and more to shopping, travel, parties, presents, mailing presents, sending cards, time off, time away . . . you get the idea. And, if you are a job seeker who is still diligently trying to pursue your regular job search activities, it can be really frustrating:
  • You keep trying to push forward but no one responds. 
  • Network contacts won’t meet with you.
  • Employers won’t get back to you.

So, faced with this slow down of their job search, a lot of job seekers just give in and give up.
  • It starts with delaying a few of your job search activities for a morning or a day or two. Might as well go shopping. . .everyone else is.
  • And then postponing them for a week, “I’ll write that target letter or send my daily e-mails to arrange appointments next week. I’m just going to get my cards written this week.”
  • And, then abandoning the search altogether. “I can’t reach anybody. I’ll just get back to this after New Year’s.”
Maybe you do, and . . . maybe you don’t.
The cost of giving in and giving up can be high for job seekers:
(1) Some job seekers do resume their search after the New Year’s holiday has past.
(2) Some resume it but only half-heartedly with their enthusiasm dampened by their experience of the latter part of the year.
(3) And some never get back to their job search.

The cost can be high. Anyway you look at it, choosing to postpone your job search during the holidays is costly. So don’t do it! The cost is lost time and missed pathways to opportunities for some, and for others it is even higher as they never achieve that next rung on their career ladder or turn the corner onto a new career direction because they gave up. I’ve seen it happen.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. And, it shouldn’t if you are truly serious about finding a new position. Here’s what you face that diverts your attention:

1.  The frustrations abound
As we move into the holiday season, just as your thoughts turn to holiday activities and obligations, so too do those of employers, network contacts, and friends. All of a sudden, things
s-l-o-o-o-w down. It starts to seem as if:
  • No one will take your calls.
  • You don’t hear back from employers.
  • Network contacts don’t call you back.
  • Network contacts who do get back to you take longer to commit to meeting with you.
In short, it’s frustrating.

2.  The temptations abound
There are a million-and-one things to divert your attention away from your job search and to holiday To Do’s. And because you’ve always done those To Do’s, they seem like must do’s. These activities that take you away from your search:
  • Shopping, travel, cooking, baking, buying presents, mailing presents
  • Writing and sending holiday cards to people who remain on your list but you can’t quite remember who they are
  • Watching the same old holiday movies that you’ve watched 100 times
  • Participating in family traditions that cost you time, money, and energy, and that you never liked anyway
  • Fulfilling holiday expectations others have set for you and have come to expect of you over the years, except you’d rather not!
3.  The misunderstandings abound
A lot of myth surrounds the holiday season when it comes to understanding employer hiring during the holiday season. Two of the biggest de-railers of job searches are the myths:
  • Employers don’t hire during the last couple months of the year.
  • You can’t get employers to meet with you during the end of the year.
So, job seekers mistakenly assume that they might as well wait until January to resume their search. And as we’ve said,  . . . . . . some do, and some don’t.

What’s a job seeker to do?  DON'T just give in and give up!
So in the face of these frustrations, temptations, and misunderstandings, while it might feel like you might as well just give up on your search during the holiday season, that’s not the solution. That strategy will only wind up costing you time and missed opportunities, or missed pathways to opportunities.
  1. You’ll lose momentum. If you do resume your search, it’ll take time for you to rebuild your enthusiasm, and momentum.
  2. You’ll lessen or lose focus. You may find your elevator speech is less focused and attention getting when you deliver it, if you deliver it all during holiday parties and activities.
  3. You’ll lose time. When you stop feeding your pipeline, and connecting with new contacts in the focused way you did pre-holiday season, it’ll take time to start up the pipeline again and re-connect with contacts in the new year
  4. You may lose opportunities because you stop asking the key networking questions that uncover needs of potential employers.
Change your game plan:  A Better Solution
So, while it may be tempting to lessen your job search activity or post-pone it entirely during the season, don’t do it. A better solution lies in adopting strategies to keep your search alive and active during the holidays. Some adjustments on your part in terms of thinking, understanding, and behavior will keep your search on track and you on an even keel, and prevent loss of momentum or opportunity.

As the saying goes, it’s all in how you look at it. Adjusting your viewpoints, your expectations, and clearing up some misunderstandings can keep you moving forward, just a little differently. Let’s look at some ways to do this:

The Frustrations Abound: Dealing with the frustrations of holiday job search              
  • It’s frustrating.  As we said earlier in this article, things slow down, and try as you might, you can’t seem to make any headway.
  • Employers don’t call you back.
  • Network contacts don’t call you back.
  • And anyone who does get back to you takes longer to do so.
What to do
  1. First of all, DECIDE that these things are not going to deter you, depress you, or derail your job search. This may not seem like a big step but believe me it will keep you on course. It’s important to decide to keep going on your search.
  1. Second, expect things to slow down. Adjust your expectations. While it may usually take a week for a network contact to get back to you, adjust your expectations to the fact that during this busy holiday season, it make take two or three. Your contact is busy with the holidays too! But, he or she will return the e-mail or call, just a little later than usual.
  1. Third, remember that you are in sales. Sales people expect to make multiple follow-ups before making the sale, and so should you. Since job seeking is a sales activity – pure and simple – take ownership of the sale and realize that it is your job to follow-up with your contact, prospective employer, professional association, etc. So, be prepared to send another e-mail or two or three, or make additional phone calls. After all it is you who want something, not the other way round.
  1. Fourth, most importantly, adjust your attitude, or as we used to say “cool your jets!” If you are frustrated or angry or depressed, get a handle on your emotions. When you finally do connect, DO NOT display any negative emotions, or allude to your disappointment in “it taking so long to reach them.”
Displaying negativity will shorten your conversations with network contacts, and lessen your chances for being hired by employers. As a fellow Employment Manager said one day when we were talking about the hiring of new employees: “I don’t need to hire any new problems; I’ve got enough walking around here right now!”

The Temptations Abound: Dealing with the temptations of holiday job search
As we also said earlier in this article, there are a lot of things during the holiday season to divert your attention from your job search. . . .  if you let them. Shopping, buying presents, sending cards to people you can’t quite remember, fulfilling expectations and participating in traditions that take you away from your search.

Just say NO. Fulfilling holiday expectations others have set for you and have come to expect of you over the years can drain your energy, time, and limited funds.  So decide what is important to you in having a fulfilling and meaningful holiday and participate in those activities. You’ll enjoy your holidays and still keep your search on track!

Let’s take these deterrents one at a time and see how you can change your game plan to deal with them in a way that benefits you and your search.
  1. First and foremost, decide what holiday activities you are going to participate in, and what you are not. For those you choose to participate in, decide to what degree.  Make a list – It can help to see your plan laid out in black and white. Be intentional about this and commit to only those activities on your list. Whether limiting the number of holiday parties you attend, the travel you do to relatives and friends, the presents you buy, or the cards you send, be intentional about what you have the time, money, and energy to do. Set limits and don’t exceed them.
  1. Second, decide on the amount of money you can spend and will spend. Again, make a list. If you can’t afford to buy presents for all the nieces and nephews or travel to both sets of out-of-state parents, don’t. Negotiate new agreements with your relatives or friends on what you can be expected to do this holiday season. And you have the perfect excuse – you are in a job search, and funds are limited or scarce.
  1. Third, send greeting cards. Cull through your list of holiday cards you send and remove those names of folks who you can’t quite recall. However, for the most part, sending greeting cards is a good strategy. For the price of a stamp, you remain visible. Yes, you can send e-cards, but take advantage of this one time of the year where it is appropriate to be seen in a more personal way as you send a hand-written card.
    1. If you have a limited budget, be intentional about where you can maximize a return on your investment. For instance, send cards to everyone in your network, employers you may have made contact with, professionals you may have met cursorily at a presentation, headhunters or employment agency personal you may have contacted, etc..
    2. Make then generic: Select cards that say “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.”
    3. Include your business card.
    4. Personalize your greeting. Don’t just sign your name. Instead, say you enjoyed meeting them at the (be specific) meeting, or thank them for the benefit your derived from attending their presentation. Close by wishing them a “happy holiday and a wonderful new year!”
  1. Fourth, be intentional about how you dole out your time, and being a bit miserly with it won’t hurt. Sure you want to sit with family or friends and watch your favorite holiday movie or two, but set limits. Evening after evening spent watching all the holiday movies the Hallmark Channel has to offer doesn’t move you closer to your goal. Apprise family and friends (ahead of time) about your need to focus on your goal, and that you’ll be available to participate in these activities, but to a lesser degree than years past.
  1. Fifth, change those holiday traditions that make you crazy! Decide ahead of time what family and friend traditions, that cost you time, money, and energy, you will participate in.
    1. For instance, never liked going to Uncle Ben’s every Christmas Eve for dinner? Change the tradition!
    2. Always thought it was ridiculous to drive 80 miles to your parent’s for a holiday lunch and another 80 to your spouse’s parents? Don’t.
    3. Come to dread cooking and hosting the holiday dinner for 20? Stop it.
    4. As a person looking for a job, you have the perfect excuse to beg off of holiday events and activities that drain your resources . . . and that you may have wanted to change for some time. You can simply say: “I can’t afford it. As you know, I am in a job search this year, and I just don’t have the resources – the time, the money, or the energy – to participate this year!”
The Misunderstandings Abound: Dealing with the myths of holiday job search
As we also said earlier in this article, a lot of myth surrounds the holiday season when it comes to understanding employer hiring during the holiday season. Many job seekers simply believe, or come to believe, that hiring stops during the end of the year. This is not true. Hiring continues for many reasons, but as with other things during this season, it just slows down. But, keep on reaching out to employers and you just may be glad that you did.

Let’s, look at the two biggest myths surrounding holiday hiring.
  1. Myth #1: Employers don’t hire during the end of the year. Not true! My most poignant example of this is a client I worked with over the course of several months who received her offer of employment on the afternoon of December 24 – around 2:30 p.m.
    1. Sure, employers become busy with not only holiday-company events but end of the year tasks that must be accomplished before than can take their own holiday breaks. So hiring slows down.
    2. But, if they have open positions that are critical to performance in the new year, they may need to fill these before December 31. They are also concurrently looking ahead to the new year’s workload and staffing to fulfill expected workloads.
    3. So, keep contacting employers who have needs and/or open positions as well as following up on positions for which you have already applied or been interviewed for. It could mean an offer of employment for you . . .either this year or early in the new year.
  1. Myth #2: You can’t get employers to meet with you during the end of the year. Again, employers are people too and have their own holiday and work obligations, but don’t give up trying to connect with them. In fact, the holiday season may offer some advantages to those job seekers who keep on searching, as follows:
    1. Previously hard to reach folks (this is true of employers as well as network contacts) may actually have more time to meet with you during the holiday season – odd but true. Things slow down in companies during this time when employees begin to take time off. Without a full complement of team members in place, progress on work projects slows. So, a manager whose normal day may have been filled with meetings, may have holes in her or his schedule simply because colleagues are not there to meet. This may give him or her time to meet with you.
    2. The playing field opens up. Many of your fellow job seekers do drop out of the race during the holidays believing the myth that hiring does not take place during this time. As you know, that is NOT TRUE! The fact that the competition lessens can to your advantage.
    3. Your pipeline continues to flow. By maintaining momentum and visibility, you continue to uncover leads, ideas, and even opportunities to pursue.
    4. Network, Network, Network!  You know all those holidays events you're invited to -- family gatherings, neighborhood  holiday events, company parties, association holiday events, friend's open houses -- attend them all . . . business cards in-hand.  When asked "How are you doing?" inform everyone that you are in a search, and deliver an abbreviated version of your 'L'vator speech along with a business card.  Then, back at home, follow up with a holiday e-mail or hand-written holiday card.
    5. For an ongoing search: Follow-up can move the action forward. By following up with employers with whom you’ve made contact or interviewed, you may be able to move the action forward. Your pro-activity and seriousness may influence a recruiter or hiring manger to take your call, provide additional information, meet with you, or even interview or hire you! NOTE: Ensure your follow-up is polite and empathetic to the employer’s hectic end of the year activity, but do so. It can make all the difference.
    6. For a new search: Just gotten your search underway in the last month or so? Or just beginning one? Utilize this time to get a jump on the new year by planning your strategy, developing the needed marketing materials (of which a resume is only one), and networking with contacts as well as employers who may have some time to offer an informational interview. You’ll start the new year off on the right foot and with a jump on the competition who are just getting started.
The holidays may be the most dangerous time of the time for many job seekers who just give up on their searches but they don’t have to be. By adjusting your expectations, continuing to work at your search, and working smart, you can make the holidays an enjoyable time of year as well as a productive one for you search and your career.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Take Advantage of Fall Hiring Opportunities - 5 Steps to Take

Beginning a job search?

Reviving an abandoned search you started earlier this year?

Revving up a lagging, low-energy job search?

If you find yourself in any of the above situations, the time is right for you to be pro-active when it comes to your career.

Fall has arrived, and with it opportunities. . . .  So, for those who have been thinking about a career change, the time is right.  Because just as you get down to business so too do companies who use the autumn months to review their staffing needs.

Many employers utilize the last several months of the year to adjust their staffing requirements for the 4th quarter and the beginning of the new year.  Companies will review their current and anticipated business, including contracts, and the needs of both revenue-producing and support services departments for staffing needs.

Consider too that in areas of the country whose business environment includes an active government contracting sector, many firms choose to begin their new fiscal year October 1, in conjunction with the federal fiscal year.  Many companies begin hiring to staff contracts they have bid, either when awarded or in advance with contingent offers of employment.  So, if you are considering a job change, or career advancement, take advantage of the opportunities that the season of Fall brings.

Get down to work
3 Months to Go - Make them count!
If a new job or career advancement is a goal, get down to work in the remaining months of the year.   
1.   If a new job is on your mind, do some exploration and research of your target companies to discover current and potential opportunities. 
2.   If an expansion of your role is a career objective, do the same exploration.
3.   And, if you are seeking a career transition to a new type of job, locale, or industry, again, utilize these last three months of the year to make it happen, or to get a jump on a job  change in the new year.

However, as I’ve cautioned many job seekers, don’t start your job search “in the middle.”  Too often, job seekers, in their initial zeal and enthusiasm, begin their activity before they’re really ready to begin.  They wind up doing damage to themselves and their credibility.  Or, they jump back into a lagging or altogether dormant search without doing some analysis of their earlier activity and their marketing tools (resume, cover letters, marketing plan, etc.) to see what didn’t work or where they went wrong.

So, begin at the beginning.  Take some time to think about your job search objective and a strategy for achieving it, as well as preparing and/or analyzing your existing personal-professional marketing tools in order to begin or revive your job search.  To maximize opportunities offered this fall, take these pro-active 5 steps.

Step 1:  A focused, current, results-oriented and easy-to-read Resume  - Your most visible personal-professional marketing tool                                                         

·         Make sure your resume is focused and the information it contains is aligned with your goal. 
o   Too often, we see job seekers who want a certain type of position, but whose resume does not support their being considered as a serious contender for that type of position.  The result for the job seeker is a lot of submissions, with little or no response from hiring firms.

o   For example, consider an engineer who desires a managerial role.  If he or she does not show any type of “managerial” experience such as overseeing a project, leading a hands-on work team, or filling in as the “acting manager” when the boss is on leave, his or her resume will be put aside by the recruiter in favor of one that does.

·         Make sure your resume is current.  
o   Show your most recent position, with correct dates (years) of employment:  If you are still employed, you can state “To present.”  If you are no longer working for that employer, state the year in which you stopped working there.
o   Show recent professional activity.  If you are unemployed but have done contract or consulting work, overseen a project, taken a course, published a report or article, achieved a new certification, etc.  show this accomplishment(s)  on the top half of the front page of your resume.  If you are employed, show this activity in the resume section where it fits best (Career Summary, Education, Awards, Honors, etc.) 
o   Use current wording and jargon, i.e., Human Resources Director is  more current than Personnel Director, etc.

·         Show results to make a stronger argument for hiring you for a position.
o   Too often candidates for jobs write resumes that are simply a “laundry list” of duties; they show no results from performing those duties.  That resume will also be put aside by the recruiter in favor of a resume that shows not only the “duties” the job seeker performed, but what he or she accomplished by performing those duties.

·         Make your resume easy to read.
o   We still see resumes that contain paragraph after paragraph, and page after page of descriptions of projects a job seekers worked on or about companies they worked for.  Worse yet, they contain lots of industry or company-specific jargon, but they tell little about the job seeker, i.e., what they have done and or want to do.  In this case, a recruiter will put aside this resume in favor of one where the applicant mentions projects or companies only in the context of their role and what they achieved in performing that role.

Remember, and this is the crux of the matter:  The job of your resume is to get you through the employer’s door.  It does not get you hired; it just opens the door to further consideration. 

Its job is to get you into the competition for the position, promotion, or career transition to another department, level, or cross function.  So, it also needs to be strategic and future-oriented.  By that we mean that your resume needs to show that:
  •  Your goal is to work in the type of a position you are applying for (Shown in your Career Summary; no “objectives” are stated on resumes).
  •  You meet the requirements of the position (experiences shown), and 
  •  You can show results (called Accomplishment Statements) of you doing so.
Your resume needs to sell the recruiter and hiring manager on the fact that you can do the job, and you would be a good candidate to interview.

Step 2:  A focused and goal-oriented ‘L’vator speech  -  Your most frequently delivered  personal-professional marketing tool

The ‘L’vator speech is your most frequently delivered marketing tool because you will use it 1000s of times during your job search to answer the questions: “So what do you do?” or “What do you want to do?” Everyone from friends and neighbors to network contacts and interviewers will ask it of you. 

·         The job of the ‘L’vator speech is to get and keep the conversation going.  It needs to adequately tell the listener what you want to do and why they should listen to you, unlike a rambling response or unclear answer that can stop the conversation in its tracks.
o   If you found your previous networking conversations, casual conversations, or interviews non-productive, it may be that your ‘L’vator speech was ineffective.  You didn’t tell enough, or you told too much extraneous information.

·         Your ‘L’vator speech should provide a clear and to the point self-introduction that accurately and adequately conveys your expertise, attributes, and objective in less than 30 seconds.  It should tell your listener 4 things right off the bat:
1.      Who you are – name
2.      What you do - profession
3.      Your area of expertise
            (Add strengths in longer versions, as in an interview or networking meeting)
4.      What you want to do

Don’t wing it!
To be effective, your ‘L’vator speech should be planned and so well-practiced that it sounds like it just rolls off the tongue – not stilted or memorized.  It does triple duty:
     (1) As the answer to the question “What do you do?” in conversation;
     (2) As the basis for your Career Summary at the top of your resume; and
     (3) Amplified with strengths and skills in the mostly frequently asked interview question: “Tell me about yourself.”

Step 3:  A Networking Plan An ignored personal-professional marketing tool

Too often, job seekers or career changers think that “just talking to people” comprises networking.  It does not. 

Most effective, pro-active, and successful job seekers will tell you that they had a plan for their networking.  They devised their plan and then they worked it!  It was not happenstance or luck that led them to a key contact whose recommendation to a hiring manger made the hiring difference!

Networking is the name of the “job seeking” game.  It’s popularly said that well over 80% of opportunities come about via the “Hidden Market,” and I think it’s even higher.  The Hidden Market contains career opportunities that never, or at least not initially, see the light of day in public advertisements.  These are either (1) actual but unadvertised open positions, or (2) potential ones that are not yet created but for which a need exists.   The only way to access these opportunities is to work the Hidden Market via networking.

Plan your networking to be most effective when seeking a new position or role.
·         Create a written, comprehensive networking plan.  Yes, that’s right, a written plan of your contacts and referrals.  Your plan should identify the people in your network; don’t make the mistake of limiting it to professional contacts.  Your plan should include people from all sectors of your life, listed by sector, including professional contacts, service providers, organizations/associations, clubs and hobbies, friends and family, etc.

·         List those you know now, and expand it as you meet, interact with, and receive referrals to new contacts.
Your networking plan provides a path initially to meeting and meetings with interesting people,
and ultimately to a key contact who can connect you with opportunity.  Create, work, and consistently update your networking plan to uncover career opportunities. 

Step 4:  A Marketing Plan - A skipped personal-professional marketing tool

Don't approach the employment marketplace "helter-skelter."  It is an approach akin to spinning your wheels, i.e. moving fast and going nowhere!

Just as you did in Step 3, take the time up front in your search to develop a written plan to approach the employment marketplace.  It is called a "marketing plan” and I would venture to say is a step that is most often skipped by job seekers, to their detriment, because it is the tool that helps you keep it all straight.

How do you keep it all straight?
As your job search develops, there is a lot to keep track of:  So many companies!  So many people to contact!  So many meetings to attend and network.  It can be overwhelming, and job seekers ask: “How do you keep it all straight?” 

A Job Search Marketing Plan creates order out of chaos!  I have seen it happen for job seeker after job seeker. 
·         I have watched them go from being overwhelmed to feeling in control. 
·         I've seen chaos replaced by calm and order. 
·         I’ve seen “I don’t know where to start” replaced by “I know what to do next.”

What a marketing plan does is really simple. 
  First, it first identifies your competency areas, those areas of skill, knowledge, and abilities you possess and employers hire you for. 

  Second, it then identifies types of industries, and companies within those industries, that employ your competencies.

To create your own marketing plan, do the following:
1.      Identify and write down your areas of competency. 
a.       List up to 3 (1 or 2 is OK; more than 3 gets unwieldy) main areas of competency, skill, and knowledge for which you have been hired. 
b.      For example, an IT manager might list: Software design, leadership/management, and budgeting - 3 areas of skill and knowledge in which they excel and have demonstrated achievement.
2.      Identify industries that value and use your skills and experience.
3.      Identify companies within those industries, and research the companies for jobs and/or needs within those companies.
4.      Target and contact these companies for opportunities.

Step 5:  Manage your job search, or career advancement, project - A skipped step as job seekers forget that their job search is their own project to manage and control

Pro-actively manage your job search or career enhancement project as you would any important project.  Having done Steps 1 - 4, you are ready to step out into the employment marketplace and implement your search.

·         Your tools will help you plan daily and weekly activity, and keep you focused on your objective. 
·         Your networking and marketing plans will provide direction for daily and weekly “To Do’s” and keep you apprised when you need to follow-up and follow-through. 
·         You’ll feel organized and in control, and things will not “slip through the cracks.”

Note too that your personal professional marketing tools are viable tools that will change as you conduct your search.  Keep your tools current and updated as you gain information. 

Keep Your Eye on the Prize
By taking the steps described in this article, you do your utmost to ensure that you are working productively in a focused manner and keeping your eye on the prize!
  • You lessen the chance you will waste time, energy, and resources on activities that take you nowhere.  
  • You increase the chance that you will spend your time, energy, and resources on activities that lead to opportunities.

And, the big win: You raise the odds that you will have a new job or opportunity to celebrate in the coming months . . . and wouldn't that be great!

Wishing you much success in achieving your career goals,


Author’s note: There are many additional personal-professional marketing tools that should and will be developed by pro-active job seekers and career changers.  These include: Cover letters, annotated reference lists, portfolios, social media, including Linked In profile, Thank You letters, personal-professional websites, etc.  The tools described in this article are those that enable you to (1) begin your search in a productive way, (2) get you off on the right foot, (3) so that you don’t shoot yourself in the foot by providing mixed or incorrect messages about what you want to do and your ability to do it!


Monday, September 14, 2015

Lost Your Job? Hated It Anyway? . . . Don’t Throw Out the Baby With the Bath Water

When faced with a job loss, many job seekers feel mixed emotions.  On one hand, they fear the loss of their position and income.  On the other, if it was a job they disliked, or even “hated,” they feel relief at being let go and not having to go back to “that place” of employment one more day!

If you find yourself in this situation, know that it’s a pretty common phenomena and you have lots of company.  In fact, it’s on my list of FAQs; the question goes something like this:

Question:  “What do I do? . . .  I don’t know what I want to do.  I’ve recently lost my job and need to find a new one.  But I don’t want to do what I’ve been doing - I actually hated my job and was thinking about leaving anyway.  But, what do I do now?

Answer:  Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water
My short answer is this:  “Not so fast.  As you begin to think about finding a new job – because you feel you need one as soon as possible –  slow down.  While you may think you hated everything about your previous job and want to do something entirely different, that may not be the case at all.  So, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water! ”

First, let’s take a look at how the situation occurs.  When a job loss occurs, many job seekers I’ve worked with over the years decide this is the time to explore doing new and different things.  They recall forgotten dreams of “what I used to want to do” and begin to think about exploring those forgotten career desires. 

However, what actually happens in the vast majority of cases is that the job seeker finds and hires on to a job doing pretty much what they did in their recent position(s).  Why? 
        1.    For one thing, it’s the path of least resistance. 
        2.    For another, hiring practices come into play.

Hiring practices
When a company is looking for a candidate to fill a position, it is their goal to find the best fit possible.  Makes sense.  If a firm can find a candidate who meets close to 100% of their requirements, including being able to show good results or achievements, they’re hired.  Look at it from the company’s point of view:  Why take a chance and hire a job seeker who meets 60% or 70% of the requirements when they can hire a perfect fit. 

The result is that it’s hard to break into a new field once have you have experience and a track record in another field.  So, much as job seekers may want to branch out into something new and different, after searching for a while, most decide to continue doing what they’ve been doing . . . more or less.

However, a few succeed in using this opportunity to make a real career change.
  • A new career:  Some job seekers  –  a few but not the majority  –  successfully transition into a new career as in the illustration below.
    • Challenge: A client I worked with was an electrical engineer (E.E.).  After learning that his job was to be eliminated, he did some soul searching and decided he did not want to continue to work in this field.  His soul searching also uncovered the fact that he “never wanted to be an engineer;” his Dad had been an E.E. and he was expected to follow in the same path . . . which he had done.
    • Solution: My client did some deep thinking about what he “liked” to do and where he spent his time when not “engineering” things.  He discovered that what he spent all his free time on was refinishing and refurbishing antiques, as well as making reproductions of antiques.  He’d been doing it for years.  He did a lot of homework and established a small and successful antiques business.
  • A career change within the same field:  Far more who are successful at making a change do so by (1) staying in their field but (2) by changing what they do within their field, as illustrated by the example below.
    • Challenge: A client I worked with was both a successful proposal manager (and degreed E.E.).  After 20+ years of managing proposals, and missing holidays, family birthdays, Christmas, and vacations due to proposal deadlines, she’d had enough.  When her position was eliminated due to a downsizing, she also did some soul searching.  Her decision was to stay in the field she loved, but to pursue a new direction in the field as a trainer of software process certification.
    • Solution: My client did some research, including attending a training course by the foremost trainer at the time on this topic while she was unemployed.  It was a steep price tag, but she cleverly contacted the trainer and asked if she could assist with the logistics of the course in exchange for tuition.  To her surprise, he agreed!

      She learned from her course and additional research the requirements of the new field.  She looked into her own background and identified the skills, knowledge, and duties that met the requirements of a software certification trainer. These are called “transferable skills.”  The rest is history.  She found a position and still works in the field.

Are you in this situation? 
If you find yourself in this situation of needing to find a new job to replace a job which you hated, know that:
  • First, you are not alone.  You have lots of company.  Many employees find themselves in the situation of strongly disliking their job, needing to find a new one due to choice or circumstance, but feeling locked into doing that same type of job or work because they “don’t know how to do anything else.”
  • Second, recognize that there may be multiple solutions so that you are not condemned to a future of (1) doing a  job you hate or (2) staying unemployed.  You just have to find them!
Over the years, I’ve heard many clients say:   “I know what I DON'T want to do, but I don’t know what I DO want to do!” 
Don't make this mistake
And, that’s the first step.  Knowing what you don’t want to do is important, because it means you’ve gotten as far as identifying some of things that make you unhappy at work.  Capture those thoughts.  It can  prevent you from “jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.”  That’s half of the equation. 

But, what else do you do? 
The other half of the equation for finding work that you DO WANT TO DO and that makes you look forward to going to work  –  most of the time  –  is to recall the many things you’ve done during your career and life that did make you happy.  Then, do some critical thinking about what you enjoyed, and why.   It’ll take some work, but the outcome is worth it.

How to make a successful career change
Here's an exercise to identify what you do want to do, and prevent you from “jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.”  Follow these steps:

Step 1:    On a sheet of paper, draw a “T” chart.  Label one side of the chart “Dislikes” and the other side “Likes.” 

Step 2:    On the side labeled “Dislikes,” list things you KNOW you don’t want to do.
  • Jot down why you found performing these jobs, job duties, or tasks (from all walks of life such as hobbies, chores, volunteer activities, etc.) distasteful, unrewarding, and problematic.
  • Analyze the task or duty.  Ask yourself:
    1. Was it the entire task or duty that you disliked, or only certain aspects of it?
    2. Did you enjoy and have success performing the task or duty for another employer, as a volunteer, in a hobby, etc.  Again ask why?
    3. Watch your language, as a parent would admonish.  Language is powerful.  As you think through “dislikes,” ask yourself how you honestly felt about it:  Did you actually “hate” doing the task, or did you just “dislike” it or find it “moderately annoying?”
Step 3:     On the other side of your chart labeled “Likes,” list things you really enjoyed doing.
  • Identify job duties, tasks, activities, projects, etc. that you enjoyed and had success performing.
  • Analyze the task or duty.  Ask yourself:
    1. Was it the entire task or duty that you liked, or only certain aspects of it?
    2. Under what circumstances did you enjoy it, and ask yourself why?
    3. Again, watch your language.  Did you really “love” performing a task or “love a previous job,” or are you seeing that job or those duties through “rose colored glasses?”  Is your dislike of a recent position causing you to recall an earlier activity as more positive than it actually was?”  It may be that you did, and it may be that you didn’t.  Either way, this is important information to capture.
 Step 4:     Keep adding to your lists, as well as editing your lists as your recall of past events brings keener insights and begins to reveal a picture of you performing at your best.  This picture that is developing is a picture of your ideal work or job.  Summarize the duties and characteristics of your ideal job

Step 5:     Now find descriptions of positions that are advertised on jobs search engines, company websites, newsletters of organizations that host job fairs, and in employment sections of newspapers, trade association publications, etc.  Compare your summary of your ideal job to job descriptions that you see.  When you find a match(es) where you meet the majority of the requirements, you may have just found your ideal job.  Now brush up your resume . . . Focus and highlight those duties you enjoyed performing . . . and send it in!

Using this 5-Step process will take some time and effort.  Don’t expect to complete it in an afternoon.  It’ll take time, and you may find yourself refining your findings over several weeks as you collect information, analyze it, and research areas of the employment market that value and hire your skill set, outlook, and capabilities. 

Outcome - A job you’ll look forward to
It’s important to be realistic, and have realistic expectations.  There is no job so perfect that it comes with no minor annoyances.  However, for those who are willing to do the work of this exercise, the outcome can be that you find a job that is satisfying, and makes good use of your talent.  And, when Monday morning arrives, going to “that place” is something you look forward to! 
____________________________________________________________________________                AJC - for Your Career Path
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