Category Archives: career changers

10 tips for Career Changers

Career Changers

Career Changers-  Is your blanket in the drier?

Career Changers are often nervous and apologetic for being uncertain about not knowing exactly they want to do.

What they usually do know and are very certain about is what they don’t want to do.

As Marilyn Ferguson says ” . . It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.”

Planning

Being in transition is fine, if it’s part of a strategic plan to research and review options. If there is no plan then that’s drifting and dreaming.  The possibility of ending up on a career path which is not right, is high. Many career changers expect a “eureka” moment of enlightenment, but mostly the right opportunities come about as a result of a high level of painstaking  methodical research and detailed planning towards a specific goal, or even goals. And then making a considered choice. This becomes more confusing when we are all exhorted to reach  for our passions. What if our passions don’t pay the bills?

Here are  10 things to consider

  • Create a strategy:   Recognising that you want to change is easy. Creating a structure to support that change is more challenging, particularly if there are time pressure issues of being in full-time employment. Set up step by step plan, allocating time to cover even small parts of the process.
  • Hating your current job:  Many career changers claim to hate their current jobs,  but care has to be taken to examine what that involves – exactly. Is it the company,  the team, the boss or the location that are irksome? Is it boring and if so why? Also examine not just the downsides,  but the positive aspects as well.
  • Research:   this is time-consuming but critical and it is vital to be thorough.  Talk to your network,  research online or set up informational interviews about new functions, sectors or companies. Make a generous time allocation for this exercise.
  •  SWOT analysis:  Identifying strengths and weakness and having a profound understanding of  transferable skills is essential to this process. This requires a high level of introspection and one which many struggle with. Get professional support if that would help.
  • Acquiring skills :  a direct outcome  of this exercise establishes if there is a skill set deficit. Identify what you are missing and establish if the gap can be filled with volunteering, temping, an internship, or even taking a training course before making a decision to resign.
  • Strategic positioning:   when was the last time you looked for a job?   The last 5 years have seen dramatic changes in the job search and recruitment sector. How up to date are you? Bring yourself up to speed.
  •  Feeling underpaid, under-valued and overworked. Many career changers feel the grass is greener elsewhere and are attracted by high salaries and super benefits.  Envy of friends or peers can also be a strong motivator.  The saying ” no such thing as a free lunch” very often  applies. There is a reason why the office has a taxi policy after 2100,  or showers and a gym on the premises.  It’s because they are used, usually frequently. Sometimes our friends don’t paint an accurate picture of their own situations.
  •  To please others:  partners, family  and friends can be hugely influential in determining career choice.  Consider their motives before deciding.  Do they want what’s best for you – or themselves?
  • Create a new network:   as well as tapping into your existing network reach out and make connections in your target sector, company or function. Alumni networks, professional groups, online platforms are all good sources to extend your network.
  • Find a mentor:  having someone who will support and offer neutral input can be hugely useful to career changers.
Transition is good - but you need a plan!

Transition is good – but you need a plan!

Career changers: 30 minute daily strategy

Can you afford not to?

For anyone embarking on a job search related to career change and developing what is now called a “personal brand” for the first time, I outline the steps and options involved using social networking. As I do so, I am always aware of two things. Faces turning ashen with panic and then groaning, as clients,  whether individually or in groups, mentally try to calculate how much time this process is going to take out of their already busy day. There is a reason it’s called net “working” (not net “vacationing”).  It is indeed a lot of work, it does take time and much of it is doing stuff people have never heard of before  (and wouldn’t choose to do if they had!) .

Authenticity
Today,  job search is personal, flexible and strategic. Sadly there is no template or blue print which can be reproduced, although guidelines can be given.  What works for one individual, will not work or sound authentic for another. The whole point of it is also to be unique and stand out, not to be a clone of your neighbour.  The learning process is  intuitive,  as we move away from the old style rigid approach. This does indeed makes life far harder for any job seeker today and it is time-consuming. However,  authenticity is key,   which is why we have to run, stroll or even crawl,  the hard yards for ourselves.

Strategic alliances
As recessionary thinking starts to hit us again after a very brief interlude of optimism,  the job market looks set to shrink.  Economic downturns touch even the brightest and the best. It’s imperative that developing a  personal brand  and raising visibility becomes a daily part of all job seekers’ routines –  before there is a crisis.  Social networking is a great way to supplement and enhance actual networking,  although ( and I stress)  not a substitute for it.

Simple basics
—Select a primary platform  – for most people this should be a professional network   (e.g. LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing)  to showcase career success stories and background. The largest English language one is LinkedIn for and anyone seeking a career in an international arena,  I would always advise a profile placed on this platform. — As a minimum I would suggest the following activity:

  • Send out 1 update daily to develop your reputation. If you have a blog so much the better,  otherwise any nugget of information that could be interesting taken from the press or other media related to your new function/sector. Twitter is a good source.
  • Post 1 comment in a LinkedIn group related to your target career.
  • Indentify and connect with 5- 10 new connections in your target sector – preferably ones you hope to meet in person.
  • Research companies in your target sector.

Connect with other platforms  – extend your reach via Twitter and Facebook which are becoming fast growing global job boards as the Like, Share and Tweet functions become a quick way to circulate job information. Employers are also strengthening their Employer brand on these platforms and offer increasing opportunities to inform and connect with job seekers. Trend spotters are suggesting that these 2 platforms will change the job search  landscape in 2012.   Although their figures are US-based, Europe is  usually only a few steps behind. Get ahead of the game. Even a British spy agency is seeking code-crackers via Twitter and Facebook.

  • Post content via Twitter.
  • Share content from others ( RT).
  • Comment on or “Like ” a blog or LinkedIn update.
  • Post an update or a note on Facebook.
  • Locate followers and friends that might be helpful to you.
  • Pay it forward  – share any new updates with your peers or other job seekers in your network.
  • Partially automate when you are busy. Bufferapp hits Twitter and Facebook. I would advise not to over do it  – engagement is key.
  • Filter out the white noise of LinkedIn updates using LinkedIn signal 

—One of the advantages of Social Networking is that it’s self scheduling  – so any of this can be fitted  around other activities and in a piece meal fashion. It’s a question of carving out 10 minutes of time, 3 times a day which may make a difference. Yes, initially it might take longer, but as skills are honed and knowledge acquired,  it can be whittled down to become  rapid fire productivity. Eventually you will think in terms of the time this is saving you.

 The real question is perhaps not if can you afford the time,  but can you afford the risk of not allocating those key minutes, in the current economic climate? If you don’t take time to plan now,  you may find you have  more leisure than you planned for  to live with the consequences.

Funky or Functional? The USP dilemma

Like a string of pearls your skills will be threaded through your life experiences and serve to make you unique

Creating an effective USP ( Unique Selling Proposition ) is key for any job seeker or career  changer. It a major, invaluable tool in the job search tool box and will serve as a basis for:

  • One sentence bio either written or oral
  • Your online professional profile tagline ( 100 characters on LinkedIn)
  • Any introduction (occasion appropriate!)
  • Telephone message
  • Twitter profile ( 160 characters)
  • Job fair pitch  (  MBA, entry-level)

Tough
Dreaming  this up is an agonising process for most of us.  We struggle to find a balance between finding something that is authentic, words that don’t sound fake, crass and pushy,  using keywords for online effectiveness,  but at the same time something that can be delivered verbally,  while conveying a benefit, in an occasion appropriate way. What might sound great in a networking meeting could clear a bar in seconds.  On top of this, we want to sound unique.  It’s really tough. How do we differentiate ourselves from  the thousands of  highly qualified  professionals, entry-level or MBA candidates who might be on the job market?

The following questions need to be addressed:

  • Who are you?
  • What  makes you special?
  • Where and how do you add value?

To achieve this, there is no way of getting around the basic career management and strategy tool of identifying transferable skills and gaining self insight.  I use the CARS method  ( Challenges, Actions, Results,  Skills)  also known as STAR.  I am always astounded by the number of individuals who actually try to create a career strategy without going through this process. But like a string of pearls, your skills and qualities will be threaded through your experiences and serve to make you unique. Tie these into you passion, vision, values and goals for an overall picture of what is YOUR critical make-up  Sadly, there are no short cuts and those that try to do just that, eventually become unstuck.   This means if individuals don’t know who they are and what they’re good at, how can they expect anyone else to know?

Funky or functional?
Some have a gift for personal insight and seem to produce the right words which reflect their personalities: ”  dedicated business development ninja” ,   “Pharma Research funketeer ,  successfully combines science ( PhD), business ( MBA) and innovation “,    “IT Solutions consultant,  marries the achievable with the sublime.

Keywords
Others are more cautious about being bold with creative vocabulary. They also have a point,  as keywords in this part of  their online profiles generally carry a higher SEO.  Many frequently use a job title or student status, whether because they understand this, or they are simply less creative  – who knows. This is fine of course, but  clearly not unique. It is therefore a good idea to add one or 2 keywords to your jazzy content,  perhaps academic qualifications  ( PhD, MBA) ,  any certifications  (CPA, CIPD, LLM )  or sector titles  (business development, pharma research,  IT solutions).

Career Changers
Career changers can reference a previous career with a target role, function or sector   ”  Dedicated business  development ninja (Exec MBA)  aspiring to leadership role ”  , “IT Solutions delivery expert,  marries achievable & sublime,  passionate about  sustainable energy”,   “Pharma Research funketeer (PhD), business minded ( MBA)  innovative and creative, transitioning to marketing “.    

Organic
Generally, arriving at this short sentence takes a lot of thought and juggling with vocabulary. Research on LinkedIn and check out other headlines.    No one else can do it for you but getting feedback is always helpful. Do others perceive you in the same way as you perceive yourself?  Don’t be afraid to change and play around with your results until you get something you are totally comfortable with, provided of course  that you are not constantly changing your key message, tweaking is fine. It’s an organic process and nothing is set in stone. That is the beauty and a superb advantage of online content, it supports intuitive learning.

But don’t forget, it’s not enough to identify, create and articulate your key message – you have to promote it too.