Career Transitions

How To Recognize the Value You Bring - by David Lee

Two of the most common challenges I see job seekers and career changers struggle with is identifying their skills and abilities, and translating them into a job or career that works for them.

Why It's So Hard To Name What You Do Well

It’s natural for you to take for granted the things you're able to do easily, because you assume it must be easy for everyone since it is for you. You forget that what’s easy for one person is not easy for another.

Tip: Flip this point of view. Examine what comes most easily to you. These could be your "super powers": your unique strengths, talents, and skills with which you provide the most value to any employer, and differentiate you from other job candidates.

Analyze Your Work Experience Carefully For Your Key Competencies

Tip: While there are a number of tools and techniques for getting clear on this, the following recommendations should help you identify your particular marketable skills:

  • Make a list of your primary tasks and accomplishments for each of your work or volunteer experiences.

  • Focus your attention on those: 1) you excelled at 2) enjoyed doing 3) for which you received external positive feedback 4) that provided the most value to your employer.

  • Since people can sometimes see you more clearly than you can see yourself…Ask people who know you best—preferably in a work context: “When have you seen me at my best and why was it at my best?” and “What key skills and attributes did I demonstrate?” 

  • Do an internet search for “Transferable Skills Checklist” and download 2-3 different ones. Pick the one you find the most useful and use it to identify the transferable skills you demonstrated in your tasks and accomplishments exercise.

  • Come up with examples of when you have demonstrated these skills. Keep a list of these examples because you will want to share them with any prospective employer.

Now That You Have Your List of Marketable Skills and Stories To Illustrate Them, What's Next?

Practice telling your stories to friends, a career coach, or into a recorder. Get feedback on whether they are clear, concise, and compelling, and if not, what you need to do to make them so.

Now you’re set to have strategic conversations with people who can help you transition to new work. You'll be able to communicate what you bring to the marketplace and cite examples.

Will Spring Herald A New Beginning? by Barbara Babkirk

If so, then keep in mind that any transition calls for a significant level of trust. A fear of the unknown that’s inherent in any transition can take its toll even on the most courageous.

There’s just something about a blank slate of possibilities that prompts creative minds to conjure up lists of “what if” scenarios—most of which elicit fear.

Our clients consistently express nervousness about their career changes that is based entirely on what they fear will happen, as opposed to what they hope will occur. In some instances, that is because they want to feel prepared for the worse case scenario. But, the cost of this focus can hinder positive movement in the change process.

Any transition involves facing the unknown and that typically triggers anxiety. So what do you do instead of getting stressed out in a transition?

  • While you may believe that your negative projection into the future is necessary to feel prepared for anything that might occur, it actually works against you. 

  • This often spontaneous and habitual thought process is a waste of time, energy and attention because it is likely to interrupt your momentum or stop you in your tracks.

  • Successfully maneuvering through a transition requires nimbleness and openness to possibilities. Fear elicits the opposite in anticipation of some threatening outcome.

  • Consciously thinking about what you desire is an effective alternative to the scenarios that typically make you want to pull the blanket over your head.

  • I’m not suggesting that you just “think happy thoughts”, but rather, that you become clear about the intention and desired outcome(s) for your transition.

While you cannot control all aspects of any change, you can control your thinking and your response to your transition. In so doing, you will shift your attention from what you don’t want to occur to more appealing prospects. With this shift to a more trusting mindset, you should feel calmer and more able to move forward and complete the tasks that will make you successful.

"As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live." - Goethe

Your Path to a Purposeful Retirement by Barbara Babkirk

With an expectation to live 30 more years than the previous generation, baby boomers are heralding a “longevity revolution” that will invite increased options to fill the extended years of life. With these “dividend years” in mind, over 70% expect to work well beyond their parent’s transition to a strictly leisure-focused life.

The Mature Market Institute, MetLife’s organization that provides research on issues of aging, released a leading-edge study—Discovering What Matters: Balancing Money, Medicine and Meaning. The study explored the role that purpose plays in the lives of people over 50. As the study states, “…for most people, their primary goal is not financial freedom or good health, or even free time—it is to have purpose and meaning in their lives.”

Since today’s boomers nearing an end to their primary careers lack models to emulate, their task of creating meaningful options for themselves is challenging.

With the desire for purpose being central to the next chapter, boomers might consider asking these simple questions for further clarification of goals and plans:

  1. What is the significance of this stage of my life? What would give it more meaning?

  2. What are the primary skills, competencies and talents that I’d like to offer at this time?

  3. Where in the world is there a match between my skills and what would give me a sense of meaning and provide an opportunity to leave a legacy?

  4. What topics and issues engage me?

  5. What might I do next to investigate possible options?

There’s a new way to retire these days. It might be going back to school to develop new competencies, spearheading a community-based initiative, or serving as a mentor or advisor in your career field.

Taking time to consider ideas, possibilities, and changes that are aligned with priorities and talents can create a whole new sense of purpose and fulfillment for your next stage of life.

Heart At Work Associates, a career and outplacement firm in Portland, Maine has developed an innovative initiative called “The Boomer Institute”. This program, scheduled to begin this year, is a unique matching between talented and experienced boomers and opportunities with Maine employers. Consider signing up to be the first to know when it launches.

Do you negotiate a job offer?

Are you among the 49% of Americans who never ask for more than what is offered, despite the fact that 45% of employers fully expect to negotiate a job offer? (By the way, more women than men accept what’s initially offered without any negotiation.)

Compensation has been a lively topic of conversation with clients recently—some of whom have received multiple job offers. That’s a good sign for the Maine economy, as well as a statement about how well prepared our clients are for the marketplace.

We often encourage our clients to negotiate an offer and request additional compensation and/or benefits. This is always based on two factors: the value they bring to the organization and what the marketplace is paying for similar positions.

When done well, the negotiation results in a win-win for the candidate and the employer.

Take Janice for example–a Pharmacist with a recent Doctoral degree and considerable experience. Her colleague encouraged her to apply for a position at a progressive pharmacy that stressed consultative services to customers—right in line with her preference and skill set. But, the new salary offer came in lower than what she had been earning, and she was told that the base salary was the maximum for this position.

After communicating the value she would bring to this new position and her disappointment with the compensation, Janice was offered a generous sign-on bonus and an increase in her bonus structure over time. Janice accepted and the company was thrilled to have her join the team.

Research shows that if you feel in control of your life and believe you can make things happen, (as opposed to believing that others control your circumstances) you are more likely to ask for what you want, and, therefore, influence the outcome.

However, if you believe your fate is in someone else’s hands, you may not even imagine there are options other than those presented to you.

Follow these tips and negotiate the compensation you deserve:

1: Think about what you really want and the value you’ll deliver, not just what you assume is possible.

2: Articulate your professional value as a rationale for your request.

3:   Know what the marketplace pays for your position by doing research online and locally ( as further justification for any increase.

4:   Request a meeting to review your job offer. Express appreciation for and interest in the offer before you present your counter-offer. Keep in mind that vacation time, a flexible work schedule, additional time without pay, and other benefits, can all be part of your final negotiation.

Will You Be a “Working Retiree”? by Barbara Babkirk

A recent study from Merrill Lynch determined that nearly three out of five retirees will launch a new work chapter after they retire from primary careers.

The term “working retiree” may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s a new reality that is here to stay. It’s projected to have a significant impact on the marketplace due to low population growth and high talent needs.

If you’re wondering why this shift in retirement mindset is coming about after just one generation, think about the characteristics of this baby boomer demographic:

  • best educated in history

  • commitment to lifelong learning

  • healthy lifestyles and

  • desire to make a difference (think sit-ins and demonstrations of the 70’s)

But, not all boomers who want to work after retirement share the same reasons or priorities around work. Ken Dychtwald, gerontologist, author and expert on aging issues, has identified four “core profiles” of today’s working retirees:

  1. Driven Achievers (15%) who have consistent derived their identity from work and continue to be driven to achieve

  2. Caring Contributors (33%) who are motivated to give back and make a difference in the latter part of their lives

  3. Life Balancers (25%) who see work at this time of their lives as fitting into larger priorities and want work to be fairly stress-free and fun

  4. Earnest Earners (28%) who need to work to meet financial obligations, whether or not they want to continue working. Since a significant number of boomers have not adequately saved for retirement, this group is predicted to grow.

If you’re among the significant number of retirees who leave work and after 6 to 18 months, miss the structure, camaraderie, or sense of purpose, then you may be joining the emerging group of working retirees.

Identifying your “core profile” from Dychtwald’s list as well as knowing what is motivating you in this next life phase, is essential to forging a successful path.

Discover who you were meant to be - Barbara Babkirk

I was organizing a bookshelf recently and came across an article by author and activist, Parker Palmer, titled “Now I Become Myself.

I took time out from the task at hand to read my newfound treasure. While I believe I had read it before, the article had particular relevancy on this day because of a career counseling client with whom I had just met.

Palmer wrote that we spend the first half of our lives abandoning our essential talents and true nature in quests for approval and ill-fated attempts to establish ourselves in the world.

The sense of a “lost self” increases with age and reveals itself in career and work choices that don’t align with who we are meant to be. That could certainly contribute to the current high incidence of dissatisfaction in the workplace.

It is predictably at midlife and beyond that we find this discrepancy unacceptable and set out to reclaim “the person we’ve always been.”

The serendipity of my finding Palmer’s piece just after meeting with a 42 year old client was uncanny. Jen, as I’ll name her, had just come in stating that, after spending decades in the workforce just “falling into jobs”; she was now excited to take charge of her career.

She was ready to do the work of retracing her life’s path and recognize the truths about herself that would inform new options for her work in the world.

In making connections beyond the obvious about what we’ve done and who we are, we uncover gems that reflect true facets of ourselves.

These treasures can provide precious clues that reveal who we are meant to be and broaden how we see ourselves in the world.

What to do about your job search during the Holidays

The Holiday season is here and you’re exploring job opportunities. Do you put your efforts on hold, or carry on? While conventional wisdom may say: “Chill out, no one is hiring in December because budgets are spent.” We have a different perspective at Heart At Work.

Just think about all the people you see only once a year at Holiday events, plus all the new people you might meet who may be great connectors to your next employment opportunity.

However, if you are not clear about your career direction or job target, you might cringe at the thought of people asking what you’re are up to, or worse still, what you want to do.

Once you’re prepared for the inevitable question, you’ll be set to welcome informal conversations and offers of help for your transition. If someone suggests a contact and says, “use my name”, know that this approach rarely works.

You’ll need to then say “Thanks! Would you please make an email introduction for me and I’ll take it from there?” Then you can be certain that the email will not end up in spam or the trash since it came someone known to them.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years can be a particularly effective time to expand your network. With many executives curtailing work travel schedules to make themselves available for end-of-the-year planning and office events, you may have easier access to decision makers at this time.

With an attitude of “anything is possible”, and a challenge to your assumptions about this time of year, you may find yourself in a prime position of opportunity and even a new job to celebrate in the New Year.

Signs You May Need A Career Counselor… And How To Choose One

Few would argue that there are times when it’s best to seek out a specialist about your health. The same can be true when your career needs a check up or a serious intervention.

Since this decision involves both time and money, and can have a significant impact on your career path, it’s important to know what to consider in selecting a career counselor.

  • What exactly is career counseling?

  • How do you go about choosing a professional?

  • What can you expect?

Career counseling is a well-established profession with its origins dating back to the industrial revolution when jobs on farms were shrinking and new technologies were increasing. The demand for workers was an incentive for veterans returning from WWI. But, they needed guidance from career counselors to help them understand the marketplace, find training and secure jobs.

Credentials for career counselors vary from state to state. In Maine, a license is not necessary to practice, although a Master’s Degree in Counseling is one indicator of a professional’s level of expertise.

If you are considering a career counselor, determine if they meet most of the following criteria:

  • Earned Master’s Degree in Counseling or Career Development or a recognized Coaching Certificate with a specialty in Career Coaching.

  • A record of success helping individuals reach their career goals and a process they can explain to you

  • Ability to guide you through a process of determining what you want to do next (if you are not certain you want to continue in your field)

  • Expert knowledge of the job search process and the most effective strategies for securing employment (including proven expertise in Linkedin as a way to leverage contacts as well as present your professional persona)

  • Current knowledge of the local marketplace, including salary information

  • Ability to assist with relevant connections and introductions to people in your target area

Here are examples of situations that warrant a career counselor:

  • Bored with your career with an increasing lack motivation to go to work

  • Have been out of the workforce to raise your family or care for a family member and you’re unclear about your marketable skills

  • Want to raise the bar on your career and need a strategy to do this effectively

  • Have lost your job due to restructuring and want to assess your career direction

  • Have just graduated from college and need help launching a career

  • Want to be ready for the next professional opportunity and need a new resume, Linkedin profile and a clear way of communicating your value

  • Anticipate retiring in 3-5 years and want to begin to think about your life and work in this phase of life

  • Have retired from a primary career, took some time off, and now need a renewed sense of purpose in your life

Career counselors typically meet with clients in person. They may charge an hourly fee for each session, or they may ask you to commit up front to a group of sessions.

Do your research: check out their Linkedin profile, company website, education and experience. Request a brief phone conversation to consider their approach and note how well they listen and seem to understand your situation and needs.

Trust your intuition as well as the specific information you learn and choose wisely, since this relationship could impact the rest of your life.

A Triple Win Strategy to Attract & Retain Your Best Candidates

Job opportunities for the spouse or partner of prospective new hires have increasingly become key to their successful recruitment and retention.

I see this in my business as I’m regularly asked by employers to propose options for effective transition services for “trailing spouses/partners” as a way to win over a prospective candidate.

That should not be surprising given the findings of two major U.S. research institutions that concluded that “partner employment” ranked in the top two considerations of candidates evaluating job offers (among 15 other factors, including salary).

With such high numbers of two income households in our country, it’s more than likely that a relocation candidate has to consider not only his or her own career, but also a spouse’s or partner’s work opportunities in the new location.

Sustaining a certain level of income is often a primary concern of dual-career couples as they consider relocating. When income replacement is a deciding factor, it may not only affect whether or not the candidate accepts an offer, but how long they may stay. No employer likes to loose a newly hired employee because their spouse or partner couldn’t find work.

It stands to reason that employers who consistently offer trailing spouse/partner assistance would attract and retain their top candidates.

So what can make a trailing spouse/partner program a win/win for the employer, prospective candidate and their spouse or partner?

  • A well-defined and easy-to-navigate program that reflects best practice strategies for securing employment.

  • Partnering with a local firm with established Maine contacts and relationships to introduce to the spouse/partner.

  • Engaging career counseling experts to help spouses/partners explore how their skills & experience align with new career opportunities–because, depending on the career field, building careers in Maine sometimes requires creativity and insight.

A final step should be to track the success of the trailing spouse/partner career transition program over time.

Feeling stuck in your career? Try these steps.

What’s on your career “to do” list that you keep putting off?

Is it updating a resume that’s ten years old? Sending an email to a colleague to ask for introductions? Attending a professional meeting and risk having to tell someone you’re not working or unhappy with your current job?

While it may seem that these tasks are benignly hanging out on a list, they are, in fact, zapping your energy just by being in queue along with other obligations.

When you postpone some action you need to take, you’re not really free from it because it will occupy your thoughts until you act on it.

Completing the task may be simpler than you imagine.

Typically, procrastination is not rooted in poor time management or lack of discipline, but rather, in how we’re framing the action we need to take.

For example, if you need to tap contacts in your career field, but aren’t sure what to say, you might convince yourself that no one will want to help you. With that mindset, there’s no use in making the effort—and so you don’t.

Or, you might need to update your resume or improve your a LinkedIn profile, but you’re unaware of current best practice or how to convey your professional value. So, you make up a story that you’re not really employable which zaps any motivation to move forward.

The following five steps can help you shift from inaction to action and empower you to take charge of your career:

  1. Recognize the career-related task/s you are delaying.

  2. Be honest with yourself about what’s behind your inaction. Is it fear or a lack of knowledge that is keeping you stalled?

  3. Sort out the facts from what you’ve assumed or made up. Do a reality check and/or ask for some help about how to proceed.

  4. Break the task down into manageable steps with adequate timeframes for completion.

  5. Seek help from a professional if you need facts and help getting started and moving forward.