Career Transitions

Stay engaged in your job search after an interview

I know it’s tempting…you’ve had a great interview and so you decide to wait on pursuing other job prospects until you receive word (of an expected job offer).

Even though that may seem to be a reasonable thing to do, it’s a bad idea and here are three reasons why:

  1. Waiting is deflating. If you put your search on hold, you’re likely to lose positive momentum, which is key to a successful outcome.

  2. You could lose a sense of control over your process if you count on someone else’s response to trigger next steps in your job search strategy.

  3. You may not be the top candidate. Even with an outstanding interview, you may lose out to another applicant and then you’ll feel like you’re back at square one.

So, move ahead with your job search strategy, in spite of great feedback and what seemed like a winning interview.

If you don’t hear back from your interviewer in the timeframe that was mentioned, check back in ten days or so.

Any hiring process can be delayed for dozens of reasons you can’t even imagine. So, don’t jump to conclusions about what’s actually going on as to why the search is delayed. It’s common to make up stories, but they are often negative ones and not in your best interest. Stick with the facts and keep your fears at bay.

Return to your contact list and make a few phone calls to arrange “strategic conversations” to stay in job search mode.

There’s a reason why the adage “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” has withstood the test of time. It particularly holds true when you’re in the job market.

The key element in a successful job search

Stop winging it with random networking emails or calls and posting and praying (your resume that is).

Start creating your strategy– and the practice of communicating your professional value – verbally, virtually and in writing.

I’ve found that many job seekers can pull off one of the above, but it’s rare that someone has their act together in all three ways of being strategic in their job search.

Here are tips for creating a winning strategy:

Verbally – Use talking points to practice conveying the following:

  • Your current status (keep it short and sweet—no lengthy explanation of why you’re leaving your job or much less about why you lost your job because you did not see eye to eye with the new leadership).

  • The skills and competencies you want to put to use in your next opportunity

  • An interest in the challenges your contact faces that require those skills and competencies

  • Advice about others with whom you should be meeting and a request for an introduction to someone

Virtually – You must be present in an effective way on Linkedin (90+% of people sourcing talent look there first)

  • Populate the key areas of your profile that pull on searches: your headline (which most people underuse with a job title rather than who you are in the marketplace and the impact you have) and a summary that tells a short story about who you are, what you do and why you do it.

  • Bring your profile to “expert” or “all star” status by making sure your profile is complete with recommendations, a photo, summary, a few groups and an appropriate headline next to your photo.

In Writing – People fret over cover letters, but it’s not necessary!

Use the job description as your guide and select the most pertinent (according to your skills and prospective employer needs) requirements. Then clearly state when you’ve demonstrated those requirements. Keep in mind that most employers have a check list that they use to screen applicants. Save them time by addressing the criteria clearly with good examples.

Take Charge of Your Career in Six Steps

There’s a trend I’ve noticed over the years as a career development professional. Somewhere in the 40s decade, people are often inclined to take action on their careers. It’s as though they feel an internal prompt, rather than an external motivator.

“I just fell into my career and I want to be more planful going forward. If it’s going to happen, it needs to be now.” That’s a common statement that the 40-something clients make.

If this describes you, then perhaps the following six steps will help you shift from a passive to a pro-active approach to your work life and career path.

  • Take stock of what you want from work in this stage of your life. Ask yourself if your competencies, interests and values are adequately met in your work and workplace. If not, then consider negotiating another arrangement or consider a job search to work that is more aligned.

  • Be mindful of your assumptions about what’s possible. Keep in mind what you want as outcomes, not what you fear.

  • Understand the professional value you bring to the marketplace and seek out opportunities to communicate it verbally (meetings, performance reviews), virtually (with a great LinkedIn profile) and in writing (effective emails, outstanding resume, crisp cover letters).

  • Create opportunities to increase your visibility with your clients, prospective clients or employer.

  • Stay current with best practices in your field and be innovative in presenting new ideas and practices. Be prepared to communicate your knowledge of trends in interviews or in professional conversations.

  • Consistently attend to your needs. Take time to replenish your energy so you’ll be in good shape to seize the next best opportunity.

How to keep your skills sharp when you’re unemployed

The national average for landing a new job is about eight months. How do you keep your momentum going and your skills fresh during this time of transition?

The first step is to identify the skills that are currently in demand for your target job(s) and determine the best way to build on or refine the competencies you already have. Don’t rely on your assumptions about what is required—find out the facts from those who are hiring.

Beyond the options of enrolling in classes at a local adult education program or university, there are other ways to stay on top of your game. Here are some examples:

  • Enroll in a certificate-yielding program in a university or college’s continuing education program

  • Explore seminars and workshops offered by your professional association, (they may offer a reduced rate or waive the registration fee altogether for unemployed individuals).

  • Hire a tutor to help you refine your second language skills or learn the in-demand software to update your computer skills.

  • Check out the local Career Center to determine what relevant workshops they offer.

  • Determine if you are eligible for “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act” (WIOA) funding for skills training through the Career Center for laid off workers

  • Regularly review events calendars for the Chambers of Commerce and local community organizations to see what they might be featuring for training.

Stay in touch with professionals in the fields you have targeted. They are the best source of current and accurate information about the skills and competencies needed to get the job done and, therefore, which ones to focus on in networking and during a job interview.

What happens when you take a leap of faith?

I’ve seen several clients recently who took a leap of faith around their work, so I decided the topic was blog material.

While in each scenario, the circumstances surrounding the leap were unique; each person experienced a similar outcome.

Take for example, the person who, after many years as a master teacher, quit teaching, even though he did not have a specific job or even a concrete alternative option in mind.

Another, after a dozen years as a “stay at home mom”, took a business idea seriously and enrolled in a course to help aspiring entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.

A third person altered his original “three year plan” of disengaging himself from his family business and decided to leave in a year without any guarantees that his idea to reinvent himself would be successful.

Despite totally different career paths, marketable skills and economic backgrounds, these people had some significant factors in common in their leap of faith stories.

  1. Each had been involved in a long term work scenario that, although not entirely satisfying, was
    comfortable and secure in its own way.

  2. None of the individuals was being forced into a change by external circumstances—the impetus
    was entirely self-driven.

  3. And most interesting to me was that they all experienced a rush of unanticipated support from
    a wide range of places and people once they began to talk about their idea. From offers of
    places to rent for a new business and chance encounters with people with appropriate resources
    and information, to a conversation with a relative that lead to the naming of the
    business—each person felt overwhelmed by the amount of positive energy that their leap of
    faith seemed to release.

The phenomenon of a convergence of helpful resources that counters a somewhat risky endeavor is not new to me. In fact, it’s very common for a person to come in for a career counseling session, identify something they are particularly interested in, and also state why it is a risk.

They create an impasse in their minds and stay in that stuck place. In the instances when the person tips the scale in their thinking in favor of the leap of faith, it doesn’t mean the fear has vanished—it’s just that they have decide to move ahead in spite of it.

In the latter case, I help the person take a few steps toward their desired career to determine if the direction seems right and to gather some momentum for the transition.

A couple weeks later, I’m always delighted to hear a familiar opening remark when the person comes in for a follow-up session: “You won’t believe what happened!”
Then their story unfolds and I hear myriad examples of how their leap of faith idea took on a life of its own and gathered supporters in the process.

After many years witnessing this phenomenon through clients’ stories, I’ve come to believe that there are rewards for taking a leap of faith risk. It would seem that Eleanor Roosevelt had a premonition of these positive outcomes when she said: “Do the thing you think you can not.”

How to shift your fears in any transition

The fear of the unknown that’s inherent in any transition can take its toll on even 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 reflect our fears and impact our hearts and minds.

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear clients expressing trepidation about their career change that’s based entirely on what they fear will happen, as opposed to what they hope will occur.

Any transition involves facing the unknown and that typically triggers anxiety.

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, and has you “pull in the wagons of your life” in anticipation of some threatening outcome.

When you consciously think about what you desire, you create an effective alternative to the scenarios that typically make you want to hide under your bed covers.

I’m not suggesting that you just “think happy thoughts”, but rather, that you focus your attention, breathe, and get 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 doing so, 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.

What’s your purpose?

Research shows that it increases with age—your desire for a sense of purpose, that is.

I see this desire unfolding with my boomer clients who, after 25+ years in a particular profession, want to explore a different path—one with a focus on making a contribution to their community, whether local or global, paid or unpaid.

They seek my help with defining what they have to offer and identifying a meaningful match in the world.

It’s often a particular cause that anchors their quest—something to which they devoted time as a volunteer, one that touched their lives or a loved one’s in a significant way, or even an inexplicable curiosity that persisted through the years.

Take Janice for example. After 28 years in the insurance industry, she longed for an adventure that would take her far from her native New England. But what would she do and how could she make it happen?

I encouraged her to focus on “what”, rather than “how” since the latter often derails a quest if considered too early in the discovery process.

Janice had a longstanding curiosity with orphanages. Her interest seemed out of the blue since she was not an orphan, nor did she know any children who had lost both parents. Yet, she literally had reoccurring dreams of visiting orphanages in some remote part of the world.

Janice decided to finally give this interest some attention. The more she explored, the more she was drawn into the world of foreign orphanages. Eventually, she settled on one in Southeast Asia that accepted volunteers and she made a plan to pursue her calling.

Of course, not all quests for purpose take people to far ends of the Earth.

What’s important is to know that your “purpose quest” is both an inner discovery that addresses the question “What do I have/want to offer?” and an outer exploration that results in an opportunity that meets a need and adds meaning to your life.

Eight Tips to Increase Your Professional Value

If you’re typical, you may have difficulty recognizing what you do well. In fact, if a skill comes easily to you, you probably take it for granted. The mindset diminishes the impact you have on your work and work environment. Here are tips that might help you reconsider your strengths and contributions.   

  1. Be vigilant to your highest values and priorities and boldly live them! Align your life between what you believe and value and what you do.

  2. Increase your visibility to your clients, customers, colleagues and people to whom you report. Understand the value you add and don’t be shy about it.

  3. Regularly take stock of what you want from your work. Annually assess if your interests and values are being adequately met in your current work. If not, negotiate another role, or consider alternatives in the marketplace.

  4. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect best practices for presenting your professional self. If it’s been a while since you’ve done this, consider meeting with a career counselor who knows effective strategies.

  5. Clearly and concisely communicate your competencies backed up with results-focused examples of when you’ve demonstrated them.

  6. Be mindful of your assumptions about what is possible. Keep in mind the outcomes you want, rather than those you fear might occur.

  7. Stay current with best practices in your field. Be prepared to communicate your knowledge of trends at professional meetings and networking events.

  8. Take good care of yourself. Make time to replenish your energy so you’ll be in good shape to recognize and pursue the next best opportunity.

May you value and celebrate your contributions in the New Year!