What does it take to move forward when it’s time for a career transition or transformation? Mostly, it takes discovery, courage and endurance. In this blog, I will be revealing quite a bit about what I have learned over the past twenty-five years in my practice. You will learn about three career transition essentials, and what each calls us to do. I will also be referencing many of my prior blogs to help you prepare for what lies ahead.
Begin by looking backwards. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life is lived forward, but understood backwards.” What has your history taught you about who you are and what you are doing when you are at your best? Start with the exercise I describe in my June 2012 blog. Aristotle defined “calling” as the intersection of our talents (preferred skills, knowledge and interests) and the needs of the world. Do the exercise described in my June blog, even thought it will likely take you several hours. It will teach you a good deal about yourself when you have been at your best, and where your talents will be best applied in the future.
But what if your future possibilities aren’t necessarily revealed by your past? An assessment like the Strong Interest Inventory can help you discover new possibilities that you might never have considered (click here for an inexpensive online version of this assessment instrument). Consider also the career transformation strategies detailed in the book, Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra. You’ll learn about crafting experiments, shifting connections and then making sense of new possibilities. Go to my April 2012 blog for more on this approach.
I began my November, 2012 blog about courage by emphasizing the importance of structure and support for career transition success. To be most effective in career transition, commit to a logical plan, and surround yourself with people who can help guide and support you. These two elements of structure and support will always be foundational, but without courage, our potential is constrained. It’s human nature to play it safe, to avoid risk. We often do so even when we know how to cross the chasm to a new possibility that might set us free from “good enough”, or a bad situation that seems just too difficult to change. Sound familiar?
Choosing to leave a familiar path or organization can feel very risky. Equally difficult is finding the courage to say no to an opportunity that may not be a great fit or in your best interest, but could still liberate you from a bad situation or unemployment. Need help evaluating an opportunity? Read my October, 2013 blog. Need a little courage and inspiration to help you make your move? Take a look at my September, 2011 blog, “Sail Away.”
When I begin working with a client, I describe career transition as a three part process. Stage one is discovery. The beginning of this stage is both highly informative and energizing, as we “connect the dots” by way of formal assessments and conversations of history and past accomplishments. This conversation is followed by defining a logical focus, a strategic plan and building the tools for transition (resume, LinkedIn, branding statements, etc.) Stage three of the process includes discussions of how to land an opportunity that has surfaced, and deciding if this is it, or not. The middle stage is the tough one. I call it “the grind”. This is the time when you learn why sales is such a tough profession.
In this middle stage, you are squarely into the self promotion and networking process. Some love this process and sail right through it. Most, however, feel like they are on an emotional rollercoaster. The highs are exhilerating. The lows can be debilitating. If you are not chosen for an opportunity you thought you had a lock on, it feels very personal. When your calls aren’t returned, or you feel like you are just not getting traction, it can feel both very personal and very draining.
When in transition, everyone needs both support and to find in themselves a kind of toughness that can keep you moving forward in spite of actual or perceived rejection. So what can you do in the tough times? First, don’t isolation yourself. You need to surround yourself with people who can help keep your batteries charged. Remember the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Second, try to keep getting your quota of daily connections, no matter how discouraged or worn down you may feel.
If you are in a full-time job campaign, consider a “three a day” contact goal. Each day, between phone calls, email exchanges and meetings, completing any combination of these three types of connections is a good goal. When you complete your third meaningful connection of the day, consider that day a success. Remembering that sixty-five to eighty percent of all jobs are landed with the direct aid of network connections will help you keep your primary focus on networking. For additional strategies and inspiration, watch the videos and read my blogs about two people who really understand endurance, Steve Jobs and Psychologist Amy Cuddy.
In this blog I have shared my belief that discovery, courage and endurance are directly tied to career transition and transformation success. If a transition to similar work is in your future, begin by discovering who you have been, and who you would like to be if you take the best from your past and project it into the future. If you prefer a career transformation, you’ll still need the lessons from your past, but consider crafting some experiments, shifting connections and then making sense of what you learn. In time, you’ll discover brand new possibilities that can lead to a successful career transformation. Have the courage to say yes to some risk taking, while benefitting from the structure and support others can offer you. And finally, in the words of Steve Jobs, “Don’t settle.” Be cautious about the quick fix. Successful career transitions take time, and call for structure, support, perseverance, a thick skin and a positive attitude.
As this cold month of January begins a new year, I will end with some words of inspiration from author Albert Camus, “In the depths of winter, I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.”