Career Transformation – 1
This is another piece under Challenge 44 – which is a project to improve my writing in 90 days. This is the first phase and the purpose of this phase is meeting a deadline rather than making remarkable content.
As an electrical engineering student who never touched a cable, looking back at my own career spanning forty years I have transitioned from one career to another many times. Sometimes, in fact in my case many of the times, it was the forces of circumstances, and few occasions it was a choice I was making. If it was not war, or recession, it could be that you feel tired of having done the same thing for twenty years or you just don’t like–fill in the blanks. While your reason may have an impact on the motivational forces you can enlist, the steps you need to follow are pretty much the same.
My recommendation, especially if you are considering such a move as a matter of choice is to start your preparation by answering few questions for yourself. During this phase you may benefit from soliciting input from people who know you well and even engaging a career coach.
So, let’s start by figuring out what your preparation may entail. The following are some of the areas I recommend you want to invest as much time to give yourself a solid take off.
Find out who you are
People are not all the same. My wife and I could not be more different. While both of us spend quite a bit of our time working with other people, I also like to spend time on my own for introspection. While I can’t call someone without having made few notes of my agenda, she can pick up the phone and stay with the conversation for hours. When we go for a walk she is focused on sharing her feelings and I am focused on every squirrel who runs around the corner.
While these may sound like simplistic characterization, they also represent distinct Myers-Briggs personality types. And your personality type will have an impact on how you would approach and enjoy your work. Of course, if we are doing the kind of work that was forced upon us by circumstances as is the case for many of us, we may feel like we have not other choices. But if our personality type is a good match for the position, some of the very things that keep another person from getting up to go to work, will make you jump out of bed before the alarm, and make you feel energized after 8-10 hours of work.
So, if we are considering a career transformation which to me means doing something other than what we have been doing, then using one of these personality assessment tools to figure out who we are can have two significant advantage for us. First we get a better feel for the type of profession we should go for and those we should avoid, and secondly knowing ourselves will help us devise our career transformation path in a manner that is more in alignment with our personality so the journey can be more fun and less grueling.
Find out about your gifts, talents, and skills
While personality type plays an important role, it does not represent everything that you bring to your professional life. It is really helpful to make an inventory of talents, skills and gifts you have and how you have used them in the past. As you can guess, this is an area where you do not want to limit yourself to what you have been doing in your current or even previous positions. You might be using some of these assets in a hobby, in the charitable work you have been doing, how you have touched others or what you do in your kitchen. This is an exercise where you want to let your thoughts flow and do not limit yourself by your negative self-limiting thoughts that some of us, yours sincerely included, have. I will be sharing an important secret with you later on that reveals the significance of this exercise in your career transformation.
Find out what you need
There are times that you may have decided to make a transition to a highly specialize field. May be it is because it pays a lot of money, or it feels really glamorous and in other ways appealing. Sometimes in such occasions it is helpful and dig deeper for reasons you need to make such a move and determine if you are willing to make the sacrifice in terms of time and financial obligations it brings about. You also want to explore what are the alternatives in terms of way you can fulfill your deepest feelings about this particular line of work. Do you want to become a prosecutor because of your deep belief in social justice? How else can you contribute toward that same aim? What are the other alternatives you might want to consider? My suggestions would be to a) find out what it would take in terms of training, certifications, time commitment, and timeline to accomplish you goal. I will cover the point (b) in a later section.
Find out what you bring
This is where I want to share an important secret with you. Did you ever have to go to a bank at a very busy hour and having been the last person who arrives had to stand at the end of line of people who are ahead of you? Did you ever wish you could magically open up another window and be the first person in front of it? You will then be ahead of those other folks you have been competing for to that moment. The analogy to this situation in career transformation is to find a niche in who you are, and what you bring to the table that will brand you a unique, and incomparable asset to your new field. Many times, you will discover that this niche is not just what you claim on your resume but actually demonstrate itself in how you go about making your transformation.
A good example of this is when I need to make a career transition and was by far one of the least qualified candidates for the position for which I was being recommended. There was no way that my resume could have competed with those other candidates. I had to find a way to get in without presenting my resume. That whole strategy is what I call in my training program as the Executive Access. But, that would have not been enough for me to get the job, so I had to look back at my experience in business consulting and sales and devise an entirely new approach to doing interviews to get the job. I used my assets, whatever I could find in my past experience, not only to rebrand myself but actually demonstrate its value during the job search process. If you are interested in this you should check out other articles I have written on Executive Access and Interview Aikido.
Find out who you need
To make your journey a bit easier, you need other people’s help. Take my advice. No take president Obama’s advice and let other people provide you with help and advice. I would say you would need to categories of people to help you. In many cases these categories actually overlap and become the same, but I have made the logical separation hear to explain the different applications. So, because we are still in a section focused on preparation, the people you want to talk to, because you want to take your understanding of the field you want to get into beyond abstraction, are obviously the practitioners of that field. You want to identify and reach out to as many such people to validate your understanding and learn more. Well, actually by doing so you are also accomplishing another objective that we will cover in more detail in the section on How to go about your transition. In that section I will get a little bit more into how to find these folks, how to approach them, and what to cover when you speak with them.
OK, so in the previous sections we talked about what you need to do in terms of preparation, including validation that you want to go through the transformation for what it is worth to you and now you want to start executing your plan. But wait, what is the plan? Well there are two way to go about your career transformation and there are definitely overlaps between the two.
In the traditional way you have brushed up your resume, maybe even your LinkedIn, and now you are applying for jobs in the field of your interest. As we talked about earlier, you are competing with people in the field, with more years of experience and a stronger story to tell. You might have even gone back to school, gotten yourself a new degree, a new certification or other credentials but you are still at a disadvantage and chances are that after few months of applying for jobs you would feed disappointed and disillusioned. So how about complementing your approach with some not so traditional strategies.
Not so traditional Approach
In this section I will cover some of the approaches that few years ago would have been considered non-traditional but more and more they are being accepted as the way to increase your chances of a smoother and faster transition to your new profession.
If you are open to considering this kind of help, you would want to do this at an early stage. A career coach can help you with not only the topics we covered in the preparation step, like your niche, brand, gifts, etc. but also what would be the right way to present those in your resume and LinkedIn profile to would be the best projection of a candidate for the field your getting into. This is what I call the strategic use of a career coach.
A more tactical and yet equally valuable and effective way to use the coach would be as an accountability partner and how a coach is used in any field like sports. You need someone on your side helping you look at your outcomes in an unemotional and yet caring way and help you make the appropriate adjustment at every step of the way until you make it to your destination.
For some people, especially those of an introverted personality type and those who have never tried it before, networking has gotten a bad rap. Many people’s picture of networking is going to big halls, filled with strangers, with loud noises that make it impossible to have a conversation with someone. Well, while there is a place for going to events and seminars, the bulk of what we consider networking is one-on-one conversations.
In a separate article I will blow your mind with two secrets; why introverts can do even better with networking and why reaching out to your network can be a huge service to those you will be talking to. But for now let me just give you some comfort that the purpose of the kind of networking I would like to talk to you about is to enlist:
As we have run out of time on this article, I will cover this important area in our next article on this topic and how you are about to embark on a life changing journey.