If you feel uninspired in your current job and are contemplating a switch, are between jobs, or want to re-enter the work force, then finding a new job is probably consuming the majority of your thoughts. Some of you might be thinking of an even broader change: a transition to an entirely different career. You may feel excited about what the future holds. You may also feel overwhelmed, scared and confused. In the following pages, we provide strategies and resources that can make the transition easier, as well as increase the likelihood of finding a direction that is meaningful and rewarding for you.
FOCUS, DISCIPLINE, CONFIDENCE
There is a dual process to effective career transition, says Freda Marver, owner of Begin Again Coaching, offering both career and life coaching services.
“The obvious is identifying and exploring the fields that are a good fit for you,” she says. “The not-so-obvious is finding ways to work through the obstacles that come up along the way.”
The obstacles may vary from person to person. Some are concerned with financial uncertainty, social or family resistance, or feeling anxious about the new technology out there. Others wonder: What if I can’t support my family? What if I make a switch and it doesn’t work out? What if I’m too old to start over? Addressing these concerns and finding ways to work through them not only reduces anxiety, but gives people increased confidence to fully explore the options out there.
“Many people have told me they never would have been able to succeed in making transitions if they hadn’t put so much effort into working on themselves first,” says Steve Pavlina in Personal Development for Smart People. “This includes building focus, discipline, and confidence. When people reach the point of believing that their inner resources are strong enough to handle the external obstacles, they get moving.”
FINDING YOUR INNER VOICE
For those who need a little extra push (not all of us are self-motivated), there are career/lifecoaching services. Coaching services can be invaluable to those navigating today’s job market, particularly those in transition from one career field to another. A coach who is familiar with the process of career transition can help people tailor an individualized strategy to help them identify where they’d like to go—and get there.
The majority of Marver’s clients—ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s—feel professionally stuck and unhappy. “Most of my clients are either currently employed, or they have sufficient resources (possibly savings or an employed spouse or partner) so the urgency to find a position isn’t as great,” she explains. “They have the time to fully explore their options rather than
feeling pressured to make an immediate decision.”
She works with clients to help them find their “true voice,” a voice that often gets buried under other life responsibilities, or the desire to be practical, or other sabotaging voices that ask: What makes you think you’re so special that you deserve to try something new? she explains. “With the help of a life or career coach, you have an advocate who will help you tap into your own wisdom, supplement it with known strategies, help you articulate your dreams, and realize them.”
Marver says she loves working with confused clients. “I have a special interest in dealing with clients who say: ‘I’m unhappy where I am, but I have no idea what I want to do instead.’ Or ‘I have an idea, but I’m sure it’s not practical, so I need to find something else.’ I’ve known some career professionals, including resume writers, who have told potential clients: ‘You don’t have a good idea what you want. Come back when you’ve figured it out and I can help you find a job.’ That type of individual is an ideal client for me.”
Transitioning from one job to another is a time for introspection and outward research, says Gary Teagarden, director of communications at Globe University. And sometimes, in order to realize your full potential, you need to re-enter the academic world.
“Think about where your passion lies and look at which industry sectors are growing and hiring. What skills do employers need now and two years from now? Globe offers some programs in highly sought after disciplines that offer near 100 percent career placement opportunities.”
Globe offers an education experience unlike most other for-profit colleges and public or private colleges. All classes at Globe include a project-based learning component, which give students a chance to work on real-world projects. Students have opportunities to network with employers and are able to apply what they learn in class to an actual business setting. “Globe’s instructors come directly from industry, and class sizes are typically 10-15 students, which allows for a lot of personal interaction and a betterteaching experience,” Teagarden says.
“Some adults think that going back to college is taking steps backwards; it’s not,” says Anj Kozel, director of communications at The Art Institutes International Minnesota (AII). “Going back to school is a reinvestment in your future.”
CREATE A STRATEGY
Once you realize your strengths and know what it is you want to do, create a job strategy. Don’t send out a bunch of cover letters and resumes into the marketplace without any thought behind them. Really focus on what skills and accomplishments you have to market. What’s so special or unique about you? There’s a lot of competition out there. You have to find a way to stand out from the rest of the pack.
Another valuable tool in the job search process is networking. People talk of the “hidden job market,” the jobs that are filled without ever having been posted. To get these jobs, it’s not what you know, but who you know. However, most job seekers find networking a daunting task.
“This is another way working with a coach can be helpful,” says Marver. “People ask me: ‘How can I network? I don’t know that many people.’ I work with them to figure out what types of people would be good for them to contact and how to find them. Frequently, they realize there are people they know who can be helpful. We brainstorm organizations and sources that can lead them to appropriate contacts. I often have names I can give them, too.” Marver also helps them develop questions and talking points for their conversations. Once they have these, they become confident, effective networkers.
What about resumes, cover letters, social media? Resumes and cover letters should show how your specific experiences meet the needs of a specific job. Your online presence is important in that many employers will Google you or check your LinkedIn profile. There are coaches and resources that can help you with these,
GET EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
There are many aspects of career transition that can be emotional: whether it’s the time involved in the process, the uncertainty, the pain that can come from losing a job, or applying for a job and not getting it. “Enlist the help of a friend, spouse, coach, colleague, etc. Someone who will listen and support you through this transitional period in your life,” advises Deborah Brown-Volkman on the Career Diva blog. “Looking for a job can be frustrating, time consuming, and disappointing. Remember that you do not have to do it alone.”
HOW TO PUT YOUR BEST SELF FORWARD WHEN INTERVIEWING
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impresson. Here are some helpful interview tips:
- Each company has an individual culture and environment. Find out the dress code in advance of the interview. Either call the human resources department, ask the interviewer, or stand outside during the lunch hour and scope out what the employees are wearing. A jacket is always a safe bet for men and women. Skip the casual attire.
- Do your homework. Research the company and position. Be ready to tailor your past accomplishments to the company’s specific needs. Keep your answers direct. Don’t ramble.
- Be on time (but not any earlier than 15 minutes before your scheduled interview).
- Maintain eye contact.
- Avoid negative comments about your past employers. (Be positive!)
- Think of a job interview as a first date: you’re both trying to figure out if there’s a match. If you think of it this way, you’ll come across as curious, rather than desperate.
Always send a thank-you note after the interview.
Begin Again Coaching
Freda Marver, MBA, CPCC
I've Got Your Style
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
Schools of Graduate & Professional Programs