It’s never been a practice of mine to blow smoke up someone’s rear so they can feel better about being unemployed. My approach is a pretty pragmatic one. If you’re not working, aren’t financially independent and have full responsibility for taking care of yourself, then you need to make some money and/or get a job. For most people, their level of urgency is inherently driven by their financial circumstances. If you don’t have a source of income and need one, then waiting for a perfect job doesn’t really make sense. Your circumstances require urgent attention. Another reason to make a case for urgency is that, typically, the longer someone stays unemployed, the longer it takes to get reemployed. Like perishable goods, your value diminishes with time.
The goal here is easy enough to figure out, but a strategy is required, and your plan for reaching your goal needs to be carried out. Wishing for a job, hoping you will get one or only talking about what you want, doesn’t make it happen. Developing a strategy for getting where you want to be will lead to the development of your plan. Although the exact details may not yet be clear, you can start by moving random thoughts from your head into something tangible. First assess your finances and know what you need to earn and when. (Not what you want, mind you, what you need.) Then assess your interests, skills and marketability. If you don’t know how marketable your skills are, you can research this on your own or get help from a career coach or mentor. Next, outline some options and research the validity of each. This research needs to be planned with your end goal in mind. Break your plan into actionable items that can be accomplished each day and enter these tasks into your calendar. Then take action immediately!
Wishing for a job, hoping you will get one or only talking about what you want, doesn’t make it happen.
While you are conducting your research, other options outside of what you have considered may surface. You could receive suggestions about possible roles that have not yet been on your radar. Having a strategy and a plan can show you what generally makes sense. Although urgency is good, recklessness and desperation are not. Taking absolutely anything when it is not connected to where you want to go can lead you away from your long-term goals. If not connected in some way to your long-term goals, the wrong role can cause intense dissatisfaction that ultimately leads to more unemployment. There really needs to be a connection between your need for income, what you do about it and how it relates to your longer-term goals. If something very relevant, doable and immediate presents itself, you need to act right away. For someone who is serious about changing their circumstances, it means making hay while the sun shines (how corny is that?) and jumping on every strong lead as if it is the only one. Why? Because you can’t turn down work or a job that hasn’t been offered! Taking your time to respond may lead to a missed opportunity.
Focusing on how a role could in some way lead to perfect is far more productive than being stuck on the fact that it is not perfect. You may not be ready or marketable for your idea of a “perfect job.” Waiting around until one turns up is wasting time. It’s much easier to move yourself in the right direction once you are off the bench and in the game. (I don’t think I’ve seen any sports teams pull people from the stands and onto the field when it was time to press forward.) That means you need to be up, prepared and on top of each lead before the next 500 people respond. It means you need to turn over every rock and give every possibility your best shot. It is only after you get an offer that you have a choice about what happens next. Once that is accomplished, you can move forward with the rest of your plan.
If you think responding with “urgency” is a few days or weeks after you learn of something, think again. It’s always been a curious thing to me that unemployed people may sleep until noon and take Mondays, Fridays and weekends off when they are down to their last dime. It’s even more curious when they have broadcast their desire for a job to anyone who will listen but end up taking days to respond to an email from someone who has offered helpful information. If this sounds like anything you could be guilty of, please rethink what you need and what you expect. Your demonstration of urgency is far more likely to gain the help of others, and your excitement to respond to an employer’s need may put you ahead of the pack. Waiting until you are done with your long weekend or vacation, or procrastinating while you “think about it,” could make your response no longer relevant.
Finally, if you are simply stuck, get help. Don’t languish in your own confusion. The clock is ticking.
Many times we rely on intentions that don’t get us anywhere. There is something in many of us that makes us think we can skip goal setting and just get straight to execution when we want to accomplish something big. Too often our intentions are greater than our actions. Our ideas stay in our head or become the focus of some heavy conversations, but not much more happens. Three years later we may find ourselves still thinking or talking about the same ideas without any evidence of an attempt to make them tangible.
Sometimes it might be fear holding us back, or sometimes just plain laziness. Whatever the reason for not sitting down and plotting out our actions, the result is the same: nothing happens. I’m not sure that analyzing the cause takes us much closer to taking action, but analyzing the results should.
A common response to many tough projects is to try to save time by diving in the middle of it without thinking through steps or timelines. This may produce more than not taking any action at all, but it can also lead to wasted time and disappointment. Have you ever received a package of “easy-to-assemble” furniture? Did you start off by putting pieces together, only to find out that they don’t fit right? Did you then go back and read the instructions, only to learn you had put the pieces together backwards? Imagine how much easier it would have been and how much time would have been saved if you had just followed the directions.
A really big goal can be overwhelming. So much so, you may end up doing absolutely nothing. If you take your big goal and establish a very realistic time frame for accomplishing it, the first burden is now off your shoulders. The next step is to determine exactly what each action step is, from start to finish. This part of the process may seem tedious, but it is really the most critical. By listing each and every thing that has to be done, the reality of each step is visible and also much more doable. You can plan timelines much more accurately and track your progress to make sure your target dates for hitting key milestones are closer to reality.
A really big goal can be overwhelming
Goal setting is not really a complicated process. Making a change of any type includes a specific goal, and the process is roughly the same: take stock of where you are and compare that to your goal, assess your own behaviors, influencers and resources, determine where you want to be and set a goal. Then write the recipe (action steps) for getting there.
Let’s use weight loss as an example because the concept is simpler for many people to grasp than trying to imagine an as-of-yet undefined goal to make a career change. Needing to lose 50 pounds can be completely overwhelming when you focus on the total loss required. Losing one pound a week is a much easier objective to see and imagine, and a plan to accomplish that is much more doable. The process required to accomplish the weekly one-pound weight loss is far more sustainable than trying to imagine which new diet you can rely on to lose 50 pounds quickly. The following simple example illustrates how much easier things can be when they are thought out in advance and when simple step-by-step actions are defined.
- Record and examine your current status. Evaluating exactly what you are doing and where you are is a fundamental point for getting started. On one hand, tracking exactly what you eat each day for two weeks will tell you what you are currently doing. On the other, you will need to record your current physical activities each week (or lack thereof). It’s important to analyze your habits and record the actual number of calories you take in and the number of calories you burn to show you what you are currently doing to sustain your current weight.
- Evaluate potential changes. On your own or with a doctor or nutritionist, you can examine what can change; e.g., trading a handful of potato chips for a couple of carrot sticks to decrease calories. At the same time, on your own or with a personal trainer, you can examine your activities and determine what you can add to increase your calories burned. Making minor changes and plotting out exactly what you expect to do as an activity each week is much more likely to make the process doable and successful. Making small changes over a period of time helps you build new habits.
- Develop your plan. Outline what foods you will start incorporating into your diet. Schedule your activities. Set yourself up to succeed by making sure your activities are added to your calendar so you can be aware of how they fit with your work schedule and family time.
- Get started. The time to begin is when you can see exactly what you need to do, one day at a time. Record your results and recognize when your choices work and don’t work.
Instead of delaying your weight loss because it seems overwhelming or setting an unrealistic goal of achieving a 50-pound weight loss in three weeks, get started with a plan that allows you to sustain small changes that you develop into habits. Instead of eating only alfalfa sprouts and water and working out every day for four hours to lose 50 pounds in three weeks, you will have designed an actionable plan with a more realistic timeline that will allow you to lose 50 pounds over the course of a year. The change will be gradual and much easier than committing to something extreme. Your weight is much more likely to remain where you want it.
Whether you want to change your health or your career, enlisting the help of a professional is going to make the process smoother, and you will have support when your plan seems too hard to carry out. In order to make a career change, the same process has to be followed: record and examine your status, evaluate potential changes, develop a plan for making a desired change and get started. Looking at job postings expecting to find the perfect job to save you from your current plight is no different than expecting to find a magic pill to lose 50 pounds.
We probably all begin a new year with good intentions. Many people make resolutions to lose weight, improve their eating habits or get a new job, to name a few. If these sound like familiar promises you’ve made and ultimately fell short on, then it’s probably a good idea to evaluate what happened. Now is a good time to review your past year and figure out where things went sideways.
First, look back and take stock of what you did accomplish that you are proud of and happy about. What contributed to your success? Can you replicate your approach? How much of what went right can be applied to what didn’t?
On the flip side, did you fall short of accomplishing what you had hoped to accomplish? Were there events that impacted your performance or your well-being? How well did you handle them? What could you do differently if faced with similar challenges?
Start this next year with more than your good intentions.
You might be wistfully remembering how well you did in January and February, but by March, you were already starting to slip. Even with the best intentions, the resolutions you made in December were probably in your head and not recorded in your calendar. In other words, without an action plan and commitments for completing specific tasks by specific dates, you were pretty much doomed from the get-go. Now is the time to take the bull by the horns and pull a plan together to start this next year with more than your good intentions.
If there is something that has continued to show up on your “to do” list, then stop talking about it and get out your calendar. Make a commitment for getting it done, come hell or high water. Even if life events sway you, there’s a very simple strategy for not losing track of what you want to get done. Having clearly defined goals, and planned dates for accomplishing specific tasks and objectives, you will be forced to reconsider taking off for happy hour or adding some other inconsequential task into an already full day. If something happens that requires your immediate attention and you fail to complete the scheduled task, then you can simply reschedule it instead of leaving it on a revolving “to do” list or forgetting about it altogether. What we’re really talking about is accountability.
Going forward, plan around already-known events and block time in your calendar. Anything you plan can be changed to a new time if there is a true emergency that arises. Unplanned actions remain happenstance and are far less likely to get accomplished. Also include time to evaluate your progress each week. If you have trouble staying on track, find an accountability buddy who will hold your feet to the fire. Do what it takes to own your actions and remain accountable for your results (or lack thereof). Track your accomplishments and challenges to help you improve your productivity as you move forward. Most importantly, make this process a habit that you don’t deviate from. Make the new year your best year so far.
Many people dread their annual performance reviews. The anxiety created by worrying about what will happen is an unnecessary distraction brought on by procrastination. If you have been working for more than a few years, you’ve probably had a few performance evaluations. Why wait to see what happens?
The following strategy can help you take the bite out of any unexpected news evolving out of a performance conversation or add a welcomed lift by highlighting accomplishments that may have been overlooked.
Establish clear goals before the beginning of each New Year or fiscal year. Know what you want to accomplish early on, so you can make the time to accomplish your personal and professional goals. If you aren’t sure what you want or where you are going, then you set yourself up for failure. It’s too easy to be buried by unfinished work requests and unable to reach your personal goals because you have no time left. Get focused and plan ahead.
Don’t wait until the day or week before your performance review to prepare.
Prepare early. Don’t wait until the day or week before your performance review to prepare. Be aware of your goals from the beginning of the review period. Know what is expected of you and stay aware of where you stand. Don’t know what is expected of you? Then ask!
Keep a journal or a log. Record what’s on your mind each day. Document your wins. Stay aware of your challenges. Be specific. Make sure this is not information stored on a company computer. It needs to stay within your possession. You just never know when a layoff occurs and you find yourself being escorted out.
Update your resume and Linked In profile. Don’t rely on your supervisor to record your successes. It’s considerably easier to document accomplishments as they happen then wait until you’ve been riffed, terminated or considered for a promotion. It’s much easier to have the data ready then try to think about what should be on your resume when you start job hunting. Take the time to track your accomplishments as you go. Updating your Linked In profile as things happen will make it a far less suspicious act than saving it and updating it only because you are ready to find a new job.
Be aware of your shortcomings. Know what behaviors/skills are is not up to snuff and be prepared to discuss your plan for addressing them. The fallout from mistakes can be considerably reduced if you take a proactive approach. Waiting until you’ve been caught to explain a mistake may take more time to fix it and could fuel a more adverse reaction from your supervisor than is warranted.
Confirm the date of the review as early as possible. There’s no need to wait until your supervisor brings it up. If you know annual reviews are required by the end of the year, bring up scheduling closer to Thanksgiving. Look ahead for reasonable times in December to accomplish your review so it isn’t a rushed affair. If your review is March every year, then start talking about it towards the end of January. It continues to amaze me when my clients tell me their supervisor scheduled their performance evaluation with less than a week’s notice, when it is has been an ongoing annual event for a number of years.
Be prepared to negotiate. If compensation is considered in conjunction with your performance review, make sure you are making a reasonable request. You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip. If the company is having challenges, then it might be easier to ask and receive extra time off in lieu of higher compensation. Stay focused on what the company needs so you can base your requests on things that are MOST likely to be agreed to.
The key is to assume ownership of this sometimes very painful event. Work it to your advantage. With clearly defined goals of your own, and front end planning, you will be much more able to accomplish the goals your supervisor sets for you. You can look forward to ending the performance period on a high note by taking the bull by the horns early on.
Looking down instead of ahead can cause you to end up with your head hitting a brick wall or getting sideswiped by a car you didn’t see coming. The same devastation can happen with your career if you don’t know where you are going and don’t have a plan. If your plan is nothing more than to continue doing what you are doing and expect everything else around you to remain the same, then ever-changing business needs may leave you in a ditch.
For some people, not having goals can feel like freedom. For others, it can create considerable confusion and waste energy. It’s common to assume that once you have landed a job, all you have to do is show up every day to live happily ever after. Those days are long behind us. The promise of the gold watch and stars for attendance are as obsolete as dial telephones. One way to take control over where you end up is by being clear about what you want, making your own decisions about where you want to be, researching to find out how that can happen and being very, very clear about what you can do to make sure you get there.
Take the reins back by knowing what is important and being aware of what it takes to get it.
Today’s work environment is less predictable than in the past, more susceptible to quick changes and less likely to present a clear path for moving forward. Economic needs change, business/organizational needs change and all the players involved can change in minutes. Unless you have a clear vision of the things that matter most to you, it’s easy to get distracted, become disillusioned and feel dejected when your circumstances change. Take the reins back by knowing what is important and being aware of what it takes to get it. Changes may cause you to alter your path, learn new skills or even jump ship, but your goals will continue to be the beacon that guides you in the right direction, even if the context changes.
Freedom can be experienced by knowing what you want and being so aware of what is going around you that you can make changes on your own before decisions are made about what will happen to you. Recklessly bouncing around between whatever presents itself next, without a clear notion of what is important to you, can lead to decisions that derail your career or work against your values. In the short term, some opportunities may seem exciting or pay well, but after digging further and learning more about the organization, industry or path you are superficially drawn to, you may learn that things are much different beneath the surface than what you were aware of. Differences in opinions or values at the highest level of the organization can end up shifting the culture completely. Financial issues can disrupt the course of business in a flash.
Sometimes sexy jobs can end just as quickly as they were developed if there isn’t a clear path to what they need to produce to be sustainable. As an example, being paid lots of money may be attractive until you learn that budgets were mismanaged and you are now out of a job entirely because drastic cutbacks are the only way to rectify the errors. As you look at all the elements of a work scenario to determine what is critical to your well-being, you may find that money is not really the most important element. It may prompt you to think before leaping ahead to “what looks too good to be true” and take a second look at options that might not be as glamorous but may offer a higher percentage of the criteria that matters to you overall.
Having clearly defined goals is powerful. Having fundamental goals that represent who you want to be in this world and what you want to get out of your life helps keep you on track. Helplessness turns into hopefulness. The clearer you are about what matters to you, the better you will be able to ask questions to learn if potential situations are right for you. Gaining the right information long before you are pressed to make a critical decision allows you to make powerful choices. Having a direction, hope and a plan can be the fuel you need to change your own reality. Take back control of your life and set some goals.
It’s commonly understood that there are many reasons to network with professionals in your field. What is not as widely recognized is the need to network with others outside of your field of interest and the benefits that can be gained. Networking outside of your comfort zone can lead to unexpected learning opportunities that can add to your development as a responsible citizen, employee or emerging leader.
To start thinking more broadly, it is helpful to reaffirm some of the obvious reasons for networking inside of your industry/profession. You may already network within your field to learn about technical innovations, your current marketability and new opportunities for advancement or to identify new areas to build skills and build your visibility to industry leaders. All of these reasons are widely accepted and practiced in many industries. But the downside of associating only with people having the same career interests is that it can close off opportunities to view the landscape from different perspectives.
The problem with having networking tunnel vision or a silo mentality is that the singlemindedness of both approaches tends to make things stay the same. Things might be good, might be bad, but they are very unlikely to change without a fresh viewpoint. Hearing a new perspective can be like choosing to listen to music based on your mood. New or different ideas can be brought together like a melody of notes played on different instruments. Valuing and leveraging differences can ultimately produce something greater than only one person or people with siloed interests can.
Speaking with people outside of your area of interest can lead to personal growth, tolerance and a greater understanding of those around you.
Speaking with people outside of your area of interest can lead to personal growth, tolerance and a greater understanding of those around you. Moving out of your comfort zone and associating with the general population can help you see important issues through a variety of lenses. It is easier to understand business decisions when you hear and learn about the experiences of people who work outside of your known arena. Talking to people who are unfamiliar with the commonly used acronyms in your field can force you to speak more clearly and precisely. Practicing the use of a different or broader vocabulary can improve your communication skills. Along the same lines, getting more comfortable with diverse groups or audiences will help your presentation skills.
Just as restaurants have created food fusions to produce fabulous new dining experiences and multicultural neighborhoods can create communities united by new traditions, networking with people with different interests can expand thinking and create new solutions to tough problems. Someone else’s naïve position on a current topic can often offer an unbiased view on some issues. Sometimes that naïveté can actually provide the opportunity to take a second look at what might have become your knee-jerk response. And asking and responding to questions from people unlike you can start entirely new and different dialogues. You just never know.
The more we all can learn to embrace differences and listen to new ideas, the more likely we are to produce truly new and fabulous results. Networking outside of your comfort zone with professionals who may seem to be completely different from you may stretch your brain and bring you unexpected results. Why not try it?
The other night, a client asked me if I was in my “Plan A” job. Loosely interpreted, his question meant, is my current work experience the vision of what I really want to do? My answer required thought and a much longer answer than “yes” or “no.”
The first point I want to make is that I don’t have a “job.” I do “work.” My work can be very rewarding and satisfying. I am able to have relatively flexible hours, and I work out of my home, which is ideal for a workaholic who also wants to enjoy life. Omitting commuting time and working around traditional office hours, I am able to get work done during hours that don’t get interrupted by traffic and office politics.
The real beauty, though, is in my entire work scenario. There are many things I am able to do that are not possible through a j-o-b. Probably the most important thing is that if I find the work I am doing or the people I am working with are wearing me down or draining me of energy, I am able to do something else with someone else almost immediately. I can also implement a new process without having to go through layers of bureaucracy. Sometimes the path for acknowledging that something is draining me takes longer than it should, and the solutions are not always immediately clear, but as I go into my 19th year, I can easily say it is getting easier and easier to simply say “no” and move on to anything else that is more enjoyable. I’d like to think that my days of suffering to make a buck are behind me.
it’s never a simple decision to walk away from bad business or complex, toxic relationships
That said, it’s never a simple decision to walk away from bad business or complex, toxic relationships that may have developed. It’s not quite as bad as getting a divorce (I’ve had experience with that, too), but it sometimes can cause many of the same conflicted feelings. Did I do enough? Have I tried everything to make this work? Do I deserve to be treated this way? Do I have unrealistic expectations? Do I have to settle? Owning a business may end up creating different handcuffs than an employment scenario, but it feels like I have more options. In most cases, it is only a segment of business or a person that needs to be left behind, or a new system needs to be developed to make some part of the work easier or more palatable.
There was a time when I was questioning what I was doing. After the first ten years, I was finding I had gotten into a routine I didn’t like. I recognized that something had to change, and unlike the many jobs I had easily quit, that wasn’t the solution. It required my identifying exactly what was at the root of my zapped energy.
Working as a subcontractor for another company had produced a regular paycheck, but it sucked up considerable time in the middle of the week, and it was difficult to schedule other work around it. The work itself was somewhat satisfying, and the actual end users really seemed to appreciate my efforts, but the company I worked for was unappreciative and continued to make more demands without an increase in compensation or any recognition of the added deliverables. Walking away from this extremely draining, time-consuming contract (that paid little) was my first step. I finally let it go and just had to trust that I could continue doing similar work for people who cared. Almost immediately, my business doubled.
At 15 years, I had stopped bouncing out of bed in the morning looking forward to tackling the next thing. As I examined what really drove my decreased enthusiasm (it felt like depression at the time), I found some pretty clear culprits. I hate the ridiculous amount of detail involved with operations. Data entry, marketing, tracking dates and invoicing are some examples of the tasks that involve managing endless minutiae. Other issues, such as constantly having to nag people to remember commitments and working with people who showed little respect or appreciation for my time, really brought me down. Although these points were easy to identify, the process for changing things took a while.
It finally became clear that for me to focus on the fun stuff, I needed help. So my next step was hiring an assistant to take on the truly annoying administrative tasks I face each day so I could invest energy in what I enjoy most. It wasn’t a magic fix, and it took time to learn which things were easy to turn over and which things I might as well do because it took far less time to do them than explain each. Anything with nuances that could change from time to time were better left on my plate. The more static processes or marketing that was separate from my work have been off-loaded. Not everything that supports my work has been turned over, but I have definitely been able to free up enough time to dedicate to the fun stuff. The changes have been gradual. As I see more ways to off-load things, I am also able see a ray of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. My work energizes me once again.
The message I want to send out to the universe is: if you are doing work you don’t like, figure out why. Finding a new job may not be the answer. Finding new/different work or changing how you do the work you are currently doing could be the change that saves you from a fruitless job search. You may find that you can build on a foundation you have already laid and move forward outside of your current role. The clues to what will make you happy will transcend employers, jobs and venues. Take the time to think bigger and further into the future. And of course, I can help you with that.
If you are feeling at a loss because your job search has extended far too long, it’s important to take a hard look at your attitude, your approach and your level of commitment. Regardless of what may be going on in the market, those are really the only elements you have any control over. Recognizing and acknowledging all of your current circumstances and how continued unemployment has already impacted or can impact your lifestyle, credit history, self-esteem and credibility will help you to make better choices about what you can do to move forward.
get real about your circumstances and be willing to consider alternatives to avoid running yourself completely into the ground
All too frequently, anger, disappointment, resentment or depression can build enormous brick walls where doors or windows are needed. Staying cognizant of every aspect of your current circumstances may cause you to reevaluate when you have drawn a line in the sand or refused to compromise. That doesn’t mean you fold your cards and quit, and it doesn’t mean you indiscriminately accept anything that comes your way. It simply means you need to get real about your circumstances and be willing to consider alternatives to avoid running yourself completely into the ground. It’s also important to be transparent with the trusted professional or close friends you request help from. Pretending to be where you once were instead of facing where you are right now might not get you the help you really need. There are gentle and practical ways to share information, which I will address in a bit. For now, I’d like to illustrate what happens when someone in dire straits shares incomplete information.
Imagine what would happen if you took a wrong turn and went miles out of your way. It’s in the dark of night and you have limited life on your phone’s battery. You make a call to a friend for help, describe approximately where you are and let them know you have about an eighth of a tank of gas. They pull up a map, determine that a gas station is approximately two miles away and provide you with directions. They hang up the phone, believing you will be on your way in minutes and that all is good. Just as your phone’s battery dies, you remember that you didn’t tell them you also have a flat tire and no spare.
To put this back into a context related to job search, it’s important to consider ALL the facts about your situation. Some typical questions that need to be addressed are:
- How far in debt are you?
- How much income do you need to cover your bills?
- How soon will your money run out?
- Are there health issues that could prevent you from working in the same capacity you have worked in before?
- Are there new family commitments that would impact your schedule or ability to work the hours you used to work?
If you have spent more than six months going in a direction that hasn’t worked, then there is good reason to be considering new options. If your answers to questions 1 through 3 cause anxiety or fear and you have answered yes to questions either 4 or 5, then you may be overdue for a change in mindset.
Earlier I mentioned the need for transparency. Let me explain why. If your finances are dwindling and you need to work, then positioning yourself to return to work sooner where there is a chance of moving forward makes more sense than holding out for a lottery win. If you can’t return to the capacity, pace or stress level of prior roles, then face the reality of your new circumstances. Develop a new plan and adjust your lifestyle. If there are real reasons you are not competitive (technical skills are weak or you are unfamiliar with processes or programs that are in demand), then it is time to face facts. You can seek out training to develop those skills or identify a new direction that is a better fit. Any way you look at it, alternatives need to be examined. If you continue asking for leads to roles that you cannot perform adequately in or are no longer competitive for, then it is a waste of everyone’s time to pretend.
It’s not necessary to share a bank statement with someone to be transparent. It’s possible to own your status and address your circumstances in a manner that shows anyone you are asking for help from that you are taking charge of your destiny and not resorting to playing the victim card. It can sound like this:
“You know, after having this opportunity to reevaluate my next move, I’ve determined there is a new direction I’d like to move in and am very excited about. I’ve been looking at roles that …” Then describe what it is you like about them, what you want to do and what you are competitive for. This will require research and thoughtful preparation to make sure that what you are describing is accurate and not just wishful thinking. You may need help from a professional. You may feel inclined to tell close friends more, but I would caution you against sharing gory details. Simply stating a desire to change your lifestyle or “move in a new, more productive direction” can suffice.
An active search that involves talking with real people at targeted companies will provide the information you need to help you build the path. An external recruiter who is looking for a candidate to “sell” as an exact match to their client’s need is not likely to be your best hope when changing careers. Conversely, a passive search (answering ads) only pits you against other candidates who may have a track record you can’t compete with.
Although an internal recruiter may have a broader perspective and be willing to discuss a transition when the fit with the company is in place, having an internal advocate is going to help. The key is to make sure you are a fit by doing the research long before you have a conversation with a recruiter. Another hurdle you may face is when a recruiter questions you about your prior salary. You are simply not comparing apples to apples, and your higher priority is “really the fit with the company.” If they insist on talking about your past role and how much you used to make, then whatever approach you used isn’t working and the conversation is not going to move forward. (Note: your resume needs to fit the role you are pursuing. Too much emphasis on being the last queen bee will only prompt questions about it. There are ways to neutralize a resume.) A referral from an internal advocate who will excitedly support your “new direction” and be willing to vouch for your aptitude for the different role can make all the difference in the world.
If you are exhausted and feeling like you are out of gas, I urge you to avoid complaining about what hasn’t worked and consider new options. Look for new ways to get yourself back on the highway and get help if you are stuck.
Having goals (as opposed to “wishes”) is the first step in getting on the right track to where you want to be. Thinking of resolutions for the New Year may be the necessary catalyst behind your goals, but assigning realistic timelines and considering how to achieve measurable results require commitment and a thoughtful strategy.
Some people execute plans very well but are unable to view the broader picture to get a sense of the reasons to change course. Having a clear strategy (and a positive mindset) will be instrumental in helping you achieve your goals, no matter how much your circumstances may change as you move forward. A strategy helps provide the framework that will keep you on the right path. When the tactics you are using stop working, it is easier to change gears if you understand the bigger picture. If you aren’t getting the results you want from your job search or business development efforts, it may be more than your tactics that need to change. Doing the same old thing because that’s what you always have done can lead to your missing the boat when a new opportunity surfaces. It’s important to start with a strategy for achieving your desired goals, then develop an action plan that supports the strategy. Without a strategy to drive your plan and its execution, your efforts could end up being a complete waste of time.
Schedules are great because they provide structure, and structure is helpful for planning purposes, but it can’t always be the driver behind an action plan. It is necessary to stay aware of the goal and adjust your structure when circumstances change. In a bigger sense, without an understanding of the strategy behind an organization’s goals, you are dependent on the person or people who designed the strategy to dictate your action plan. If conditions change and you are left on your own, you’ll need to be clear about why you are doing what you are doing, or your efforts can be wasted, opportunities can be missed, and you can be left out in the cold. Understanding someone else’s strategy, and also having one of your own, allows you to land on your feet when things go off course. If you don’t understand the need for a career strategy, you could end up being slow to change gears when quick action is required.
If you think delaying action for an hour or two, or even days, won’t make much difference to the outcome you desire… think again.
The relationship between strategy and timing is critical. If you think delaying action for an hour or two, or even days, won’t make much difference to the outcome you desire, think again. Consider how planes land and take off. The precision required to enter airspace at exactly the right time to avoid collisions is critical. Imagine what would happen if pilots believed their intentions were more important than their actions. The same applies to someone in job search mode or planning a new business. Understanding the “why” behind your actions is critical to helping you predict potential negative consequences resulting from deviations in timing and will hopefully allow you to work out ways to avoid them. Missing a deadline or taking too long to respond to a request can cause you to completely miss an opportunity, or, at the very least, it can limit your options.
Throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks is a tactic that rarely pays off in the way we imagine. Haphazard spurts of energy may produce results of some kind, but they are seldom sustainable and may end up leading to false hope when the initial response does not lead to anything longer term. An example is shooting out resumes or marketing pieces to random audiences. There may be an initial response of some kind based on curiosity, but the tactic may miss the mark if you are really looking for a sustainable relationship. Likewise, indiscriminately applying for posted jobs or focusing on developing a “cute” media presence with the hope that someone will find you are far less of a sure bet than digging in and doing the necessary research to understand your audience’s needs and wants.
Learning about the skills required to deliver the results your target companies need is much more likely to tell you how realistic your goals are. Being aware of the timing of special events, when budgets are developed and when seasonal fluctuations typically occur will help you to develop a more effective strategy for going after what you want. Timing your actions according to the intelligence you have gathered and committing to specific tasks at specific times will help you move forward. It also will allow you to track your progress and identify why things may or may not have worked out the way you intended. Overall, a well thought out strategy for achieving your goals and an awareness of critical timelines will help guide you when you face difficult decisions or reach a brick wall.
It’s pretty understandable that people often go into a panic when they lose their job. The tough part is helping them remobilize and develop a plan for what happens next, instead of taking wild potshots at job postings in their quest to become reemployed. Many times a candidate gets so focused on “getting a job” that they start to believe they will magically find and secure a job in one stroke. (Imagine a hunter with a spear facing a charging bear.) The problem with that kind of approach is that, in this case, the hunter is typically blinded by fear and their thinking is full of unrealistic expectations. In this “get-a-job-or-die” mode, they lose all ability to see the steps involved with what is actually a fairly complex process.
The very nature of this tunnel vision impacts their hearing and ability to reason. Excellent (but perhaps not obvious) opportunities may be missed because the candidate is so focused on finding a j-o-b that they forget to listen for clues that could allow them to negotiate w-o-r-k for a price. The linear thinking process that follows a path leading only to posted jobs and submitting resumes, then waiting to be called for an interview where they will miraculously be getting an offer, is out of step with the way most great jobs are uncovered and captured by ordinary people (i.e., people without unique or hugely in-demand skills). Anyone can play the odds by responding to job ads, but it is not likely going to be a “lucky” hit that makes the difference in the outcome. The really cool jobs, in cool companies, working with cool people, are uncovered through conversations with people in the know, inside those same cool companies.
the process for uncovering clues about work is not linear
Keep in mind, the process for uncovering clues about work is not linear, and although information can be patched together through research, there is not an absolute, surefire or solo way to gather data that can unearth clues to base your action plan on. It requires an ability to look at the big picture and fully understand an employer’s circumstances and needs. You have to be willing to hunt for clues about how you can contribute in a way that may not have been completely identified yet or posted. Or, if there is a posted opening, you need insight about the people you would be working with and familiarity with the work to be able to appear as an exact fit when you are brought in to interview.
Clues come from Web research, conversations and the news. There are multiple viewpoints to consider, add up and make new assumptions about. The linear thinker will run into walls if unable to skip steps or take a bigger view of what they may hear or read. Of course, a non-linear thinker may be able to imagine a viable big picture, but they can run the risk of getting lost because they may choose to skip the steps required to create a compelling case for being part of that big picture. You can’t assume your “friends” will automatically open doors for you without a clear understanding of where you fit and why.
A successful search requires the ability to create a strategy with a bigger picture in mind, while also attending to the detail required to carry out the plan for breaking in. (Now picture a jewel thief. The jewels are pretty, but it will take a lot of time and effort to figure out how to get past security and back out with the prize.) Job seekers often get caught in quicksand because they are hell-bent on following a process that doesn’t work and are unwilling to try different approaches or change their immediate goals. Becoming gainfully employed may take a variety of approaches or even completely different paths than what you had expected to take. The key is in keeping your eyes and ears open and paying attention to the realities around you. Be willing to take half steps or leaps that take you completely out of your comfort zone, if necessary. You can end up in a new place only if you do something that is different from what you have done before.
Beyond that, be willing to be awkward or even fail at the new approaches. Don’t give up because things don’t work the first time you try a different approach. It may have taken you 10–30 years to learn what you have always done, so we can guarantee you won’t learn or be comfortable with new approaches in just one shot. Don’t get pulled backwards by an apparent failure or rejection, and don’t default to your old process. Pick yourself up, ask for help to get back on track and get back in the saddle.