Let’s face it – although as humans we are each unique, in the workplace, most of us are dispensable. Keeping up with what is current or relevant is difficult for people in all sectors, industries and roles. Technology changes every day, which leads to changes in demand and/or processes, and ultimately, impacts everyone in the workplace.
Change is tough for most people and tougher for some than others. Finding ways to work through it, and with it, will typically contribute to more fruitful results than choosing to buck the system, when you are faced with something new. Some changes end up being minor enough for you to simply catch on and carry on. In those cases, practicing the new step, different process or new tool will help make it familiar to you and perhaps make your work far easier in the long run.
Resisting change ultimately wastes time and energy.
Resisting change ultimately wastes time and energy. If you have seen the handwriting on the wall, it’s pragmatic to figure out your next move before you are faced with irreconcilable differences. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away and waiting only makes it more difficult to gain the inertia to make the right next move. Use the energy you still have to work on the steps you can take to move yourself in a new and perhaps even better direction.
If what you do as a function is no longer needed, then it is possible that the handwriting has been on the wall in neon letters for a long time. It’s time to take the reins back and determine what you will do about it. If you have planned ahead, then maybe retirement is a sound option. For many of us, retirement has stretched into a hazy notion of life that may occur far into the future. Financial setbacks, health issues and family crises can really change the course of things. If working for pay is still necessary, there are steps you can take that will help limit the anxiety of making a change or moving ahead. Blaming your age isn’t going to change your circumstances. Embrace who you are and what you can do today – let go of what used to be. The following tips can help you get ahead in the process.
Pay attention to what is needed. Read industry periodicals or the news. Stay on top of developments in your field and the skills that are in demand. If your skills aren’t current, training/education may be an option, or it may simply be time to see where else your skills apply. Talk to people who are doing what you think you want to do and test your assumptions.
Adjust your brand. If you’ve been known as the big man on campus but intend to scale down, then scale down your brand altogether. Adjust your image to suit the intended audience. It is not uncommon for people to move into a later-in -life career that is not as powerful as they once were. Staying with the old image can overshoot what it is you want to do. Hearing “you’re overqualified” may soothe your ego, but it isn’t going to help your pocket book if you are not offered the position you have interviewed for. You need to SOUND excited about whatever it is you will be contributing to and you need to LOOK like you are the best in class to do it. Make sure your references, friends and family are able, willing and ready to speak to the “new” brand when people inquire. If you are starting something new and have things to learn, then show how willing, able and ready you are to give it your all.
Adjust your approach. If you are downsizing, then lighten your resume. Soften your speech. Don’t overshoot what you want to do – match it. More does not automatically mean better; it can sound like “too expensive”. If only two years of experience is required, then 20 is overkill. Don’t include dated, irrelevant years. Talk about the things you want to do. If you really don’t want to manage, then don’t dwell on when you used to manage. Focus on the skills that are needed to do the job. Having more of something unrelated doesn’t make up for the lack of the basic skills that are required to do the job. Make sure you can do what they need and that you are ready.
Adjust your brain. Stepping back can mess with your head if you let it. Don’t compare yourself with what you used to do or to others that are in a different place in their lives. Embrace the direction you want to transition into whether it is moving up or moving toward retirement. If you are starting over and still want to rise to the top again, then get excited about it. The process won’t take another 20 years.
Don’t take shortcuts. Throwing resumes at jobsites rarely works for people that are transitioning into new careers or different directions. Job posts typically are written with a “check-the-box” intent. Trying to match specific experience/skills can leave you trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Talk to people. Ask questions. Find out what is needed and act sincere about your interest. Working from the inside of the company with known advocates will increase your chances of someone learning just what a great fit you can be – even if all their boxes aren’t checked.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Make the most of your contacts and conversations. Just because the information you are getting isn’t providing you with “the answer”, collect the data and look at in in a new way. Don’t dismiss leads because you think a position is too low on the totem pole. Taking a stand against something that could lead to the right path could turn out to be irreversible later.
Let go and look forward. The past is the past. You are doing you in the here and now. Who can you grow into once you have overcome the challenge at hand? Figure out how conquering an adverse situation now can help you in years to come.
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.