Ready to Change Careers? Not So Fast!!

To this point, I’ve talked a lot about job seekers and job hunters, putting the best foot forward in your search for the job/career. However, I’d like to shift gears and talk to those of you who may be ready to switch careers. Many of you are frustrated with where you are and you’re looking for growth. Perhaps you’ve been in the same field or job for a while, and you’re ready for a change. While change is important and very much encouraged, it is critical to ensure that you’re making changes for the RIGHT reasons and that you won’t be doing more harm than good to your long-term career by making said changes. 

I found a FANTASTIC article from Randall Hansen, the founder of Quintessential Careers, outlining 10 career change mistakes to avoid. I picked out four that describe the situations of many of my clients and friends:  

Changing careers because you hate your job.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing hating your current job with hating your current career. Take the time to analyze whether it’s just the job/employer/boss that you hate, or whether it’s the career/skills/work that you dislike. The same goes with if you are feeling bored or lost with your job; review whether it’s the job/employer or the career. Whatever you determine, it’s best not to leave your job — if possible — until you have a plan for finding a new job/career.

Making a career change solely based on money/benefits.

Certain career fields are very alluring because of the salary and other benefits they offer, but be very careful of switching careers because of all the dollar signs. Keep repeating to yourself, “money won’t buy me happiness.” Remember that you may make more money, but if you hate your new career, you’ll probably be spending that money on stress- and health-related expenses. A career that’s hot today could be gone tomorrow, so dig deeper.

Changing careers based on the success of others.

It’s human nature to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Just because your best friend or neighbor is successful in a certain career does not mean that you will be — or that you will be happy doing it — so certainly consider the career field, but make sure you do the research before jumping into it. Finally, just to add yet another cliche, too many job-seekers switch careers on the assumption that the grass is always greener — and often times find out that is not the case.

Making a career change without necessary experience/education.

As a career-changer, you must find a way to bridge the (experience, skills, and education) gap between your old career and your new one. While transferable skills (skills that are applicable in multiple career fields, such as communications skills) are an important part of career change, it is often necessary to gain additional training and experience before you can find a good job in a new career field. Research whether you need additional training, education, or certifications. And try to find time to volunteer, temp, intern, or consult in your new career field — what some experts refer to as developing a parallel career — before quitting your current job and searching for a full-time position in your new career field.

Essentially, it is imperative for you to be honest with yourself about why you would like to switch careers, and what your true motivation is. It is also important to think through what you expect this career change to accomplish for you and the resulting end goals. You need to understand what skills and experience you bring to the table and where they may be the best fit. Changing careers should not be a decision made on impulse or from a place of exasperation or frustration. It should take time and evaluation because in the end, the career you choose belongs to YOU and only you, and it’s up to you to choose the best long-term course for it. 

For the rest of Hansen’s career change mistakes to avoid and to take a look around Quintessential Careers, click here

Quick Thoughts: Target Your Job Search

So I wanted to share with you some quick thoughts I had today after talking to some of my friends about their job searches:

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While you want to find a job as quickly as possible, make sure that you are targeting your job search. Don’t just apply for positions for the sake of applying. Make sure that you are reading through the qualifications to see if you are a good fit, and if the role is something you are truly interested in. If you are just casting your net so wide that you’re applying for everything from janitorial to senior marketing manager positions, your search loses purpose and focus and is less likely to bear the fruit you want. You also end up wasting your own time, and that of the recruiters and managers at the firms. That can come back to bite you as well if you play the numbers game at one company because if you apply for multiple roles at the same time, and the qualifications and responsibilities differ starkly from one another, when your resume gets to the desk of the recruiter, he/she will wonder if you truly know what you want to do, if you have a true sense of what your skills are, and what your career goals are. You may come across as desperate and indecisive, neither of which are qualities that will help your resume/application to stand out in a positive way from those of other candidates.

Also, when you target your search, you leave less room for frustration and for becoming overwhelmed. You can craft one set of targeted marketing documents (resume, cover letter, etc), and use that for your applications. However, if you have to keep modifying all of your files to fit positions that don’t share similar skill sets, qualifications, or responsibilities, that becomes far less efficient and you’ll lose valuable time for actually applying for positions. You will find yourself frustrated if you get rejection letters/emails as you will feel defeated after all the energy and effort you’ve put into creating and recreating your documents and getting turned down from all sides.

Finally, with an unfocused search, you can set yourself up to get a job, not a career. You may find yourself in an opportunity that doesn’t REALLY interest you, and may not put you on the path towards your ultimate career goals. You think it’s a good idea because it may be a role that helps you to get you out of unemployment or out of a company that you just weren’t happy with previously, but remember, short-term decisions can have long-term impacts on your career trajectory.

We will have more discussions on the blog about job searches, and how to get the most out of your search (especially online), so subscribe and stay tuned! Have a great start to your work week!

BE INFORMED: The Importance of Research

You always hear people say, “Do your research!” Whether it’s selecting a collegiate/graduate major, applying for a job, or accepting a job offer, everyone stresses the importance of doing your research. If you watched my last video providing Interview Tips, I mentioned the importance of research in preparation for an interview. But the question is what does that truly mean? 

Doing your research simply means gathering and analyzing enough information prior to making a decision. The word to focus on is ENOUGH. You want to ensure that you have done sufficient due diligence before moving forward because taking the right step the first time is far easier (and better) than having to correct a misstep and change course. And yes, we all make mistakes, but when it comes to your career and your livelihood, you should make EVERY effort to avoid poor choices and errors if you can. The way to do that? Be informed!

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For example: If you’re preparing to interview with a firm, visiting a company’s website once or twice will not yield you enough information for you to learn about the company. You need to visit the company’s website, but also other websites that have done analysis or posted articles on that company, competitor websites to help you understand the market, standard business/financial sites that provide insight into the company’s performance, and even online forums where current and former employees talk about their experiences. The key is to learn all you can before walking into the interview room. 

Similarly, if you’re selecting an academic major to start or change your career, while it is important to review the school’s website, and their ranking in the national polls, your research shouldn’t stop there. Are you looking at the job placements after graduation for this major at different schools? Have you looked at the salary potential of this major and which companies are hiring for this skill set? What kind of job would you actually be doing, and have you talked to anyone who is currently employed in this field? What is the growth potential of the industry / field you would be entering? As you can see, there are several questions you should be asking yourself and others before making the decision.

This advice applies to ALL your career decisions. Remember, YOU own your career. If you don’t take care of it, no one else will! So don’t take it lightly. Don’t make haphazard, spur-of-the-moment decisions that you may regret later because you didn’t have all the pieces of information you needed. So take your time, think it through, and DO YOUR RESEARCH!

 Not sure where to start or need some pointers on the best way to conduct job or company research? Email us at RockProfessionalDevelopment@gmail.com and let us help!

Reading is Fundamental, and It Helps Your Career Too!

When’s the last time you read a good book? One that can help you improve personally and professionally?    Reading is so important to preparing yourself for your career and also taking your career to the next level. A solid resume and cover letter can get you in the door for a position, but how well you do and what opportunities come your way depend on what you know and how you present yourself. Reading provides you with some great tips, advice, and learnings from successful people on how to put your best foot forward and excel! It also helps you to become more knowledgeable about not only your field, but various industries and corporate at large, allowing you to better connect with other professionals as you network and build relationships. Furthermore, reading helps you to expand your horizons and achieve personal growth and development, which then translates into better professional performance.

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Not sure WHICH books to read? Never fear! After doing some research, looking at my own collection, and talking to other professionals, I’ve put together an initial list below of ten fantastic books (a mix of personal development and career search books) that can help you get started. They can be found at any of the major online or brick and mortar retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble (also available in mobile/e-reader form). Happy reading!

  1. Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg
  2. The Compound Effect – Darren Hardy
  3. The Slight Edge – Jeff Olson
  4. What Color is Your Parachute? – Richard Bolles
  5. The Tipping Point – Malcolm Glad well
  6. Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0 – Jay Conrad Levinson & David E. Perry
  7. Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand – William Arruda & Kirsten Dixson
  8. Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success – Anne Baber & Lynne Waymon
  9. 100 Conversations for Career Success: Learn to Network, Cold Call, and Tweet Your Way to Your Dream Job – Laura M. Labovich & Miriam Salpeter
  10. Boost Your Interview IQ – Carole Martin

Looking for more to read or have questions about our list? Email us at RockProfessionalDevelopment@gmail.com!

 

Your Words Matter!

“Your Words Matter!” You’re probably wondering what on earth I mean by that statement.

The truth is, while you may seemingly perform well on your job, and appear to be a hard worker, your words and how you phrase things can honestly hold you back from getting that next opportunity or that next project. The people who receive consideration for new opportunities are those who appear to be problem-solvers, creative thinkers, and those who are willing to go the extra mile. If your words help to portray you as someone who is not open-minded or creative, only willing to do what’s clearly outlined and assigned and not more, or you just don’t appear to bring any positive insight or energy to the table, it is highly likely that you may be eliminated from consideration for newer, bigger roles and responsibilities.

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I found a Forbes article (I told you that there’d be more Forbes : ) in which Karen Friedman, author of Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners, describes 10 unfortunately common phrases that could be holding you back from achieving more in your career. I picked out some of the ones that I’ve heard quite often and can be the most damaging:

That’s not my job.

“This makes it about what you can’t do as opposed to what you can do,” says Friedman. “It paints you as not being a team player.” Furthermore, it flies in the face of crucial career assets like flexibility and the willingness to learn new skills, which are required for leadership roles. Take it to a positive place by saying, “It’s not really my area of expertise. Let’s see who might be able to better help with this.”

I can’t.

Again, this suggests a rigidity and unwillingness to be helpful or provide solutions. “You want to show employers you are ready to learn and tackle any challenge,” says Josh Tolan, chief executive of video interviewing platform Spark Hire. Instead of dismissively saying “I can’t,” pinpoint the issue and suggest a way around it. For example, if you’re asked to present a project at a time that conflicts with another commitment, say, “Unfortunately, I have a conflict then. However, I’ve been working closely with Sarah on this, and she would be fantastic.”

It wasn’t my fault.

“People hear it as defensive,” says Friedman. If someone asks what went wrong, they may not even be blaming you, so immediately diverting blame only draws attention to it. Take the higher ground, and try to be a problem solver. Say, “Let me try to better understand what happened,” or, “Let’s figure out how we can prevent it from happening again.”

That’s impossible.

Like saying “it can’t be done,” “that’s impossible” is extremely negative. “It signifies that you’re not willing to even try,” says Friedman. “Negativity is infectious and spreads like a virus.” To keep it positive, say, “Let’s look at some different ways to tackle it.”

In essence, while you may think your words are innocent and they don’t mean much, remember that they do have a significant impact on how people perceive you, which then affects how they treat you and whether or not you’ll be selected for that “next step”. So choose your words carefully!

For the rest of the phrases and to read the full article, click here.

New Year, New Tips!

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all had a fun and festive holiday, and are ready to take 2014 by storm :)

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Just wanted to share a couple of points for you to think about as you enter this new year on your career/professional journey:

  • Don’t settle! I understand the market is not the best right now, and so you may be tempted to take just SOMETHING, but don’t settle if you truly won’t be happy in a position. Happiness and engagement translates to productivity, so if you don’t really care about the job or would rather not be there and you took it simply for the paycheck, you most likely won’t do well. As a result, you won’t see growth in your career there, and you will end up getting stuck, getting released, or leaving on your own anyway.
  • Have a more positive outlook. If you’ve been looking for a job for some time, I know that you may be getting discouraged and may be thinking about giving up. It can be hard to keep an upbeat spirit. However, it may just be time to re-strategize. Is your resume in the best shape? Have you been doing well in interviews? Are your online job profiles up to date and inviting? Have you developed new skills to make you more marketable? These are all things to consider if you’ve been running into roadblocks in your search. For those of you whose job roles may have shifted recently and you aren’t in the best assignment due to management or division changes,  try to find redeeming qualities about the current position. Are there opportunities for improvement? Can you learn something new to take into a future position? Are there contacts you can make to help your career along later? See if there is a “bright side” you can identify to help turn this role into one you can enjoy in the meantime!
  • NETWORK. This is the year that you need to start getting out more, attending more events, meeting new people! You need to begin to expand your circle of contacts to ensure you aren’t missing out on potential opportunities, whether they be for new roles, new projects, or new learning experiences. You also want to put yourself in a position to be of assistance to other people if you’ve got skills that can help them. If you’ve learned a certain computer application or process system, you never know who may need your expertise on those very same items. And we’ve all heard the saying, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” The person you helped may come back later on to offer you an exciting opportunity, one that you may not have gotten otherwise had it not been for your earlier assistance. And that all came from being at the right place, at the right time.
  • Do More. Have you been coasting in your current position, doing just enough to get by every day? All of your assignments are completed but that’s it, and that’s all? Now is the time to start doing more, taking on additional assignments, building your breadth of knowledge. The people who get promoted aren’t the ones who just do their job and no more. They are those who are able to exceed expectations for the current position while executing side projects and additional work, making life easier for their management. The reason is that they have built trust that they are able to handle tough workloads, deal with pressure, can multi-task, and have built the skills and technical knowledge that could help them excel in positions levels above. So if you are looking to take the next step forward at your company, you need to show them that you are ready. Show them what you can do, and MORE!
  • Find a mentor. Mentors are extremely valuable, and they are able to truly help guide you as you chart your career course. They can help you develop in your current position, and can help give you insight on how to reach your professional goals. It is good practice to find someone who has achieved success in your industry and can share learnings and advice. You’ll want to ensure that he/she has the time to devote to support and encourage you. Given that there will be some time commitment involved, you want to make sure both parties are getting the most value they can out of the mentoring relationship!

Prepare to Interview Like A Pro!

Alright, time for the next video!

If you’ve got an interview (or two) lined up for the new year, you want to make sure that you have taken the time to get ready so you can put your absolute best foot . In this video, I put together some important tips to help prepare you to ace those interviews and get the job!