Determine Your Ideal Profession & Life-style This is the most difficult stumbling point for people who are not enjoying their current work and who also feel blocked around what might bring greater satisfaction. I encourage people to be patient and know that this process will likely take longer than they’d like but that their current situation is not permanent and will eventually change. It is also important to take the time to step back and look at their entire life situation and determine what other aspects of their ‘whole’ life might be lacking in fulfillment. These areas are: Work and Education, Relationships, Personal Growth and Health and Leisure. Through this process, many people find that their unhappiness at their day job is bleeding into other aspects of their life and that there are areas that they can change for the better immediately. For example, a client named Susan realized that she had completely given up on her dating life waiting for Mr. Right, as well as sticking to a regular exercise regimen, because she was feeling so dissatisfied with her current job. Her unhappiness at work was becoming an energy drain in other aspects of her life. As she began evaluating what type of job would be more ideal, she also committed to exercising three days a week and making an effort to say “yes” to dating, even if the guy didn’t immediately have Prince Charming potential–at least she was getting out and having fun meeting people, which increased her energy. Over time, Susan’s improved sense of overall health and personal happiness also helped to propel her commitment to pursue her career transition.
Do Your Homework Once you have identified one or even a few desired professions-collect as much information as you can about them through online research, recently published books and journals, and most importantly informational interviews with people who are currently in that industry. Many people are aware that LinkedIn is a free online resource where you can search within your greater network of your friends or colleagues for their acquaintances who are working in your industry of interest. Ask your colleague or friend for an introduction and then request a brief 20 minute telephone call or a meeting over coffee. These people can be your best ‘real world’ resources for what employers will be looking for when you are ready to make a move. It is critical to understand whether the industry is growing, what they are looking for as far as talent, and whether you will need to acquire a specialized type of education or certification or job experience to be considered for the profession.
Formulate Your Strategy Once you have a solid idea of what type of skills, experience and/or training you will need to make your career transition, I then work with clients on sketching out a strategic action plan. Some of these beginning actions might include: opening up lines of communication with previous bosses so that they are ready and willing to act as solid references, updating your resume and any online profiles, and evaluating whether you are prepared for relocation and/or having to take a pay cut to enter into your preferred industry at a lower level than where you currently stand at your company. One of my clients’ Eric wanted to transition from working in the financial services market into a medical device sales position. He had learned from the informational interviews that sales companies were going to want to see concrete examples of his desire to win, self-direction and proven public speaking skills. So, Eric sought out opportunities at his current workplace such as presenting at large staff meetings, proposing a new initiative to improve client confidentiality concerns, and dedicated himself to improving the ‘areas for development’ that were raised in his last performance review. Eric also learned more about what he needed to prove along the way of his interviewing process with a variety of different sales companies and eventually made his transition after almost a year’s time.
Be Prepared to Sell Yourself The concept of selling oneself can be very anxiety producing and uncomfortable for many people. One can best overcome these concerns by focusing their efforts on learning as much as they can about what it takes to be successful in their targeted profession. Having this ‘curious focus’ takes the pressure off of the individual to always be talking about themself and allows them to approach potential leads and eventual employers with a clear understanding of how they will be an asset to that particular industry and that specific company. For example, Dan had been working in the editorial world for 8 years and was eager to make a transition into work that was more personally meaningful. He set his sights on sports marketing but was very apprehensive about how he would break into such a popular industry and how he would overcome his discomfort with the concept of networking. He began by learning everything he could about the industry as a whole as well as what companies had offices in his hometown of Chicago and how they differed. Next, he found out about a specific networking group for marketing professionals, through an informational interview and eventually began attending their events. Over time, Dan built up contacts within the sports management field as well as the confidence that he would be able to convince an employer that he would be an asset to their particular company and composed a portfolio of his work that highlighted his selling points.
Ramp up Your Life Outside of Work! It is equally important to be sure to balance out the other aspects of our lives: Personal Growth/Health, Relationships and Leisure, while we plot our professional transformation. While your professional situation may not change as quickly as you would like it to, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a life! So, try to focus on what can be controlled in your life—and ramp up your personal life. For example, push yourself to accomplish something you might not have ever imagined for yourself like: completing a triathlon, joining a music band or writing a short story. Oftentimes, people end up opening doors to their desired path when they are not even looking. An example is a woman named Patty who was determined to break into the wine import industry but had not had any success in setting up an informational interview or making a personal connection so to learn more about the field. She followed my ‘homework’ and finally pursued a long postponed hobby—starting to practice yoga. Within two weeks of joining a yoga studio, she discovered that the studio’s owner was a big time wine importer and generously invited Patty down to his business to shadow him for a day once his wife made the connection. You never know where your ‘breaks’ are going to come from!