One of the toughest challenges job seekers face is figuring out how to make a career transition. Sometimes transition is forced; maybe jobs in your industry or area are dwindling. Other times, you want to do something different – explore new options. Whatever the situation, HOW to transition is a critical sticking point. Having worked with clients at various levels of their careers, transition is an area that comes up time and again. Here are some things I continuously hear about and address as job seekers lament, question, and concentrate on during their ‘transition’.
There is no doubt that a transition is a tough thing. Perhaps you don’t know anyone in the field that is the focus of your transition or you don’t know even where to begin. Overcoming FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) is a first step to putting yourself on a path to success. Consider the following as you foray into something new and exciting. Your initial steps should include the following:
• Research your interests. Consider taking a personality assessment (e.g. Myers Briggs, DISC) to help you uncover and understand more about what your strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes are. This exercise will allow you to learn more about yourself and promote increased self awareness.
• Research the industry. How do you even know what you think you are interested in is a real interest? Doing some preliminary (at first) and then more in-depth industry research will give you a sense of how companies in that space operate. You will learn about key players and emerging trends. From there you can...
• Research specific positions. Since this is a time of change, evaluating positions will help you understand where your background fits into the broader picture. You can then prepare your action plan.
Action: Your successful transition is largely predicated on the research you do (see above) and also establishing a strong action plan. Your action plan sets the tone of your search and keeps you on track to manage the application process. It is a well known fact that if you write something down, you are more than likely to focus your energies on achieving your desired outcome. Your action plan will consist of the following:
List of target companies. After completing your industry research, it will be time to create a list of companies that hold your interest. Again, more research is involved. In fact, the entire job search process is one that is centered around research: research about your interests; research about opportunities, companies, cultures, positions, and situations that will fulfill your personal and professional needs. Of course, this will be balanced by your ability to meet the needs of the company.
Create a spreadsheet where you will include the following to keep you organized:
• Company name
• Position title and description
• Date of your application
• Name of person to whom you addressed your application
• Date of interview
Marketing Materials: Your marketing materials (aka résumé and cover letter) are perhaps the most important part of your search. This is because these documents are the first thing people see about you. You want to project a positive personal brand. Your documents should match in terms of font selection, layout, and style. Making a transition might require you to highlight relevant experience from earlier in your career. If this is the case, consider a hybrid style presentation.
Online Presence: If you don’t have an online presence (e.g. LinkedIN, Twitter, online profile) you should fix that immediately. Hiring managers 'Google' the names of people they are interviewing and those they are considering interviewing. An online presence (with positive information about you) is a great way to get exposure while allowing someone to learn a little bit about you before they meet with you in person. Your online presence is an extension of your personal brand. If you really want to take it to a new level, you can create an online folio – your “Professional-ME” where your résumé, key traits, competencies, and other discerning information will help the reader gain a broader understanding of who you are.
No doubt making a career transition is challenging. What about job search isn’t, though? It is up to you to make sure that your strategy and resulting plan is well thought out. Your clear understanding of industry and opportunity will put you on a path to realize your goal of making an effective transition.