Potential Client: “This is a little scary. I haven’t done this in a long time.” Me: “Yes, it is scary but very doable. And I am here to help you through it.”
That was part of a discussion I had yesterday with someone looking to make a jump and change companies, and maybe even a functional area of expertise, after 20+ years at the same company.
My potential client, let’s call him Carl, (after one of the most famous long jumpers in history, Carl Lewis), had moved up in the company and is recognized as a valuable and impactful executive in the company. He was feeling unmotivated and unchallenged in the role and wanted to move on for several reasons.
Let’s get right to it—it is scary. It is not only frightening, but it can be overwhelming, frustrating, time-consuming, and downright stressful! I never pull punches with my clients about what you might get into in a career transition and job search.
So let’s layout a few very tactical things you can do to take away some of that scariness.
1. Identify your posse. Some call this your “board of directors” or the group of people that have your back through the process. You need to know whom you can go to throughout the process. You want a diverse group of people; some you may already know and others you may need to meet and potentially hire for their services. I would identify at a minimum of five people:
a. The Cheerleader: You need someone to root for you no matter the circumstances. They need to cheer you on when you meet a goal or have a win. And, they need to be there when the times get tough.
b. The Devils Advocate: Someone that will always ask the “what if” questions or is excellent at looking under the surface to see if there are alarm bells you are missing will help you understand the whole picture and deal with it.
c. The Career Transition Pro: The job search world is different today than when you probably last dipped your toe into the career transition ocean. You will want someone that can help you navigate the new processes and nuances and objectively get you positioned in the market to be successful. There are many highly qualified resources to help. Make sure you vet them thoroughly.
d. The Ideator: Even if you believe you are creative and can generate options to explore, having another brain working with you on alternatives may unearth the ideal path for you.
e. The Mentor: As you have moved through your career, you have more than likely found someone that you connected with professionally; someone whose opinion and knowledge you respected and whose council you trusted. This person probably knows you and your capabilities and value better than anyone else, maybe even better than you. A mentor will help you discern what you want, what you need, and where you are going.
2. Put together a plan of attack. Being a process-oriented person, I will always recommend documenting a plan, a process, that outlines your steps, a timeline, dependencies, and time commitment. To quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
3. Focus on executing the plan, one step at a time. Most of us get anxious when we see ALL the steps and actions that need to take. We focus on eating the elephant, as the saying goes, and not the smaller bites. Same with your career transition. Focus on smaller actions, evaluate your progress, and continue to move forward.
4. Communicate! Make sure you are telling your story. Let people know you are looking and more precisely, what you are looking for. Ambiguity on your part leads to inaction on the part of your network. They won’t know how to help you. It takes time to write emails, meet for coffee, work on your brand, etc. Don’t miss this step. If you are the only one that knows what you are traveling towards, it will be a lonely and isolating journey.
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