Have you been laid off, terminated, or otherwise squeezed out of your long-time job? The economic downturn in 2008 initiated a wave of layoffs unseen in many decades leaving many people left with no discernable way to either recapture their former lives or foresee a viable path to move forward. Other workers, not affected by the downturn, still face questions of reinvention as we age and realign our needs and desires from work.
In the following article by Brad Waters, we learn some good ways to think about reinventing ourselves and our careers that are very practical, well-considered, and pragmatic. I never advise an HSP to quit or leave a position without already having another position first. The reason for this is the clock starts ticking as soon as you quit your position with regard to income. Keep the position and continue searching and you still have the income stream. Making matters incalculably worse by quitting will only exacerbate the stresses and anxiety you’re already feeling. There is a term in the military called “embracing the suck” which basically means we acknowledge the situation and circumstances may be sub par but choose to ignore how we feel about it and focus on our responsibilities instead. In this case, we focus on fulfilling the requirements of the current position while seriously looking for another position.
Waters here provides us with the perspective of Randy Wooden, the director of Goodwill Industries of Northwest Carolina’s Professional Center. As we all contemplate the end of 2016 and begin considering strategies for 2017 we can learn from the tips in this article.
Dr. Tracy Cooper-
It’s always an honor to bring in Randy Wooden, Director of Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina’s Professional Center, to share his career perspective. Today he writes about career reinvention.
Are you feeling burned out, frustrated, unfulfilled… and ready for “something different” in your career? Feel like you’re at a fork in the road? Should you “settle” for your present work or carve out a new path?
Most of us have felt this way at some point in our professional life. And, whether it’s our employer laying us off or our proactively leaving, the thought of reinventing ourselves can be both a daunting and confusing challenge.
Let’s explore the reinvention topic. What drives it? How do you go about the discovery process? How do you land that next gig once you’ve determined what you’d like to do?
First, don’t confuse reinventing with mid-life crisis. Changing course isn’t limited to the over-40 crowd. It can occur at any point in your career. Some factors in play may include a sense that what you do doesn’t have value to society, your work isn’t challenging, you never seem to feel “in control” or “caught up” at work, you’re in a dead end job or perhaps a dying industry, etc.
It’s one thing to want to progress in your field, whether that simply means a change of company or more senior job title. It’s another to want a change of job function and/or industry. Yet, we’re creatures of habit where change creates anxiety and fear in many.
Change often depends on our perspective. Fear of the unknown versus growth opportunity. The book, Who Moved My Cheese? is a quick read and may help with focusing on the positives of stepping out of our comfort zone. I call it a “comfortable rut.” We know our job and probably perform it well, but we’re simply trading our time for a paycheck. And before we know it, 20 years fly by.
Many of my clients reach their fork in the road as a result of being laid off. Perhaps you’re in the same boat. Sure, you didn’t feel fulfilled in your past job, but it provided an income and your desire to leave never trumped the hurdles involved with charting a new course. Now that the rug has been pulled out from underneath you you’re forced to take a closer look at what your next job will look like.
You could pursue a similar position. After all, you’re most marketable sticking with what you’ve done. But perhaps your industry is dying. Maybe you’re facing age or other issues (lack of a degree, for instance) which make it difficult to continue your same work with a different company.
What if you want to try something else? How should you go about determining that next step… a step outside your comfort zone?
Begin by taking inventory of what you like—and don’t like—about work you’ve done. The easiest transitions are maintaining your function while switching industries or maintaining your present industry while switching job functions.
Conduct informational interviews with people from industries and/or job functions you think you might enjoy. Additionally, there are many assessments you can take to help guide you based on your interests, aptitudes, and personality.
Questions to ask during these informational interviews should revolve around several topics: The present and longer term outlook for that industry and job function, walking you through a typical day and the primary challenges, any barriers (education/licensure) you’d face to become eligible, likely compensation, etc.
Be sure to ask for additional names of people within the field so as to gain a deeper understanding of what you might be getting into. I can’t stress this enough. Look before you leap.
Here’s a true client story from years ago:
He came to me after only a year or two as a frustrated high school teacher. His father and grandfather had worked in the steel mills of Pennsylvania. My client started there as well, moved into supervision, but wanted to break away from factory life and become a “professional.”
He thought teaching would be much easier than the steel mills. After all, he “knew” teachers only work nine months out of the year, get off at 3pm, have weekends and plenty of holidays off, etc. So he went to college for an undergraduate and his Master’s in Education. Never once did he speak with teachers in any detail to learn the truth about his preconceptions.
So here he was in a lower paying, stressful role, dealing with unruly kids while lacking support from parents and school administrators, and working evenings and weekends. To compound matters, he’d made more money in the mills than teaching AND was unable to get his old job back because he was too highly educated.
Had he invested the time to learn about the teaching profession I know he’d have made different choices. Look before you leap!
Now that you have an idea what you’d like to do, how do you go about landing that next job?
First, don’t expect headhunters to be much help. They operate in a “round peg—round hole” environment where it’s next to impossible to collect a placement fee for someone changing functions and/or industries. They’re good at keeping folks in the same sort of work where the vast majority of their experience lies.
Because changing industries and functions help make you more of a “square peg—round hole” person, you’ll really want to focus on networking and revamping your resume. Simply submitting your standard chronological resume and waiting for the phone to ring won’t get it done.
People tend to hire those they know, like and trust. Become known to those in your new field. Develop target companies. Use LinkedIn to target key individuals within those companies. Knowing someone in the company—or at least knowing someone who can influence a hiring official—can go a long way toward generating an initial interview.
Your resume may need to be changed from a chronological to a skills-based version. The Internet has many templates for inspiration. Remember, instead of tying your accomplishments to the job where you had them, you’ll now want to tie your accomplishments to the respective transferrable skill you’re promoting.
During interviews you’ll need to have solid answers to concerns about how you’ll add value to the organization or why they should hire you, why you’re seeking a career change, what salary you’re anticipating, etc.
The beauty of networking and informational interview is you’ll obtain information along the way to easily help you address those questions.
While change can be difficult, it can also be liberating. Many people take the safe route and stick with their “comfortable rut.” But for those considering a substantive change, I hope I’ve encouraged you and provided some actionable steps to help you reach that next great gig. Good luck!
Ready for more career development articles by Brad and Randy?
Randy Wooden is a long-time career consultant and Director of Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina’s Professional Center. You may reach him at email@example.com (link sends e-mail) or at (336) 464-0516. Access the Center’s free videos at www.goodwillprofessionalcenter.org
Brad Waters, MSW is a career coach-consultant who works nationwide with non-traditional career seekers, freelancers, creatives, introverts, Millennials, and corporate career changers. He helps people clarify their career direction and take action on career-life transitions. Request a free consultation and access free resources at BradWatersCoaching.com or call 773-789-9330.
(additional comments from Dr. Cooper)
One of the best strategies offered in this article is to research actual conditions in any career you are considering. Many people chose to return to college in an effort to completely reinvent themselves. They also, most likely, did not investigate the proposed new career very well and were willing to take the risk that it would all “just work out.” In some cases, I am sure the results are tolerable. In others, it may be quite a shock to realize that one’s new career has a “suck” factor that is beyond imagination. This is particularly true when we have chosen college as a way of moving from one socioeconomic class to another. Often what we find is each level has a suck factor regardless of income level or prestige.
If you are contemplating returning to college I highly advise choosing a program that contains an internship component. Internships allow you to experience life on the job as it actually exists. Not only is this invaluable in gaining real-life experience on the job learning about working conditions and the interpersonal environment but internships may also lead you directly to your first real job post-graduation. In some cases, your first job may be with your internship partner. In others, you will find your first position as a result of having made contacts while in the internship who will lead you to that first great job. Never discount the value of references that may result from internships as well. We all are more willing to vouch for a person we have worked with and like. College programs without internship or practicum components may be less likely to open the doors you likely need help with.
Highly sensitive people come in all flavors and types. No two of us are the same. Similarly, some of us may be great at networking while others suffer greatly from our inability to make useful connections. Choosing a program with an internship represents an opportunity to put yourself out there and let your best qualities shine. Depending on your programmatic choice you may be well-suited to your new career or find you have made an error and need to recalculate. It happens…
Changing careers, even within a profession, may be anxiety-producing. This is especially true for those of us who may have been deeply affected by adverse childhood events (ACEs). For those of us who experienced ACE’s our brains may be hard-wired for overreaction with less connectivity between the thinking center of our brain and the fight or flight center. When we think change we think fear! We think paralysis and withdrawal from the fear. If we are lucky we have others in our lives whom we can look to for strength, courage, or a strong shoulder when we need it. Contemplating a change of career for some may be a matter of life and death.
In my consulting work, I often encounter clients who have job hopped a great deal and have never quite found the right position that meets their needs. It’s bad enough in a society that sees any sort of instability in work as a sign of emotional “weakness” and this is exacerbated by the very real feelings clients may have regarding anxiety, boredom, lack of meaning in their work or other factors that combine to make staying in a position untenable. I feel great empathy in these circumstances as I have experienced them as well. Often what I find is that clients may not have a full appreciation of the array of factors that may be conspiring to sabotage their best efforts to find a workable career. My job has often been to help clients reframe their thinking (perception) of their current situation and empower them with tools to move forward on their own.
As a part of that effort to help HSPs understand the complex nature of career I wrote Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career in 2015. This year I released Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person as an examination of the intersection of two traits that about one-third of highly sensitive people have (myself included): sensation seeking and sensory processing sensitivity. I included an extensive chapter on career and continue to examine new strategies that may be of use to HSPs in navigating the complex world of career.
You may find my website at drtracycooper.com.