Facing career change with courage

Red Door - time to change

Creating career change

It’s time for us to start making our life plans match our life spans.

If you start your work life in your twenties, and finish in your sixties, your work life span is going to be roughly 40 years long. You are not the same person when you are twenty, or thirty, or forty – life circumstances with shape you, you will also change under your own steam, so assuming one career will satisfy your passion over your work life span is rather short sighted.

We break down three stages of career change that you may be contemplating/ experiencing and provide some advice from various sources to help you optimise each stage.

If you recently lost your job

There are a number of euphemisms to describe the loss of a job – redundancy, right sizing, down-sizing. These are all impersonal terms and do not frequently capture the emotional journey associated with job loss. The financial arrangements aside, please remember that job loss is a considerable personal stress and you will likely experience stages of grief including shock, bargaining, anger, denial and eventually, acceptance. It is a period that can test our resilience, and can lead to feeling of loss of self.

In Hong Kong, many of us define ourselves through the jobs we hold, and job loss can create a personal sense of worthlessness which may lead to the temptation to withdraw from other people. Please don’t do that, isolation will possibly exacerbate negative self-talk and normalisation of the process. Many people lose their jobs, this is not personal and unique to you. Start on the project to replace your job will help you move through a naturally negative experience, into a more positive stage.

Finding another job

You will not find the perfect job by accident. If you are looking for a similar role to the one you held previously, even though you are probably well-qualified, remember that the process of looking for a job has changed dramatically in the past 10, or even 5 years. In a tight job market, employers have their choice of job applicants, and will not see the need to invest capital to advertise available positions in the paper. They may only post open positions on their own websites, or not communicate obviously about available positions at all. The traditional process of sending your standard CV and application letter in response to an advertisement is not the only route to securing your new position. You need to update your application process to include online aspects, differentiation, utilising your network, and considering the big picture.

The online aspects include not just looking on line, but also having a good online profile on sites such as LinkedIn. It is essential to have a powerful LinkedIn profile. If you are not sure how to maximise your profile on LinkedIn there are workshops and experts who help with this specific self-marketing skill. Some advice they will give you is to provide a professional photo of yourself, include key aspects of your CV, list key achievements and get as many recommendations as possible. Play up any performance metrics that you can that indicate how you have contribute to the bottom line in your previous company, whatever savings you made or revenue you contributed. In a tight employment market, employers are looking to ensure secure appointments and these numbers provide comfort.

To differentiate yourself from plenty of other applicants take a moment to run a personal self-inventory, of your skills and attributes. Be kind yourself at this time, this is not a time to beat yourself up. If you are not able to frame your attributes in a positive light consider coaching to help you better see and list your strengths. How are you different from other applicants? Are you more experienced that others, then help your employer understand the potential benefit of your experience. If you are younger, then highlight your fresh youthful approach to challenges, as what separates you from others.

Many applicants find their next job through their network rather than in response to an advertisement. Utilizing your network is the way to find the jobs that nobody knows about. If you can apply for the job before it becomes available you have a special advantage. Any meeting of new people may be treated as the first stage of a job interview, so have your ‘elevator pitch’, that is your 2-3 sentence summary of who you are and your differentiation, well practiced. It can be difficult to be positive if your ego has been hurt by your current job frustrations or job loss. It can be tough to be positive. However remember job stress and job loss are not rare or exceptional, just state the facts in a non-emotive manner. You have nothing to be ashamed of – just focus on the positive rather than list your litany of complaints about your previous job.

Finding a mentor through your current contacts, or through networking, can also be helpful to get a new job, or a promotion. More senior personnel in your industry can identify the key attributes you need to add to your CV, or help you navigate the politics of your industry.

Consider the big picture in mind when applying for a new job. Whilst you may put your complete heart and soul into every application, be practical. Job applications are a numbers game, so be pragmatic. Employers have a wealth of applicants for every available position, so if you are not the final candidate, just keep going. If feedback is available then ask for it. It will help you note if your applications need to be reframed to highlight particular skills, or they had a particular type of candidate in mind. Do yourself a favour and commit to applying for 20-50 jobs rather than a small amount. This will keep you focused on the project management aspects of the job search process.

Follow your heart – change your career completely

Given the length of your life span, you might consider changing career completely. It would make sense that you have two to three careers over a 50 year work span.

Do you know what you would like to do next? If not you can use some pen and paper tools to help brainstorm potential futures for you to consider. In coaching sessions we use eight pronged spider diagrams to discuss at least 8 career change options with clients. We use a large number to help people break out of the restrictions they may have put on themselves. For one of the positions I usually ask the client, “What would you do for nothing?” Once the 8 slots are filled we start further information on what clients would like about each of the opportunities, and how they could make money from those activities. Usually two to three of the options start to look more probable or attractive, or something new can be created from combining 2-3 of the items.

Many of the skills you have already are transferable to another industry. Creativity, ability to write, budgeting skills, and project management skills, can be helpful in a number of different careers.

If you are considering change I have two recommendations for you: Firstly, you need to stay the course of change. Whilst friends and family may mean well, they may try to save you from the difficulty of change, but may be inadvertently advising you to follow someone else’s dream, which may have been a pattern from your past that you may wish to break out of. Secondly I urge you to consider your current and future metrics of success. If financial recompense is your only measure of success, career change may be particularly challenging. Other key elements such as flexibility of projects, having more time off, ability to create new things, a job which provides a greater sense of purpose, and independence from company politics may make your life richer in the long run.

Some final advice

Regardless of your career change journey, if you are considering career change remember the 5 Ps. Stay positive, be patient, be proactive, utilize your network of people, and lastly, have a big picture perspective.