Need a New Career – Why Can’t I Just Figure It Out?

Such a frustrating feeling to get stuck on the career change treadmill, the one where you know you're not happy with work, but go in unending circles every time you try to come up with new ideas. Sound familiar? It's OK to admit it – many people are doing the same these days. They want to find something new and different, where the work hours may be fewer and the job satisfaction is greater.

As a Career Coach, I get lots of calls from individuals wanting my help to "just figure it all out." Some Turnlifearound_19 have tried assessments, research, and long hours of conversations with friends – all without results. They call me as a last resort thinking that maybe they'll have to invest in some professional assistance. There's no shame in that. It took me three years and two job moves to make a career transition from my 12-year career in college financial aid administration to working in the careers field. If I'd known about career coaches then, I wouldn't have spent three years spinning my wheels. You shouldn't either.

Do you "avoid any strategy that is not logical and almost certain of desired outcome?" (From the program quiz, "Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction." Take the free quiz to see where you fit.) If you do, this is your biggest mistake. The first step to changing careers is to play in your right brain for awhile; that's where the creativity will get sparked. You must give yourself permission to take a time-out from logic. Breathe, relax, and let your mind wander. Get involved in a fun activity where you surrender all thought of your career. You'll be surprised that after a day or so, new ideas will rush into your brain. But stop! It's not yet time to act on anything. New ideas need to percolate. Just let them exist for awhile as you go about your current job.

When ready to explore your ideas, do just that – explore. Research possibilities and talk to people who actually work in these jobs. Cast a wide net while keeping all the "yeah, buts" at bay. Now is not the time to let logic restrict you! There will come the time when any final career idea you choose must be filtered through business reality – but not yet! Restrictions at this time will only drag down your creative juices. Sometimes the "right" career idea comes from a sprout of the original idea, so just go with the flow for awhile. Don't rush the process!

There's a lot of information on the Internet and in publications on how to change careers, most stemming from logical processes – assessments, research, reading, etc. While this may work for some, I know my career coaching clients are forever grateful after experiencing the three-month, innovative, right brain approach.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

Boost Your Job Search Effectiveness

Has a state of exhaustion overcome your good intentions to stay focused on a job search? Many job seekers have been unemployed for months, if not years. Many are burned out, burned up and just plain tired. If that fits you, now is the time to re-examine your job search strategy and kick it up a few notches! Imagine a tired long-distance runner nearing the finish line. What does he do? Fall out of the race or dig deeper for the extra spurt of energy needed to cross that finish line?

Let's look at some ways to enhance a job search that will help speed up your reemployment.

Boost Your Activity

How do you track your job search activities? Do you have a system in place to keep your contacts organized so you can methodically follow up on a regular basis? Do you set goals and reward yourself when you meet them? Organization is the only way to stay on top of all the activity surrounding a professional job search. Utilizing technology can save time and the support of a Career Coach can keep you on track.Perfectjob_12

Challenge yourself to increase the weekly contacts you make. If you currently reach out to three per day, raise it to ten. For anyone with sales experience, this tactic should be familiar. You up your chances for success by increasing your calls – it’s a numbers game. Track your average rate of return…you will need to collect your "no's" to get a "yes," but it only takes one "yes" to get a job!

Boost Your Visibility

Now is not the time to stay home. When you are unemployed, looking for a job becomes your full time job. How many people do you meet in a week? If it's fewer than 20, then you are probably contributing to your state of unemployment. Most people (some career experts say as high as 85%) are getting their jobs today through networking – the kind of face-to-face interaction that involves building personal, ongoing relationships. Sure, money is tight, but try to consider the cost of breakfast and luncheon meetings as an investment in your career. Don’t forget the networking you can do on-line, such as through LinkedIn. It is mandatory that every professional has a LinkedIn profile – you must boost your findability on the Internet.

Of course, when you meet and greet people you’ll have to pull yourself out of that "black hole" into which you may have fallen. Put a smile on your face, even if you don't feel it in your heart. Get to know others by asking questions to find out what you can do for them and their job searches. When you leave meetings, you will feel reconnected with humanity. You will be remembered for what you have to offer which will result in others wanting to return the favor. Watch how many job leads begin to come your way! You are probably only 3-4 degrees removed from someone who has the authority to hire you, and you don’t even know it!

Boost Your Creativity

When small business owners launch their enterprises, they are advised to publish articles and deliver presentations to increase public awareness of their new ventures. And it works! So, what would happen if you did the same? Try writing and speaking about your expertise to attract interest in your personal brand. It would be interesting to see how many responses you receive due to this new found notoriety, and how many of these might turn into bona fide employment offers.

How do you reach your target markets through publishing and presenting? Do your research to discover what potential employers are reading, then write and submit articles relevant to their interests and your expertise. Printed periodicals and on-line publications can both work to your advantage. Use the same approach in scheduling presentations. Where does your target market go to learn more about your expertise? (Hmm, are we back to networking?) Contact event organizers to offer your speaking skills. Most professional groups welcome presenters who don’t charge fees.

Boost Your Knowledge

Visibility and creativity will work to your advantage as long as you stay current in your field. As learning is a lifelong process, take advantage of your unemployed status to attend seminars and workshops that keep your skills fresh and up-to-date. (You may even be able to do this on-line, but don’t miss out on more in-person networking.) This rings particularly true for anyone in the information technology field. However, people in most industries would agree that change is occurring at warp speed…don't get left behind! While you continue your learning, remember to read business journals, nonfiction bestsellers, and current events periodicals.

What business trends do you spot? How can you position yourself as a change agent? Companies seek drivers of innovation to impact their bottom lines. Does your resume portray your successes in such a way that hiring authorities can easily see the value you offer them as they try to not only cope, but thrive, in an ever-changing marketplace? Ask a Career Coach or professional resume writer to critique your resume to ensure all your bases are covered.

Boost Your Chances to Succeed

With most things in life, history repeats itself and change challenges the best of us. The status of work in the 21st century is changing as this article is being written. It will continue to evolve as more baby boomers retire and are replaced by their children and grandchildren. For those currently out of work, today's angst will eventually fade into the past as new positions are obtained and careers move forward. What role do you want to play in your overall career satisfaction? Do you want to take charge of your own destiny or surrender your control?

You don't have to do it all alone. "At a time when companies are downsizing and out-placing…at a time whenOver50 boomers are facing 50, coaches are easing traumatic transitions." This quote is from "Career Coaches Offer Help in the Game of Life," Long Beach Press-Telegram, July 9, 1996. Let's see…that was almost sixteen years ago. Now boomers are facing 60 or already there! Isn't it about time to hire a Career Coach to help you map out the rest of your career? Career Coaches can help you with job searches as well as help you with career reinventions.

Job search exhaustion is real. It affects your attitude and your motivation to stay engaged. Get a handle on it now to find that next job. Better yet, take the time to reinvent yourself for a better career for the 21st century.

Wishing you career success in 2012!

Meg

(Updated from April 2, 2009 post)

Movies Teach Career Lessons

This past week I posted on how communication gaps lead to misunderstandings with bosses. I got my inspiration from the newly released movie, "Horrible Bosses" – "Horrible Bosses Strikes a Nerve."

Today I'd like to shine the spotlight on one of my posts from 2009, "Julie and Julia": A Script for Career Transition." This movie depicts the story of how a modern-day character starts a blog about her experience as she cooks her way through Julia Child's cookbook over the course of one year.

My fleeting thought is that movies can teach career lessons by imitating life. Now, I'm on the search for more movies to review from the perspective of a careerist!

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Top 3 + 1 Tips for Making a Successful Career Change

Have you heard? Career change is in vogue. Employment surveys range from 60-80% on how many employees are ready to jump ship and find a better job and/or career. Are you one of them? If so, then it's time to get into action!

As we creep out of this pesky economic recession, many workers are exhausted from overwork and overwhelm. For them, any job or career change is appealing just to get away from demanding managers who are focused with blinders on improving the company bottom line and not so focused on retaining their employees. Before you leave, though, it's important to plot your exit strategy. Make sure you are moving toward the right thing, and not just away from the wrong thing.

Here are some career coaching questions to help you get going in the right direction: A03

1) Values: Take the time to do a thorough self-evaluation. What's most important to you? Are you someone who likes public recognition? Or do you prefer a private pat on the back when you perform above expectations?

2) Work Environment: Know your best fit. Do you prefer a large, medium or small employer? Are you more productive on a team or do you prefer to work alone? What are your expectations regarding flex time, telecommunting, and other working arrangements?

3) Positive Feeling: Sometimes you just have to listen to your gut. Where will you feel most appreciated? Where will you derive the highest work satisfaction? Where will you feel you are making your best contribution?

By now you've probably noticed that I haven't mentioned one word about skills or experience. Why is that? When it comes to career change, skills and experience actually are the last things to consider. I know many people who are really good at what they do but truly hate their jobs. Instead, figure out where what you do best marries with what you most like to do.

Let me boil this down into simple terms:

4) Career change is more about who you are than what you do. Really! As soon you discover your life's purpose – you know, whatever makes you feel good about being alive – then how you express that in your work will easily follow. The whole discovery process can take a little bit of time, but it's very much worth the effort. Isn't it time to get off the gremlin's treadmill and figure it out once and for all?

Limited thinking can tie your hands and make you believe that there is no good solution for career change. Don't assume that! It's just your gremlin restricting your creative thinking and holding you back. Hire a career coach to challenge that belief so you can find your real truth of who you are as a happy, enthusiastic worker.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Career-Collective-original-small SPECIAL NOTE: I am honored to be a member of the Career Collective, a group of careers experts who each month share their advice and tips to enhance the management of your career. Please link to their blog posts below. Your comments are invited and much appreciated. Please follow our hash-tag on Twitter – #careercollective - as well as follow each expert's individual tweet on this month's topic of "Best Advice for Career Changers." You'll be amazed at all the free career advice and knowledge that is available to you from these professionals in the careers field!

Are You Ready for a Career Change? @Debra Wheatman

Changing Careers? Ask yourself these questions. @erinkennedycprw

Changing Careers: Not for the Fainthearted, @GayleHoward

Career Change Isn't An Exact Science, @careersherpa

The 10-Step Plan to Career Change, @KatCareerGal

When it’s Time to Recycle Your Career, @WalterAkana

Best Career Change Advice: Target & Plan, @JobHuntOrg

How social media can help you change careers, @keppie_careers

Expat Careers: You Are Not Your Job Title, @expatcoachmegan

Changing The Direction Of Your Career, @EliteResumes @MartinBuckland

Career Changer: Can You Quell Bottom-line Ache? @ValueIntoWords

Top 3 + 1 Tips for Making a Successful Career Change, @KCCareerCoach

Changing Careers: Look Before You Leap, @barbarasafani

10 Commandments for Career Changers, @LaurieBerenson

Is Career Change for You?, @workwithillness

#Jobseekers: Networking 101 for Introverts

Last week one of my executive career coaching clients asked for tips on how to do in-person networking with new contacts. As an introvert, he feels hesitant just going up to someone and initiating a conversation. Since he is Networking working on improving his relationship-building skills, an upcoming conference offers an opportunity he can't afford to ignore.

Here's what my career coaching client said:

"How can I get more comfortable and effective in general networking situations? When I am in a setting where my position/authority/role is clearly defined, I am much more comfortable approaching people and engaging in conversation; for example, if I am giving a presentation, then interacting about that material is very easy and comfortable. Or, if at a conference with table seating, I can be comfortable conversing with the people on either side because that is a clear expectation.  

Where I am less comfortable is: 1) walking into a general cocktail party or reception where no one knows me or why I am there, and initiating a conversation with anyone. I know this is partly a self-confidence issue as I tend to be thinking, 'why would anyone want to talk with me?' 2) also, engaging directly with people I admire from afar is difficult; I can be totally fascinated listening to a presenter from the audience, but incredibly uncomfortable approaching that individual to have a one-on-one. Part of this is my learning style – I learn by listening intently and then absorbing internally what I have heard – but I have to be able to approach and make contact with key people."

For an executive to admit this is quite a feat. I give him kudos for stepping up and confronting his fear. Perhaps you can relate to his situation? One way to help conquer this fear of networking is to seek out career coaching.

I offered my client the following quick tips:

1) When entering a room, most people are hesitant to jump right in and start meeting people. As an introvert, I suggest you look for one person standing alone and walk up to him first. (Chances are he is also feeling intimidated by the experience.) Introduce yourself and then ask questions that you can feed on in order to ask more questions, adjusting as you go for contributions that you can make about yourself. Usually, an individual will ask questions in return.

2) When it’s time to sit down, look for a different individual who may be alone and sit by her. Then strike up a conversation again with questions. As more people join the table, they will want to get involved in the conversation, too. It’s important that you connect with as many people as possible.

3) Don’t freely pass out your business card if not asked for it, but ask for another’s IF you really feel you’d like to stay in touch. Sometimes at the table, everyone will pass around business cards so all get each other’s. That’s OK.

4) Know your agenda in your mind before you enter a room for networking. Know what you want to take away from this experience. That will help you feel focused and organized.

There are entire books written about networking. One of my favorite books is Make Your Contacts Count by Anne Baber and Lynn Waymon. These authors offer a site with lots of good networking information.

For introverts to become successful at networking, it's important to practice, practice, practice! Eventually, you will become more at ease with this activity. And don't forget, whenever you meet someone with whom you want to develop a relationship, make sure you email him/her within 24 hours to schedule a follow-up meeting for coffee or lunch. Don't wait for someone else to call you – take the lead and help this relationship grow!

What do you think? How do you initiate conversation in a networking situation? I'd love to hear from you - please leave a comment below.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Over 50 and Intimidated By a Job Search?

Finding a job over 50 is an "individual" process, not a group one. If you are a job-seeking boomer, quit paying attention to all the surveys and statistics! Instead, focus on your attitude, put a smile on your face, and build those critical business relationships. Sure, polishing your appearance can help with your face-to-face encounters, e.g., a professional hair style, fashionable clothes, weight loss, etc. And projecting your self-confidence with technology is important. But otherwise, it's still about the unique value you have in order to solve a potential employer's problems – what employers seek from every job candidate regardless of age.

After reading "4 Ways to Stay Employed After Age 50" (US News & World Report, 1-13-11), I once again felt annoyed by all the statistics. When job seekers' lives are boiled down into numbers, hope drains from the collective psyche of boomer readers everywhere. I see here another reason to turn off the tube and dial back the volume of media. Statistics are only numbers – numbers that include EVERYONE in a certain class, not reflective of individuals.

Each person is unique in who they are and what they offer to a potential employer. Become an expert at selling your potential as well as your experience. Research business trends and get comfortable discussing them in terms of your career target. Know that we exist in a rapidly changing world and embrace that fact! The over 50 job seekers who refuse to change, insisting that their way is always the right way, will NOT get where they want to go. They will be labeled as dinosaurs as they live up to their stereotype.

Age advantage book A great resource to help you, the boomer job seeker, is a book by Jean Erickson Walker, The Age Advantage: Making the Most of Your Mid-life Career Transition. Buy it or get it from your library. This is a must-read to help you clearly see all your options for finding a job, the right job for you.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

A New Job Thanks to the Elephant

When I interviewed for a business developer position in the early 1990s, I answered one question that I credit with getting me the job. At the time, I thought it was an odd question, but I answered it instinctively – and it was the response the interviewer was seeking.

What was the question? "If an elephant showed up in your front yard, what would you do with it?" My immediate Elephantresponse was that I would sell it to a zoo. I discovered later after I was employed in this organization that other candidates had responded with "donate it to a zoo" or "find a home for it where loving people would care for it." These responses were more philanthropic oriented than what the interviewer wanted to hear.

My instincts had guided me correctly – this organization was looking for someone who knew how to promote and sell, even though they were a nonprofit. Once on the job, I bought a small ceramic elephant that I sat on my desk. The interviewer, Ron, and I would chuckle whenever he dropped my office to visit, referring to the question he had asked me about what to do with a surprise elephant.

Even in the 1990s, behavioral/situational interview questions – like the one I answered – were popping up in job interviews. Today, it's all about behavioral and situational interviewing. Furthermore, storytelling is now woven into the process. For example, instead of just explaining how I'd sell the elephant to a zoo, today I'd go further and say, "In fact, let me tell you about a time when something similar to this really happened." Interviewing is all about positioning yourself, about selling yourself, about proving your uniqueness.

Storytelling creates pictures in the minds of interviewers that help them remember you and your brand. Storytelling helps you create bridges from what you did that provided value for former employers to how these experiences can help a potential employer solve their problem(s). Storytelling also offers you a way to demonstrate what you've learned from possible negative situations about which hiring authorities will inquire.

Marketing Master, Patsi Krakoff, discusses the art of storytelling on her blog. Her post has many elements in it that can be applied to job interviewing. I love her quote, "Stories impose meaning on chaos and organize and give context to our sensory experiences." My advice to you is to remember that job interviewing is your opportunity to sell yourself, so most of what works in sales and marketing can be applied to your promotion of YOU in your job search.

Anyone in a job search today needs to be prepared for typical behavioral and situational interview questions. However, no way do you want to memorize responses. In a job interview, you must appear conversational and have knowledge of your topic, never spouting off rehearsed responses. The key to job interview success is mastering the storytelling process. Train your memory to bring the right responses forward based on keywords you have embedded in your answers. Although not a quick skill to master, storytelling in job interviews does produce positive results and worth all your effort to learn.

One of my career coaching programs with the biggest demand is Job Interview Preparation. A two-session program, it all takes place by phone and customized to a job candidate's needs. Homework is offered to help you develop your own storytelling skills. You may learn more by visiting my website

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

(Corrected) Job Seekers and “Digital Dirt”: 3 Steps to Keeping Your Professional Online Reputation Clean

CORRECTION: I am pleased to welcome Mallory Pickard as our December guest blogger. She addresses a critical topic for all job seekers: how  to manage your online reputation and control your digital dirt. Her bio follows her post.  

In today’s culture of increasingly digital existence, everyone from college admissions officials to Fortune 500 hiring managers have established methods of researching their prospects’ online identity. Googling someone is quickly becoming the norm for most employers rather than an additional recruiting step. In a 2009 CareerBuilder.com survey, 43% of employers reported they had discovered content on social networking sites that caused them not to hire the candidate — a percentage that doubled from 2008 and continues to rise. (see footnote)

In short, no one can really escape the fact that you are what you tweet (and blog, bookmark, and share), but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Think about it: Now more than ever, recent college grads and job seekers exist on an equal playing field where everyone has the opportunity to expose their skills, strengths, and personality regardless of location, demographics, or personal connections. Employers turn to social networking sites to bring faces to the thousands of resumes at their fingertips, and with a few easy steps, you can make your social media footprint work in your favor. Smiling computer

Here are three “digital dirt” preventive steps to live by:

1. Recognize the inevitable overlap between your personal and professional life online. Keep in mind that everything from a politically polarized blog rant to a tagged photo of you taking in a wild party can end up full screen on a recruiters’ desktop. 72% of the social networking content that led recruiters to rule out candidates in 2009 had to do with inappropriate or offensive comments and posts related to drugs and alcohol (see footnote).

2. Embrace those privacy settings. You are in control of who sees that Halloween Facebook album, your wall, your tweets, and virtually everything you share online. Reserving potentially reputation-damaging content for yourself and trusted friends is always the best course of action. Tact. It’s what’s for dinner.

3. Google yourself regularly. Search your first and last name in quotations marks for exact matches (ex: “Jack Bauer”). Additionally, search for your name plus your school, recent places of employment, and any personal areas of expertise for the most thorough results. There’s not much you can do in so far as getting rid of any damaging results returned in a search, but you can equip yourself with a mature explanation if a potential employer brings any such content into question. Be forthright with your conviction about what you learned from the situation, but steer clear of going into further detail or apologizing excessively.

Finally, keep in mind that completely muting your opinions and interaction online will only make you seem like an anti-social robot. Don’t be afraid to put your voice out there, but keep public content in good taste. Use that realm to let your natural strengths and personality shine whether it be on social networking sites, comment boards, or blogs, and you will easily keep your hands clean of the dreaded “digital dirt”.

(Footnote:  Rosemary Haefner, “More Employers Screening Candidates Via Social Networking Sites”, Careerbuilder.com, June 10, 2009 (http://www.careerbuilder.com/Article/CB-1337-Getting-Hired-More-Employers-Screening-Candidates-via-Social-Networking-Sites/)

Bio: Mallory Pickard is a freelance writer and social media strategist currently based in Raleigh, NC. She is passionate about digital communities, new  music, running, and Duke basketball. You may follow  her on Twitter, http://twitter.com/missmallibu.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Career Digital Launches Huge Career Site

I am so proud to be an affiliate of Career Digital, a new online site featuring "Career Insights and Advice," a comprehensive compilation of blog posts by today's careers experts. Offering all of the important categories for CareerDigitallogo job seekers and careerists, this site will help you conduct your job search and manage your career. 

With navigation ease, you may search by pertinent topic and get linked to careers experts blogs. Headlines clue you in to the information each blog post presents. No need to look further – now you may find answers to all you career questions in one place.

Career Digital launches today! Do yourself a favor and check it out!

You may even search the site from this blog! Just scroll down a bit.

Wishing you career success in 2011!

Meg

Make New Technology Work for You

Just a quick note and tip today:

A prospective client called me Friday interested in career services. SmartphoneWhen I asked how she had found my business, she said, "On my phone – actually on the web while using my phone." There it is! I knew that sooner or later that making my career coaching business blog compatible with mobile apps would result in good things!

Obselet laptopWith foresight a few months ago, I used a special program to ensure my blog could be found using a .mobi URL. Every time I post to my blog, it is automatically updated for cell phones. And now I'm beginning to see the results! This goes to prove what I've been hearing: more and more people are using their cell phones as a one-size-fits-all Internet device. Employment openings are beginning to appear on cell phones, as are networking groups and all kinds of search capabilities. I wonder, is the laptop becoming obsolete?

 

Wishing you career success,

Meg