Are You In Career Transition? Which “Type” Are You?

LSP_presentationIn addition to campus workshops for humanities students preparing for their professional lives, I work with private clients.

There are three main groups:  

  • young graduates transitioning from college to career,
  • mid-career clients transitioning from job-to-job or career-to-career, and
  • academic clients who are transitioning from graduate student to faculty member or from assistant professor to associate professor.  

IMG_4883At the May 1st event for mental health professionals in Chicago’s Loop, “Clients in Career Transition,” the topic was the second group:  mid-career clients transitioning from job-to-job or career-to-career.

Among those clients, there are generally three types:

1- Those who can afford to start over. You go back to school and re-train or take entry level positions and start over working your way up the career ladder.  Making the decision to start over is the hard part; actually starting over by applying to school or entry level positions is usually pretty straightforward.  Very few people fit into this category, but if you do, congratulations! The ability to start over grants you a lot of freedom. You get a “do over” and you have a lot more life experience and professional experience than most of your younger classmates or colleagues.

2- Those who cannot afford–in any sense of the word–to start over. You have to keep your current salary as you transition to a new career. The conventional wisdom for such transitions is: do your current job in a different industry. For example, if you work in HR, but always wanted a career in design, then look for HR jobs in design firms.  If you work in finance, but want to be in architecture or health care, look for in-house financial analyst jobs.  

Once you’ve made the move to a new industry, you can do on-the-job-training while continuing to earn according to your current skill set.  And you’ll gain access to a lot more people in the new industry with whom you can network. Here’s how to get started:

  • Look at websites of specific companies where you’d ideally like to work to see what job openings they have.
  • Get busy networking. Ask that friend whose uncle has a friend at the firm where you’d ideally like to work for an introduction. Start talking to people you know outside of work. The best networking happens where you least expect it–at the gym, a sporting event, book club, religious organization, other parents at your kids’ school, old acquaintances who you’re back in touch with online. Find your top two categories for networking and network.

3- Those who like their chosen career, but don’t like their current workplace. You find the work environment toxic, don’t like the culture of the workplace, or don’t like the people you work with.  Finding job openings and knowing who to talk to is not as important for these people as it is for those looking to change careers.  You probably have a good idea of the jobs that are out there, know where to look for job openings, and who among your acquaintances might have good information for you.

For this group, the hard part is keeping it positive as you launch your job search. The negativity and bitterness you feel for the workplace can come through in your resume and cover letter.  Instead, your enthusiasm and passion for the work that you do has to be reflected in those documents. 

The need to keep it positive is most important in the interview. You cannot say anything negative about a current or former employer in an interview –not even if you’re baited by and interviewer who talks about the toxic environment and horrible people you work with. You just smile and say, “I like my work as a CPA.”

How you handle these very commonly-asked job interview questions is key:

Why are you leaving your current position?

Why should we hire you?

First, let the interviewers know that you’ve researched their organization, know the job ad, know the company’s website, and know their mission & vision. They need something that you have.  So make the interview about them and their needs. Start with them. Say, “you need someone who can…” or “you’re looking for someone with this area of expertise or this subspecialty.” Then mention your qualifications: “Over the past 7 years, I’ve developed this area of expertise or subspecialty.” Then conclude with, “it’s a good fit for both of us.” The most negative thing you want to say is, “I use my area of expertise 25% of the time at my current job and it looks like that would be flipped to 75% in this job.” It’s okay to talk about fit with respect to the job, but don’t mention the environment, culture, or people.  

Once you know which profile of career transition fits you, get started researching the possibilities. Once you’re ready to launch your job search, you need to get up to speed on the subject of next week’s blog post on the topic: the role of technology in the 21st century job search.


2009 Head ShotDarcy Lear is a career coach specializing in job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. See details here. For one-on-one support in preparing for your job search or to set up a campus workshop, contact Darcy: darcylear@gmail.com
 
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