Step 1: Let yourself grieve. You need to grieve the very real loss of things that you like about your current job: Your lunch buddies, your cubicle mate with whom you exchange cute dog memes, the short commute, the feeling of job security you have. A friend recently confided that she hates the idea of leaving her secure job where she is liked, even though she hasn’t learned anything new in years and is hungry for a new challenge. I said, “Grow your flame. Feed your potential. There’s more security in that.”
It is really hard to leave what’s familiar, even if it doesn’t serve us. As career development expert Liz Ryan says, “Work should be a joyful human activity,” not a drudge or a drain. (“Grow your flame” is Liz’s trademark phrase, by the way).
Step 2: Give yourself permission to figure it out in whatever time it takes. Before starting your job search, print out this quote by Albert Einstein and put it on your bathroom mirror:
“Perhaps the fundamental freedom that anyone possesses is the choice of where we place our attention.”
During your search, your attention will go south at times. You will feel tempted to quit, and slink back to your current job where you “shrink to fit” because shrinking will seem easier than finding a new job. Instead, remember that any major change requires two ingredients: Grace and grit. Imbue your job search with those two qualities, and you will find a better job. I promise.
By grace, I mean give yourself a “grace period” that lasts throughout your whole search. Be kind to yourself when you blunder a follow up phone call at a new company you’ve targeted. Grant yourself a reprieve. Know that job searching is clumsy and awkward, because you’re seeking out a lot of new information from people who seem to have it all. Except they don’t. Remember they were job seekers once, and may be secret job seekers right now. You don’t know. As a job seeker, you’re rusty, so grant yourself grace as you build up your job seeker muscles again. Treat yourself to a cheap caramel iced coffee somewhere, or sit on a park bench and bask in the glow of each little success.
By grit, I mean, stick with your goal of making a change. If you tried to connect with someone and they didn’t get back to you, contact someone else at that company. Don’t take it personally, don’t take it as a sign it’s not worth it. As I said in an earlier piece, keep pressing buttons until you get a result. I spent a year taking an intensive Life Coaching course, and then realized I didn’t want to be a life coach! I liked it, but it wasn’t quite right. Those skills lay dormant for years until I realized I really wanted to be a Career Coach. The life coaching skills are a vital part of my services. That’s what I mean by grit—hanging in there even when it seems like you’re yielding nothing.
Step 3: Try new things. This is the step most people in job search avoid. Instead, what people often do is spend a lot of angry energy creating a new resume (I did that—I’d take a day off I was so mad, rewrite my resume, and it just sat in my secret file, all dolled up with no place to go). Beginning your job search by re-writing your resume is a waste of your time and here’s why: In today’s job market, 80% of jobs are filled by referral, 20% through an applicant pool. This means you need to go network, and try new activities, to meet new people. There are two reasons for experimenting: First, you build a referral base of people who might refer you to a job, but second, to learn your preferences. The more you know about yourself, the higher likelihood you’ll find a job that fits like a glove.
If you don’t try new things, you may end up in the same jam as a professional acquaintance of mine, “Amy.” Every few months she contacts me, at the end of her rope with her job. She says, “That’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I’ve had enough pettiness, I’m bored out of my mind. I’m through!” I ask if she’s taken any new classes in the direction she’d like to go, or sat down for informational interviews with “insiders” at companies she’s targeting, or attended free Webinars on something exciting to her. No, no, and no, is her reply. She’s in a tailspin. She doesn’t feel she can leave her job, because she hasn’t opened up any new doors, or gained new insights about a new career direction. These two things are vital to your job search! Letting new information in alters your DNA, and gives your job search momentum. When I did informational interviews to learn more about career coaching, I visited several Career Services offices at local universities. I asked career advisors, “What’s the one thing college students most want to know about?” and they all said, “LinkedIn.” That information set my career trajectory on fire. As a former software trainer, learning LinkedIn has been a natural for me. I began gobbling up everything about LinkedIn, and now optimize my clients’ profiles.
Step 4: Optimize your LinkedIn profile. (I know. It sounds like I’m plugging my services here, but really. You need to do this). I have received several consulting offers as a result of my optimized LinkedIn profile and my LinkedIn posts. As personal branding expert William Arruda says, “There are literally thousands of personal branding activities you can engage in every day that will help your career thrive. . . Almost all of them can be accomplished through LinkedIn.” It’s a powerful tool. Spending money for an optimized profile will be money well spent (if you apply grit. Once you’re optimized, you’ll need to work its features)! If you’d rather not pay someone, see Arruda’s article here, on how to optimize your own profile.
Step 5. Make new connections. Whether you are simply switching companies and staying in your industry, or switching industries altogether, like I did, it’s vital to make new connections, out there in the world, and on social media. Every time I’d read an article I really liked or found helpful, I’d reach out to the author on LinkedIn. I told her/him specifically what I liked about the article, and requested a connection. Ninety percent of the time, people accepted my request. Then if I thought they might have information that would be helpful, I requested informational interviews, and built relationships in the industry. I’m there for them too, which is crucial to the process of relationship building.
Step 6: Retell your new professional story to your friends and family and new people you meet. Share your excitement about your new direction with people. Tell them what you’re learning. It’s a necessary part of your re-invention and it will feed your conviction that change is a comin’. Telling it will make it real. You’ll also be amazed at how many people know people who can help you, once they learn what you want to do. “Oh, you need to talk to my friend Sarah! She’s an admissions advisor at so and so.” It will work like that.
More importantly, you are stepping into a new, stronger identity by talking about the new things you’re doing. “Amy” above isn’t yet carving out a new identity. She’s so focused on being angry about her situation that she’s paralyzed.
Don’t let that be you. As Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Here I’ve provided you with a step-by-step list that will help you find work that makes you come alive. Go do it!
image: © Depositphotos.com /muamu
Thanks and gratitude go to Herminia Ibarra and her excellent book Working Identity for articulating steps 3, 5 and 6 with such clarity. She captured my own long and winding reinvention process, before I knew that’s what I was doing.