Six Steps for Landing a New Job After Declaring You’ve Had Enough

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.”

6 steps finding new job_Coming Alive1It 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: © /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.


The Secret to Staying Sane in a Crazed World

Egg1I am supposed to blog at least once a week, but I don’t.

I am supposed to have lots of “rich media” on my LinkedIn profile—videos of my work, podcasts—but I don’t.

I should join Dropbox because it makes sense to store my important stuff in the Cloud, giving others easy access to my work. But you know what?  When I signed up, a Get Started guide popped up on my screen, letting me know I need a tutorial on how to navigate Dropbox.  That’s fine, but I don’t have time!  I save the guide, planning to read it “soon.”

So, I have a Dropbox account, but I don’t.

As an entrepreneur, I am pulled in so many directions.  This week I was asked to contribute a 1500 word essay for a book—a fantastic opportunity. My mind exploded with juicy topic ideas I genuinely care about. I became giddy at the prospect of being part of a cool project that would positively impact others and grow my business.  Then I noticed my heart began to pound, and my upper lip broke out in a sweat. A voice inside my head chirped: If I say yes to one more thing, I will ride off the rails.

I went for a walk to calm myself down and realized what’s most important to me:  I want to be sane. That matters to me more than being part of a book, than being the go-to career consultant  for  local  news, than landing in the next  TED talk line-up. Though I will not recoil from  those opportunities when they come knockin’,  I want to stop chasing them with an avidity bordering on greed.

I thought about my recent conversation with my grounded, sane handyman, Robin. Here’s what he said, “I could expand my business, gain a partner and accept bigger jobs. I could make a lot more money. Everyone tells me this. But I don’t.  I’ve made the same money more or less for years. I like my independence. I don’t need more things. I don’t need more stuff and I like my life.  I have enough.”

My initial reaction was, But Robin, more money, more freedom. He smiled, but didn’t agree with me. Whenever Robin doesn’t agree with me, it lingers in my mind.   What a statement that is, “I have enough.” Who says that, these days? Not many of us, I realized.

When I first launched my career consulting business, I received a request from a large career consulting firm’s CEO to have a conversation to “share information.”  I was excited at the prospect of a joint project with him. Instead, the conversation proceeded in a whole different direction. He immediately told me that his high powered clients who all earned  annual salaries of $100,000+, had job offers within 7 weeks. He also told me he optimizes their LinkedIn profiles in such a way that they receive 1000 LinkedIn connection requests per week.  He didn’t see me as a potential partner; he wanted to intimidate me and run me out of Dodge.  He fascinated me! I asked him why he had two LinkedIn profiles, and he said it’s because he maxed out his first account at 30,000 connections. In that instant I understood him. I recognized  his—and I have this part of me too—insatiable hunger, a belief that I don’t have enough, I’m not enough. That night I sent him this poem by Kurt Vonnegut.


True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.

I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22′
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!”

My intent in sending him the poem was to nudge him into an alternate, saner point of view. It didn’t invite further conversation with him, as I’d hoped.

This past week, in all the tributes to Joan Rivers, the line that stood out most was this. She said “A mafia guy in Vegas gave me this advice: Run your own race, put on your blinders.” When I look at my business from my perspective–and tune out the glut of  marketing strategies promising to make my business explode–I’m doing great. Every week I gain a more solid foothold in a field I love, and reach more people whom I can impact in a positive way. I also know there are a hundred better choices I can make to grow my business faster, bigger, to monetize so I make money in my sleep.  I love this quote by Brian Tracy: “Set peace of mind as your highest goal and organize your life around it.” You know what? Peace of mind. That’s enough.

image: © /kikkerdirk

Celebrating Mistakes in Your Job Search



As I grow my business, I keep making mistakes.  I spend too much time trying to expand my network, and not enough time blogging, and crafting my presentations.  When I caught this imbalance, I regrouped, and gently pulled myself back into balance.

As a job seeker, mistakes are invaluable.  Instead of  browbeating yourself when you blow an interview–as in wow, I was way too long winded during that interview. What was I thinking??,  you can roll up your sleeves and fix the problem. I tell my clients, “Call me when you make a mistake, so we can make a toast to celebrate it. That mistake you made just shaved a day–a week,  a month, off of your job search.”

Why?  Because mistakes are valuable information.  If you don’t make them, if you don’t risk–you actually prolong your job search. During my last job search 7 years ago, I made one big mistake during the first three months of my search, and it cost me that job. I also only had one interview in those three months.  At the time, I was in the dark about how to land interviews.  When I finally got serious about my job search, I made lots of mistakes, but I also tripled the number of interviews each week. I knew I was doing something right.

Part of how I coach clients is to help them become mistake-friendly.  I encourage you to welcome them into your home like an uninvited guest, and receive the gifts they offer.