In Career a Transition Run Towards the New Not From the Old
Recently I’ve received a number of inquiries from young and experienced professionals about career transitions. Their reasons for wanting a change range from it’s been two years since graduation and I now know what I want from a career to I’ve been doing this too long it’s time for a change. Those who have read my bio ask how I made my career transition. I’m telling my story in hopes it will help others develop an approach that gets them what they want.
Small incremental steps
My long-term goal getting out of college with a degree in sociology was to have a career in advertising. I was certain that what I learned about social behavior was relevant and needed. I was ready to take on San Francisco, but when I graduated San Francisco was a transient city. Many employers believed a new college grad would never hang around long enough to be any value to the organization. Getting a job in advertising that hadn’t realized the value in strategic planning quite yet, and in a city that had very few ad agencies proved impossible. I knew there had to be another way to achieve my goal. Hiking on Mt. Tam I conceived a plan, a plan I used for many years.
- Get the best job I could get in a big named company. (At the time, I didn’t know there was such a thing as the Fortune 500.)
- Take advantage of the training and development offered me from company programs, managers and mentors.
- Find ways to differentiate myself from my peers to get noticed by upper management.
- Know the next position I wanted and work (and dress) towards it.
- Recognize when to stay and when to go (it was a tough decision to leave The Gillette Company.)
- Recognize that long-term goals can and do change.
That plan took me from sales to marketing (not advertising per se) to operations and membership for a non-profit. I suppose some might think that I made three career changes. I don’t. Rather I was building a deep and broad skill set, gained experience and leveraged what I was doing to get me to where I wanted to be. Incremental steps.
When it’s time to make a career change
The time did come when my career was no longer satisfying. What I needed and wanted from a career had changed yet I was holding on to goals that frankly, I hadn’t given much thought to in a long time. I came to a reflection point, and as a planner, I developed an approach to figure out my plan and then created the plan to figure out a career and make a transition. Whether you’re two years into your career or fifteen, this can work for you.
Listen to people who know you professionally and personally to identify what your skills and talents are; the things they value the most about you. Question, probe and if possible get your group together to discuss you. It was uncomfortable at times to hear what people said about me, but it was one of the best learning experiences I’ve had. Yes, these people are still in my life and I continue to value their input.
Synthesize the information to create your positioning. I won’t bore you with the bullet points or the story that explains the following, but Amy Kraushaar a smart, strategic, clever marketer coined the phrase that captures me the best, Jane Saves the Beagles.
Figure out the careers that need your skills and talents. Brainstorm ideas then research those that resonate the most with you making sure your skills, talent and experience are transferrable and applicable. I love films and one of my ideas was to be a film critic but there is nothing in my experience or skill set that suggests I would succeed at that career. A dose of realism is helpful.
Develop evaluation criteria to improve decision-making. Know if careers and the jobs within those careers meet your needs and wants. It’s about fit.
Turn insights into action. With all that you’ve learned, create your plan. What employers? What jobs? Deadlines, action steps etc. to hold yourself accountable. Target and track.
The one thing I hope you take away from my experience: You run towards the new not from the old.