Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 6 Looking to Others

Previously: Step 5: Looking in the Mirror

It's amazing how good an exercise routine can make you feel isn't it? Especially after Thanksgiving!!

Making a career change is very much about putting yourself out there. In order to do so effectively you need to know how others see you and the best way to do that is to ask those around you.  Your colleagues are your best resource when it comes to understanding who you are and how you present yourself because they are the ones who see your personal and professional interactions from the outside.

Step 6: Looking to Others
Pick 3-5 people whose input and feedback you trust. Be sure not to pick all of your friends. It's OK to pick one friend but it will be infinitely more helpful if you are able to get the objective feedback of colleagues, supervisors, clients, customers and other people who have no vested personal interest.

Set up a time when you can have a conversation. Perhaps it's over lunch, coffee, after hours, or before work during breakfast. Just pick a time outside of the craziness of the work day so you won't feel rushed. When it comes time to have these conversations thank the person for joining you and then provide the framework for the conversation to take place by saying something like:

"I am trying to learn how others perceive me in the work place so that I can get a better understanding of what I do well and what areas I need to work on and I thought you might be able to help me."

From here you do not want to steer the conversation too much by asking specific questions. Just allow the conversation to happen and see where it goes. You want to hear the person's initial response and then perhaps ask followup questions for clarification. If they only speak to your strengths, after a while thank them and then ask for a few things you might be able to improve. Same goes for the reverse. Remember, this is just a conversation and not an interview. You are trying to learn how others perceive you so you need to allow them to communicate that perception.

It is likely that you will find that the hardest part about this process is to strip it of emotional and objectively listen to what the person is saying . You may need to fight the urge to rebut "I am NOT like that!" Remember, you've asked someone you trust for honest feedback. There are reasons they are saying what they are saying and it is up to you to figure out why. If you don't like what you hear, now is the time to change it but first you need to learn what "it" is and the person speaking to you is doing you a favor so don't argue with them.

After the meeting, write the person a thank you note (email is fine but I prefer hand written) and then head to your notebook and document the conversation. Note what strengths and areas for improvement came up. After you have had a few of these conversations look for trends and patterns.

Up Next: Step 7: Putting It All Together

Friday, November 18, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 5 Looking in the Mirror

Previous: Step 4: Looking Inside

Hey! How's it going? Are you still with me? I hope so. You are doing some terrific work that is really going to pay off so keep it up!

Step 5: Looking in the Mirror
It's time for some you time. At this point I recommend integrating into your life a system of personal health and wellness if you don't have one already. If you do already have one, then you ROCK!

I am solely interested in your ability to stay positive and focused through this process. Your physical health is directly connected to your mental health whether you know it or not. Stress suppresses the positive energy you need to do your best and I have found that the #1 way to relieve that stress is to exercise. You will see that the power of exercise to keep you energized through this process is truly profound. Obviously there are other health benefits to exercising and those are well documented. But as I am sure you can tell, executing a career change is hard work and stressful. You may not be sleeping well. Your diet may have slipped a bit. You could be carrying more tension and anxiety making you more irritable. Goodness knows this process can get you down and keep you there, which is completely counter productive to your mission. You need to be up and energized to turn things around. I try to emphasize staying positive and repeating positive phrases to yourself and those help but if you really want to release all of the tension and negativity this process can bring then the best way to do it is by exercising.

I'm not going to advocate for one exercise regime over another because I believe it's a personal choice. Nor do I have any idea when you might be able to squeeze it into your day. You can do yoga in the morning or go for a run in the evening. You can lift weights or use a stairmaster. I happen to be able to fit it in on my lunch break, which works really well for me. Just get it in there. 30 minutes 3-4 times a week will do wonders.

One last thing, you should always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise routine. You're working too hard to let anything jeopardize your success so be sure that you and your doctor are on the same page regarding what you can and can't handle.

Ok, now back to work...

Up Next: Step 6: Looking to Others

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 4 Looking Inside

Previously: Step 3: Looking at the Now

Phew! In a lot of ways it helps to get all the frustration about your current job out on paper and see it sitting there doesn't it? Now the real work begins. You're no longer holding on to that negativity so you are free to focus on you and what makes you awesome! Take a deep and cleansing breath.

Tip #2: For this next step it may help to use Google or another preferred search engine. Look at question #4 regarding your core values. Start by making your own list of the ones you can think of but then try looking at a long list of values that you find online and pick the ones from it that apply. This will make the end result more robust and thorough since you won't have to think of all of them off the top of your head. So feel free to use the Internet to search for pre-made lists. Just make sure you are being honest when you start picking from them.

Tip #3: I believe there is a difference between your dream job and your ideal job. Some may argue this, which is fine. But to me, a dream job is what you would do if you could literally do anything in the world regardless of time, talent, skill and money. Like, say, own a stable of elite thoroughbred raceshorse for example. An ideal job, is the perfect job for you taking into consideration the realities of your life such as your education, skills, talents, geograghy and other factors that very much have a bearing on your life. The ideal job may be quite far off like a CEO, CIO, or CFO position which is totally fine because it gives you a realistic direction in which you can head.

Tip #4: Notice questions #2 & #3. Classic interview questions. Think long and hard about them now. Knowing the answers to these questions at this stage will serve you well in your self-assessment. Then remember that they are in your notebook so that when you are interview prepping you can refer back to them. You'll never have to struggle with these as interview questions again!

Step 4: Looking Inside
In your notebook, answer the following:
  1. What are your personal interests? What are you passionate about?
  2. What are your strengths?
  3. What are your weaknesses?
  4. What are your core values?
  5. Rank your core values in order from most important to least important.
  6. What do you do better than anyone you know?
  7. What is your dream job? Why?
  8. What is your idea job? Why?
  9. Do you prefer working alone? As a member of team? Why? 
  10. Do you prefer a supervisor who watches you closely or relies on you to keep him/her updated periodically?
  11. List your "Must Haves" for your next job. (i.e. I must have a flexible schedule...I must have a boss who trusts me...) Don't hold back. List as many as you can think of.
  12. Rank your answers to question #11 in order of most important to least important.
  13. Using your answers from Step 2 Question #7, list the top 2-3 accomplishments from your most recent job.
If you would like to continue along this path of discovery there is no shortage of assessment tools you can use. For starters, look at: Strength Finder 2.0, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and CareerLeader. If you do turn to those resoures be sure to record the results in your notebook so that you have them handy where and when you need them. Many of them will give you a print out of the results which you can then (literally) cut and paste into your notebook (yes, using actual scissors and glue).

Up Next: Step 5: Looking in the Mirror

Monday, November 14, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 3 Looking at the Now

Previously: Step 2: Looking Back

Now that you have a sense of where you were and how you got here, it's time to think about the here and now. Obviously something is not right so let's see if we can pinpoint what that is.

Tip #1: It may help you to get a copy of your current job description and have it handy during this step so that you can refer to it.

Step 3: Looking at the Now
In your notebook, answer the following questions:
  1. What about your current job isn't working?
  2. Make a list of the things you like about your current job.
  3. Make a list of the things you don't like about your job.
  4. Make a list of the people you work with followed by the first 3-5 characteristics that come to mind when you think of those people.
  5. What are your main responsibilities in this job? Which of these do you enjoy? Which do you not enjoy?
  6. Make a list of things about this job you would like to change and indicate how you would change them.
Anything else you want to say about your current position? Write it down. Try and get to the root of what is going on now and why it's not working out. Hopefully at this point you are developing an understanding for where you were, where you are and how you got here. Next we are going to examine all that is wonderful about you to see if we can unlock what it is you should do next.

Up Next: Step 3: Looking Inside

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 2 Looking Back

Previously: Step 1: Get a Handy Dandy Notebook

Wasn't step 1 easy?! Now that you have your notebook it's time to fill it by embarking on a journey of self-exploration to fully assess where you have been, where you are, where you are going and most importantly where you WANT to go in your professional life. I used to think careers were not about what we wanted but I have since learned otherwise. It's all about what we want and what will make us happy. You know the old Confucius saying "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

Because this process is intensely personal with no wrong answers, it is what you make of it. You will get back what you put in. It is important that you uncensor yourself as much as possible. To help you get started I will lay down some ground rules:
  • Don't worry about anyone ever reading what you are writing, unless you want them to of course.
  • Be honest. The more brutally honest the better.
  • Write now and think later. Tap into your stream of consciousness and let your pen do all the work. Don't think too hard about what you are writing and just write. Often your initial response is the best one so write it down before you can censor yourself.
  • Complete each step in full to the best of your ability.
If you can do those things you're going to get through this just fine! I'm so psyched you're doing this. Let's get started!

Step 2: Looking Back
In your notebook, answer the following questions:
  1. When you were younger what did you want to do for a living? What did you dream of being?
  2. What activities interested you when you were a child? Teenager?
  3. Where did you go to school and what was your major? Why did you pick that as a major?
  4. Who are the major influential figures in your past?  What characteristics about those people appealed to you?
  5. How did you get where you are now? Who helped you get here? What interested you initially about getting to this particular place? Did you get here by accident or on purpose? What skills helped you get here?
  6. List all of the jobs you have ever had in your life.
  7. For each job in question #6, list your most significant accomplishments noting the ones of which you are most proud.
As you can see, this is just a quick check-in to make sure you keep sight of from whence you came. You need to know where you were in order to understand where you are going and how to get there.

Up Next: Step 3: Looking Inside

Monday, November 7, 2011

Making a Career Change: Step 1 Get a Handy Dandy Notebook

I have a friend who works in real estate. He started his own business in New York City and just recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Specifically, he handles corporate relocation (i.e. an employee gets money to move to a new city, the employee gives the money to my friend who helps the employee find an apartment). Obviously, this industry has fallen on some shaky times lately. Not only did the market crash but companies slowed down their employee relocation programs. Thus, my friend's business struggled and he decided that it was in his best interest to pursue something else. So he enrolled in a graduate program to become an elementary school teacher. During this program he realized that teaching wasn't for him and that he actually liked the freedom and exhilaration he got from being his own boss and working as hard as he could to help his business stay alive.

What my friend did was assess his career path in order to confirm that he was happy with where he was going, challenged on the job, utilizing his strengths, and emotionally and financially pleased with what he was doing. He found something amiss in his assessment (the crashing market and decreased business) and saw how that put his family at risk so he developed a plan to fix it. He spent time and money on a graduate program but ended up not using the degree right away.  That degree is certainly in his pocket in case something goes wrong down the road.  For now, though, his business is operating better than it ever has. (By the way, if you need NYC Real Estate services let me know. I'll connect you to him.)

When I was making the decision to leave the theatre and pursue a different career I was the complete opposite of my friend. I too assessed my situation and came up with something, many things actually, amiss. But it was difficult to make a plan. It was hard to get over the idea that I had spent so much time, energy and money earning a degree I wouldn't end up needing whereas he went out and got a degree just in case he needed it.  My long term goals always involved a lengthy and prosperous theatre career, first working professionally and then teaching. All of my training, my network, my application materials, and my career experiences were focused in theatre and I hadn't a clue as to how to use any of them to find a job in another industry. I was fairly certain that I could and would be successful doing other things, I just didn't know what those thing were nor how I was going to find them. It was intimidating, humbling and scary to say the least. 

Yet, here we both are on the other side and doing just fine. He stayed where he was and made it, realizing he was doing what he wanted to do. I executed a change because I was burnt out and defeated, and I made it. You will make it too.

If you find yourself with disillusionment about your career choice, if you flat out don't like what you are doing, if you are intimidated and scared about making a career change, if you feel like you need a change because something has happened in your industry, or if you just feel like it's time to move on but don't know how, then repeat after me "I can and will do this." Say it over and over. Believe it. Say it again! Once you believe it, you are ready to get started:

Step 1: Get a Handy Dandy Notebook (Yes my boys watch Blue's Clues!)
You need a place to write things down because there's going to be a lot of list making and brainstorming and being able to have it all in one organized place will make the process easier for you. It can be spiral bound, a three ring binder, a trapper keeper, a journal with rainbows and unicorns or even a computer file (although I recommend using actual pen and paper). Just make sure you get something. Down the road, when you are actually in the midst of making the change this notebook is going to be the best resource you could have because we're going to fill it with information about you which you'll then be able to utilize in networking, cover letters and interviews.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Being a Leader

Careerealism.com had a fantastic article today. Take a look: Top 10 Ways to Be a Leader.

I look at the list and say "I do that. And I do that. And I do that..." But really, do I? I mean do I really embrace those things to the best of my ability? Think of the best leader you have ever had the pleasure of working with. I bet they possessed all of these skills. Personally I believe I possess many of these to varying degrees but without a doubt there are ones I need to work on.

Of them all #4 Be Unstoppable jumps off the page. There are definitely times when I feel unstoppable, everything is going right, I'm crushing my to-do lists, helping others and putting it all together and that's all just before lunch!

But then there are other times, like just moments after a challenge or obstacle has arisen, that I feel defeated, unqualified and like a fraud. Someone who is unstoppable doesn't let those feelings set in because they know that no matter what happens they can overcome it. It's like I was saying yesterday about using a positive attitude to help me get through the week with now power. That positive attitude has an amazing ability to vault us to success if we are able to employ it from the get go before any kind of negativity sets it. (Hello? Right Brain vs. Left Brain anyone?) I'm going to set my mind to working on becoming unstoppable... ahem...you better all watch out!...

So what about you and your assessment of your leadership skills? Reaction to this list? Things you do well? Others you need to work on? Remember, it's up to us to get better at these things because no one is going to do it for us.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Have The Power!!!!

Finally! Our electricity was restored last night at 7:00pm. It was a long 4 days to say the least. When it came back on I felt like He-Man! It was great! I was starting to see my breath inside my house last night and was getting a little nervous so thank goodness it's been restored and we can start getting life back to normal.

This week has been a living testament that we can overcome adversity when we set our minds to it by adapting to the circumstances with which we are faced and by putting faith in the notion that someone or something will step in to help when we need it most (just like here: Hitting the Wall).

I reworked my routine by showering at the gym at work and by taking up friends and neighbors on their offers to have me over for dinner. I added extra blankets to the bed and sent my wife and kids to my in-laws where they had a generator providing heat and electricity. I also kept a positive attitude, something I will readily admit is not always easy to do and sometimes down right impossible. I understood that every minute, hour, and day that passed brought me that much closer to the resolution of the crisis. Remember, every second we spend worrying and fretting about the situation in which we find ourselves is a second we are not spending devising a solution to get through it.

So what's your adversity? Feel like you are in a dead end at work? Conflict with your boss? Want to make a career change but afraid to get started? Trust me, you can overcome that and anything else that comes your way.

"The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists."
Japanese Proverb

"Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth."
Susan Taylor

"In adversity, remember to keep an even mind."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Career Management Is a Personal Journey

No one is going to just hand us what we need to succeed on a silver platter so it is up to us to seek out those things. I am very much interested in the personal career journey we are all on and providing thoughts, resources and inspiration to support that journey and thus the needs that arise from it. 

Shortly (probably when my power is restored and I can take the time to think about it instead of worrying about staying warm) I will turn my attention towards finding our niche, which can be the impetus for turning everything around.  Until then, I've summed up the topics I've addressed thus far to give you a one stop shop for finding the spark you need to get through the day, week and month. 

5:15 Is The Crack of Dawn
Getting it all started.

7 Career Obstacles and How to Overcome Them
Advice to keep you and your career on track.

Get In the Game
Career Changes can be hard and are a great starting point for a discussion. I went through a very difficult one.

Road Map for the Blog
Laying out some future topics.

My Left Brain vs. My Right Brain: An Epic Battle
Our internal dialogue is often the single most important factor in our personal and professional lives. Learn to listen to yours..

What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?
The career and professional landscape has changed dramatically and you don't want to be left behind because you've failed to find your niche.

To Be or Not To Be...Motivated During a Career Change
Having the proper support network underneath you makes all the difference.

Hitting the Wall
Just when you think you can't go any further, have faith that something or someone will intervene.

Responsibility to Yourself and Your Employer
Being unhappy on the job can leave you in a bad place. Don't let it happen to you.

It's Been a Week
What I've learned in the social media universe.

When Your Responsibilities Conflict
An example of how to tell when you or someone else is unhappy on the job.

Failure is not something that is often talked about yet is is something that is constantly thought about. I decided to talk about it!

Yesterday Failure...Today Risk
If I'm talking about failure I'd be doing a disservice to not address risk.

Avoiding Social Media Errors
Putting yourself out there requires an awareness. Don't be the one who makes mistakes.

Failure and Risk
Doesn't success play a role in there somewhere? See how.

7 Steps For Dealing With Crisis On The Job
Whether you are playing it safe or taking risks it is important to be prepared when problems arise.

Still no power...still reflecting on adversity...
Inspirational words from others regarding adversity.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Still no power...still reflecting on adversity...

In honor of the ongoing storm recovery in the Northeast and my thusly inspired 7 steps for dealing with crisis on the job, I'm going to stick with the theme of adversity and look for inspiration to get through it.

Here's to a warm house with lights when I get home tonight!

Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.

Victor Hugo

Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.

Do not fear the winds of adversity. Remember: A kite rises against the wind rather than with it.
Unknown Author

Adversity precedes growth.
Rosemarie Rossetti 

Sweet are the uses of adversity.
William Shakespeare
Duke Senior, As You Like It, Act 2 Scene 1 

All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
Walt Disney

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
Anne Bradstreet