Rethink Your Career Transition

The traditional “think, plan, do” linear sequence works well for job changers but sucks for career changers. Career changers need an iterative process that lets you refine what you want as you do as you go through it. Read on to learn about the three step iterative process for career changers.

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Are you going nowhere in your career? If you’ve decided it’s time to change your career completely, here’s a new way of changing!

Before you jump ship, think about what’s been happening in your career. Have you been making little or no progress for some time? You may be in the throes of what George Leonard, author of Mastery, calls the “plateau”. Leonard argues that we master something with a series of one intense upward growth spurt followed by a long period of nearly flat growth – a plateau. In this age of “what have you done for me lately”, you may have just tired of being on the plateau. Before you chuck your old career, decide whether it no longer works for you or whether you’ve just tired of being on the plateau. If you’ve decided to change careers completely, read on!

So you’ve decided to jump, eh? Well, you’ve got two choices of how to do it. First is the traditional “think, plan, do” linear sequence we’ve all been taught by career counselors and well-meaning family members. If you’re just changing jobs within a career field, this strategy should work fine for you. But it sucks for career changers and here’s why! We get much of our identity from what we do; just ask anyone about himself or herself. What does she or he tell you first? I’m a ___________ (fill in the blank here – doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.) We get that identity by what we’ve done in our careers. In my experience hiring hundreds of folks for law firms, interviewers are skeptical of “career changers”. Hiring is a costly and time-consuming process, and interviewers don’t want to do it any more than necessary nor take unnecessary risks. You’ve got to convince them that hiring you makes sense, and to tell a convincing story requires that you’ve convinced yourself the change makes sense. It’s hard to convince yourself you can do if you haven’t done it.

So how do you present a prospective employer with a risk worth taking? Use the second option for career changing – an iterative process. Ok, you say, I’ll bite. What’s an iterative process?

Merriam Webster’s dictionary describes it as a repetitive process that yields results successively closer to the desired result, which is clarified as a result of the process. So take heart, all those who want something different but don’t know exactly what it is – the iterative process comes to your rescue.

So what does an iterative career shifting process look like? Herminia Ibarra describes a three-step strategy in her book, Working Identity, Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career. First, create experiments. Stephen Covey once said we can’t talk our way out of a situation we behaved our way into. Since our identities are defined by what we do, we need to pick some possible, alternative career identities and find activities that allow us to try these identities on for size. If they fit well, we can delve more deeply into them. If they fit poorly, we can put them back on the rack and try another.

Second, shift connections. Your working identity is also defined by your web of relationships in work and family life. Your current co-workers, bosses, family members, suppliers and customers all have vested interests in having you remain unchanged. Talk with any of them about a new career, and they’ll steer you toward a slightly modified version of what you’re doing now – not a career shift.

So, you’ll need to meet new people in your experimental fields. Go on informational interviews. Write to authors in your new field and engage them in conversation. Investigate trade or professional associations in your new field, or talk with college professors who teach that subject. Use your imagination to find new people for your network. Since who you are is defined by the company you keep, you need to meet new people to guide and help you shape your career experiments successfully.

Third, revise your life story so it’s compelling and coherent. Revising your life story involves revising your resume and story you’ll tell during informational and job interviews. You need this revised story for two reasons. 1. To convince yourself during a time of turmoil and confusion that your career change makes sense; and 2. To convince a prospective employer that hiring you is worth the risk.

A good story is like a good movie. Good movies cause you to “suspend your disbelief”. You care about the character, believe in him or her and relate to the struggle he or she is going through. You watch with bated breath as the protagonist struggles against obstacles that cause fundamental changes in character. You believe in the character as he or she reaches the point of no return and resolves his or her struggle, either successfully or unsuccessfully. You care and you believe in them.

How do you suspend your interviewer’s disbelief? By making your story compelling and convincing. Demonstrate to your interviewer that your transformation is complete and sensible. Explain the internal reasons for your career change, for example, I changed to do something I’m really good at or that I really enjoy. Show how you’ve learned from what you’ve tried and how you used that learning to deepen your understanding of yourself. It’s best to avoid external reasons (i.e. I was fired or laid off) to avoid the impression that you simply accept fate rather than actively shape it.

Cite as many reasons for your change as you can, and point out any explanations that have deeply rooted causes. Family or financial circumstances may have prevented you from realizing a goal from long ago. Persevering and overcoming obstacles are attractive qualities to employers.

Show continuity and causality – a natural series of unfolding events that make sense. Connect your past work life to your present situation and project it out into the future. Tell your story so that the obstacles you’ve overcome and what you’ve learned about your character inspire your prospective employer to believe in your motives, character and ability to reach your goals. Tell it so they can see you doing the same things for them!

No matter how you cut it, change is messy, and career change is no exception. Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers, in A Simpler Way, share that life uses messes to get to well-ordered solutions. But messes don’t feel very good while you’re in the midst of them!

That’s where professional help comes in. A broad shoulder to lean on when you need it. A productive mind to help you brainstorm experiments and shifting connections. A capable life story editor to help make your story compelling and convincing. If you know you need a change, but don’t feel comfortable going it alone, contact a career coach!

Death of the Career Path

Do you have a career path or a career portfolio? Read this article to see how to develop and manage your career as a portfolio.

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Back in the mid 1990’s as an HR Manager, I noticed that the conventional career path was a dying concept. Lifetime employment was an artifact. Lateral moves became the new way to advance your career. And downsizings were a constant threat.
The ‘security’ of a straightforward career path was gone. That left many mid-career professionals wondering what to do with their career plans.

I recently read an article at CIO.com asking “Are Career Paths the Best for Professional Advancement?” The article concluded career paths are no longer relevant. I’m not surprised. They were on their last leg years ago.

Yes, it’s true. Linear career paths are dead.

So, what has replaced the good old fashioned career path?

Career portfolios.

I recommend managing your career as a portfolio. Based on your strengths, interests, and level of risk tolerance you make career moves that appeal to you and fit your goals. You choose opportunities that stretch and expand your skills instead of focusing only on grabbing the next title on the rung. You find security in being in control of each move, rather than feeling at the mercy of your boss, your company or the economy to decide your fate.

So, how do you build a career portfolio?

You diversify. The more options you have, the less you will be dependent on the company or the economy for your security.

Know your “most profitable skills”. You recession proof your career by knowing exactly what your strongest competencies are and you strengthen them so that you’re among the best at what you do. And the more transferable you can make your skills, the better.

Stay current on the trends in the economy and your field or industry. Look ahead a few years and make sure you’re moving toward opportunities that align with the trends (instead of leaving you on the chopping block).

Let me give you an example from my own life.

In the mid 90’s I was a happily employed HR Manager at a fairly large corporation. But, the writing was on the wall that much of HR was going to be outsourced, industry wide, in the next 5 to 10 years. I noticed a great deal of focus on becoming more strategic, and on being able to support company-wide change efforts (which makes sense given all the organizational changes we’ve seen since the late 90’s). I decided it was time to diversify in order to avoid a dead end career track.

In order to diversify my career I made a few specific and planned moves.

I went back to grad school to earn my Masters Degree. I minored in Organization Development, to diversify my knowledge base beyond the scope of traditional HR functions. I also had an interest in teaching, so I took electives in adult learning. When I graduated, I took a job in Consulting where I could get experience leading organizational change and experience a variety of industries. From there, I expanded my experience base by taking on a part time college teaching position.

All of these moves were designed to expand my career portfolio so that I had options, no matter what happened. I could be an HR Manager, I could consult, I could teach. I knew traditional HR functions and I knew how to implement broad scale change. All of these moves made me unique and more valuable in the marketplace.

If you’d like to start developing your career portfolio, here are 5 questions to get you started:

What are some current and emerging trends you see in your field or industry?

If you were to make a career change in the next year, what would you most want to do?

What are the skills, experience and knowledge you would need to make that move?

What’s one or two moves you could make to expand your skills/experience over the next year?

What’s one action you will take in the next 30 days?

Have fun building up your portfolio and experimenting with new assignments, and possibilities. This can be an exciting process because you pursue things that interest you and allow you to grow. It pulls you out of the rut of worrying about what will happen and puts you in the driver’s seat so you’re ready for anything.

Conquer the Business World from Your Couch: Your Guide to Online MBA Courses

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) has long been the gold standard for aspiring business leaders. But what if you can’t afford the time or money for a traditional on-campus program? Well, fret not, because online MBA courses have emerged as a powerful game-changer, democratizing access to top-notch business education like never before.

Why an Online MBA?
Gone are the days when online education was seen as inferior. Today’s online MBA programs boast:

Flexibility: Learn at your own pace, from anywhere in the world, while juggling work and personal commitments.
Affordability: Online programs can be significantly cheaper than traditional MBAs, often without compromising on quality.
Accessibility: Top universities and business schools are now offering online MBAs, expanding your educational horizons.
Specialized Focus: Choose from a wider range of specializations, like healthcare management, entrepreneurship, or data analytics, to tailor your degree to your career goals.
But are Online MBAs Right for You?
Before diving headfirst, ask yourself these questions:
Are you self-disciplined? Online learning requires strong time management skills and the ability to stay motivated without in-person interaction.
Do you have a supportive network? Surround yourself with mentors, study groups, or online communities to combat isolation and enhance your learning experience.
Tech-savvy or tech-phobic? Online programs require basic technical skills and comfort with online learning platforms.
Conquering the Online MBA Jungle
With a plethora of online MBA programs available, navigating the options can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to find the perfect fit:

Accreditation: Ensure the program is accredited by a recognized body to guarantee its quality and value.
Faculty: Look for programs with experienced and industry-connected faculty who can provide real-world insights.
Curriculum: Analyze the curriculum to ensure it aligns with your career goals and interests, offering relevant specializations and courses.
Technology: Assess the learning platform’s user-friendliness, features, and technical support to ensure a smooth learning experience.
Cost and Financial Aid: Compare tuition fees, scholarship opportunities, and available financial aid options to make an informed decision.
Charting Your Course to Success
Online MBAs open doors to exciting career prospects. Here are some tips to maximize your online learning journey:

Network actively: Participate in online forums, discussions, and alumni events to build valuable connections.
Engage with faculty: Don’t be a passive learner. Ask questions, seek clarifications, and actively participate in online discussions and webinars.
Sharpen your soft skills: Online programs may lack the face-to-face interaction of traditional MBAs. Hone your communication, collaboration, and teamwork skills through virtual group projects and presentations.
Embrace technology: Utilize online learning tools, communication platforms, and collaboration software to your advantage.
The Final Leap
Earning an online MBA is an investment in your future. It’s a journey of self-discovery, professional growth, and unlocking your leadership potential. So, if you’re ready to conquer the business world from the comfort of your couch, take the leap, embrace the online MBA wave, and watch your career soar to new heights!

Remember, the online MBA is not just a degree; it’s a passport to a world of possibilities. So, pack your virtual bags, fuel your ambition, and get ready to embark on an enriching journey that will redefine your professional horizons.