By: Deb Elbaum
Being in a professional transition – whether looking for your next job or thinking about making a career change – is one of the toughest places to be. Feelings of doubt, uncertainty, and powerlessness are common. But here’s what you need to remember: you have more choices and more control over the situation than you realize.
Creating a successful career transition requires many different pieces, and certainly updating your resume and peppering your LinkedIn profile with a great picture, details, and key words are critical.
But it’s also equally critical for you to pause, breathe, and reflect about YOU. This is the time for clarity. You need to spend some time focusing inward and connecting with what drives you, what your professional story is, what your strengths are, and what it is you really want.
In today’s job market, people are hired not only because of their skills and background, but also largely for how they are perceived and whether the hiring manager thinks they’ll be a good fit with the company culture. Job interviews are similar to first dates – two strangers are put in a room, and they have a conversation and assess the other person to see whether he or she is a good fit.
To present yourself in the best way possible, you need to be confident and clear about who you are and what you do. These guiding questions will help you build your confidence and focus your thoughts:
What makes you unique? – Recently, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.” Your set of values, strengths, and experiences is uniquely yours. Choose a few strengths you want to highlight when you network or when you have a formal interview. Then think about examples that illustrate how each of those qualities are demonstrated. Specifically, you will want to explain what the initial problem or situation was; what you did to make it better/improve it/find a solution; and then what the result was.
What do you really want? – To figure out what you want, you’ll need to tap into your imagination. Go somewhere relaxing – outside in nature works well. Think about where you want to be in 1 or 5 years. Don’t worry about being too specific, but simply see where your thoughts take you.
After you’ve let your mind play, then you can get a bit more concrete. I encourage my clients to make YES and NO lists. What do you want to say YES to for your next opportunity? Think about the logistics, the daily work, the work culture – whatever it is you are wanting. As you do this, you will find things you want to say NO to – again, in terms of logistics, daily activities, and work culture. When you are clearer about what you want to say YES and NO to, it helps focus your networking and job search.
What choices do you have? – The truth is that we are always at choice. There is always something in our control. And recognizing our choices and choosing intentionally is empowering. Whatever the situation or stimulus, we can pause and ask ourselves, “What are my choices in this moment?” Let’s use the example of networking. Suppose you sign up for a networking event, even though networking makes you feel uncomfortable. The day comes and you drive to the meeting, muttering to yourself, “Why am I even doing this?”
Here’s where you need to take a deep breath and reflect on what’s in your control and what choices you want to make. You have a choice around how you enter the room. You can put on a smile, put your shoulders back, loosen up your body, and enter like a leader you admire. You can look at the list of attendees and set the intention of meeting one or two people in particular. You can choose an intriguing question to start your conversation. Here’s a suggestion: “What is something I wouldn’t know about you from reading your resume?”
As you navigate your career transition, don’t forget to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Every day, make an effort to acknowledge and celebrate all of the steps – big and small – you took that day to move forward. Trust your decisions, and trust yourself.
Deb Elbaum, MD, CPCC, ACC
Certified Professional Career and Life Coach