Having a great career is a sales job. By that I mean that your career progression is entirely down to your ability to identify the right roles and successfully promote, market, sell yourself into those positions. Even though you might be focused on landing your next role, I recommend that you develop at least a 5-year career plan now. That will help you frame your next move (job #1) and the one after that (job #2) in a big picture story line. In particular, if you’re looking to change career paths, you may need to spread that change out over the course of two moves rather than one.
When people are looking for a new job, they often fall into one of the following categories.
Stay in current industry
Stay in current roleStay on current career path
Most likely, you're familiar with the next role/promotion on your current career path (job #1) as well as the role after that (job #2).
Make sure that you are packaging your story (in your resume and during interview) with a view to landing job #2 (not job #1). Hiring managers often ask themselves the following question during the initial interview: 'What sort of potential does this person have?' You want the answer to be 'Job #2 and beyond'. People often make the mistake of thinking that hiring managers will continually evaluate their potential for job #2 AFTER they're hired and employed in job #1 - false.
You're never a prophet in your own country. In other words, people in your current place of employment are already taking you for granted. Consider changing organizations to benefit from a more substantial salary increase.
Transition to a new roleSwitch career paths
Look for roles that meet the 60/40 criteria.
60% of the role should leverage on skills or inherent strengths you can convince others you have. (hint: the 60% isn't just about hard skills but also about who you are).
40% of the role can center on responsibilities/skills that you're very interested in. By pinpointing roles that meet the 60/40 criteria, you're bringing something to the bargaining table: offering the employer something she needs (the 60%) and also gaining exposure to something new to you (the 40%).
Connect the dots: Your cover letter will be important in this scenario because it provides a narrative explaining how your past experience and enthusiasm for the role make you someone the line manager will want to chat with.
Other suggestions: Look for professional meetups, events or conferences related to the role/functional area you'd like to transition to (marketing? IT? Business Development? Sales?). This will help you grow your network and familiarize yourself with new trends. Get in touch with a startup and offer to help them with something in exchange for the exposure (great resume builder). See if a nonprofit needs help in the functional area/role you'd like to transition to - offer your services pro bono.
Stay in current roleStay on current career path
Depending on your functional role, changing industries can be relatively easy (example: Accountants) or a little more challenging (example: Marketing professionals). Regardless, changing industry is all about selling your story to an employer. Demonstrating passion and broad (or deep) knowledge of the industry is a must. Having even the slightest bit of exposure to the industry can also give you a leg up on the competition.
Demonstrate passion and knowledge: Having a great cover letter will help a lot. If it's well written and insightful it will prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are a smart person who has already conquered a portion of the learning curve.
Other suggestions: Start a blog or publish thought leadership articles on LinkedIn. Attend industry events and conferences. Get in touch with a startup and offer to help them with something in exchange for the exposure (great resume builder).
Transition to a new roleSwitch career paths
This is usually a two-step process. You need to choose between one of the following scenarios.
Step #1: Stay in your current role and switch industries
Step #2: Transition to a new role in your new industry
Step #1: Transition to a new role in your current industry
Step #2: Stay in your new role and switch industries
Switching roles first (Scenario B) is usually preferable because the younger you are, the easier it is.
Finally, it is possible to switch roles and industries at the same time. You'll just need to go the extra mile in packaging your story (in your resume and during interview).
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Pinpoint Roles: Simply saying, ‘I’m a senior manager and I’d like to be a V.P.’, is too vague. Instead, look for specific opportunities – current job postings online (LinkedIn and Indeed.com) or within your company’s intranet. It’s ok to shortlist some jobs you think you can get (usually pretty easily) but if you’re reading career advise online (You are!) then you’re probably an ambitious person who won’t be contented for very long with a job that you knew you’d get. Consider expanding your search to positions you’d be thrilled to have rather than limiting yourself to only those jobs you think you can get. More on broadening your search below. Remember to copy and paste postings into a word document to use a reference when rewriting/revising your resume, crafting a cover letter or during mock interviews. If you need a hand with those things reach out for a Free Consultation or visit Career Services & Pricing.
CareerLeader Assessment: If you need more inspiration, consider CareerLeader. CareerLeader is an assessment that delivers personalized suggestions about roles and working environments that would best suit your interests and personality. It’s an incredibly reliable assessment that’s been created using results from over 400,000 business professionals. You can take the CareerLeader assessment directly through their website for $95 or through fxMBAConsulting for $75. To learn more you can download an introduction and sample report from CareerLeader.
Broaden Your Search: Casting a wide net is a good idea. So often, people limit the scope of their job search to functional roles or industries they’re familiar with. This always makes me think of a scenario in which a child is asked what he wants to be when he grows up. Invariably he’ll answer: a policeman, a fireman or a doctor…because those are the professions he has come into contact with.
Recently I spoke with someone in private wealth management (PWM) who said he’d either like to find a new career path. He thought he could either leverage on his knowledge of investment vehicles OR go into management consulting. Why? Because, as it turned out, he’d had a positive experience collaborating with outside consultants at his current employer. I suggested he widen his search to include some of the experiences and intrinsic qualities he had (but hadn’t given much thought to).
He had extensive experience in private wealth management which translated into more general skills like: sales and good interpersonal communication. In addition he’d worked as a special assistant to a high-ranking person in his organization and had: managed teams, managed special projects, overseen internal issue management and been in charge of hiring and evaluating employees. In addition he was bilingual in English and Japanese.
I’d suggest creating a table similar to the one you see below.
- Skills & Strengths: skills (e.g. sales) and intrinsic strengths (e.g. strong communication skills)
- Keywords: terms that describe the type of environment you’d like to find yourself in (entrepreneurial, collaborative, fast-paced, international etc.) or what you’d like to do in that environment (strategy, customer relationship management, outreach etc.)
- Limiting Factors: criteria that will help you narrow your results – for example, the role must be in the L.A. area and pay more than $100k
Search examples: ‘sales + strategic’ or ‘project management + collaborative’ or ‘investment vehicle + Japanese + international’
At this stage, don’t get hung up on the job titles that come up in your search. You’re exploring with the goal of discovering a role that you hadn’t considered or didn’t know existed. Think of yourself as a regular Christopher Columbus. Everyone says the world is flat but you’re open minded. Read job descriptions. Even if a particular job doesn’t appeal to you, there may be some aspects of it that do (take note of these). You will inevitably find a role that ignites a little fire in your (professional) soul.
Leverage LinkedIn to find people in similar roles to the one you’d like to transition into. Every LinkedIn profile tells a career trajectory story. You’ll be able to glean insights by examining what others have done. You can even reach out and connect with these people. Ask for 15 minutes of their time to learn more about what they do and how they got to where they’re at. Not everyone will agree to chat with you, but some people will! One tool I’d like to point out is LinkedIn’s premium account called Recruiter Lite. Recruiter Lite provides advanced search functionality that allows you to find people by company, industry, experience level, alma mater etc. It’s about $110/month but LinkedIn offers a free 1-month trial. You can sign up for the trial and immediately cancel your subscription. Your Recruiter Lite access will automatically expire after 30 days.
Shortlist: Consider the roles you’ve found and shortlist those that seem the most appealing to you. Pay particular attention to what is written in the job description. Usually responsibilities towards the beginning of the job description indicate what you’ll spend the majority of your time focused on.
If you’re looking for help identifying roles, rewriting your resume, crafting cover letters or doing mock interviews reach out for a Free Consultation or visit Career Services & Pricing.