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 sell yourself into those positions. Even though you might be focused on landing your next role, consider developing a 5-year career plan now. That will help you frame your next move (job #1) and the one after that (job #2) within a long-term 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.
Step 1. Define your goal.
Take some time to reflect on where would you like to see yourself one year, three years and six+ years from now? Are you looking for a career change or career advancement?
Advancement: I’d like to continue advancing on my current career path (typically that would mean staying with your current company or industry).
It will be a fairly easy to research advancement options by speaking with people (from your network, superiors/colleagues, HR) or by researching the career paths of other professionals in a similar role/industry using LinkedIn.
Change: I’d like to transition to a new functional role or I’d like to continue on in my functional role but transition to a new industry or I’d like to do both.
If your transition is from one industry to another, I’d suggest looking for a similar functional role to the one you have now. If you’d like to transition from one functional area to another, I’d suggest staying in the same industry while looking for roles that meet the 60/40 criteria. 60% of the role should leverage on skills or strengths you have either demonstrated or can convince others you posses. The other 40% of the role can center on an area that interests you/that may be new to you. By pinpointing roles that meet the 60/40 criteria, you’re effectively with the employer by bringing something to the bargaining table (the 60%) while gaining something in return.
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).
Change is always possible, but, as we transition from being a novice in our early 20’s to a more seasoned professional in our 30’s and 40’s, career change becomes a little tricky. It’s often at the mid-career mark that professionals look to rekindle the enthusiasm they had for their work early on in their career.
If you’d like to do some self-exploration, you should look into the CareerLeader Assessment. CareerLeader is an assessment that delivers personalized suggestions about roles and working environments that would best suit your interests and personality. It’s used by all the major MBA programs and many fortune-500 companies.
Step 2. Pinpoint Roles.
Pinpoint Roles: Whichever category you fall in (Advancement or Change), you’ll need to pinpoint specific 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), within your company’s intranet or through your network/the grapevine. More than once I’ve spoken with clients who formed a mental model of their ideal role and set about applying to grad school without first verifying that such a role actually existed.
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 online job description are available, I’d suggest saving postings into a Word document for reference. These will come in handy in the future – either for self-reflection purposes or as a point of reference if you decide to work with a career consultant or resume writer.
When pinpointing roles, be sure to focus on positions you’d be thrilled to have rather than limiting yourself to only those jobs you think you can get.
Step 3. Broaden your search.
Broaden Your Search: Casting a wide net is a good idea. So often, people limit the scope of their job search to job titles they’re familiar with. If performing an online job search, using search terms other than the job title will help you find results that get you thinking outside the box.
Recently I spoke with someone in private wealth management who said he’d either like to find a new career path. He thought he could either leverage 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. While those were two reasonable options, 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. In that role he 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, close-knit 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’
LinkedIn: Once you’ve pinpointed some roles, use LinkedIn to find people in similar roles to the one you’d like to transition to. Every LinkedIn profile tells a career trajectory story. You can glean insights by examining what others have done. You might even consider reaching out to someone whose profile is of particular interest. Ask for 15 minutes of their time to learn more about what they do and how they they’ve managed their career. Not everyone will agree to chat with you, but some people will. LinkedIn’s search filters are quite useful – allowing you to refine results by a number of variables (industry, current/past company, schools, location etc.).
Shortlist: Consider the roles you’ve found and shortlist those that most appeal to you.