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Networking & Career Management

14 Intriguing Perspectives on Career Change You'll Want To Read

Once a month, my friends at Career Collective and I blog on a common topic. Up this month: How to make a career change.

While this is a topic that I love to talk about -- my interest in career change was part of the inspiration in naming "Best Fit Forward" -- I didn't contribute this month. Confession: I've been a wee bit focused with my consulting work at StartWire, and made three trips over the last months to places I have never been - Las Vegas (though slot machines are not my scene, I loved connecting with colleagues at the Career Management Alliance conference), the Grand Canyon (don't know if I have words to describe the magestic experience -- and we saw it in the snow), and Staten Island (I'd always wanted to take the free ferry from New York).

I'll be back on live for the next round of contributions, but here are the contributions of my colleagues in the interim:

Managing Your Career 2.0: On Giving Up To Get It Right

I'm a big fan of the A& E show Hoarders, a program that looks "inside the lives of people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis." 2837613821_7bcbd65cf1_m
If I sit down to watch it, I invariably stand up and beginning throwing things away--or start making a list of what can go.

This month's post for the Career Collective focuses on spring cleaning for job search--and letting go of things that no longer work for you.

My take today: One of the most powerful things you can let go of is the quest to be perfect. Most of us--myself included--aren't capable of doing everything well. There are some things we do really well, and there are some things that--try as we might--just aren't our forte. Sometimes, the things that are more difficult for us to do--and that we don't enjoy--are the things we should give up.

Here are two examples from people I've had the good fortune to work with:

  • A Teacher who got promoted to be an Assistant Principal but who discovered that office politics and paperwork weren't for her. She didn't like working in a different capacity with former colleagues. She had a good mentor, she just didn't want to move forward. She returned to teaching--and she's much happier.
  • A Marketing Professional who was on a track to become a Vice President of Creative Services at a Fortune 50 (a role 90% of her colleagues craved). She discovered she enjoyed executing on ideas more than she liked creating them--and switched tracks to focusing on Operations.

For these women, the pursuit of happiness meant taking the "road less traveled" professionally. It was a move "against the grain" for careers long set as goals, and yet--the decision not to pursue the path originally decided upon was ultimately more fulfilling.

The decision on what to give up doesn't always require one to forfeit a career path.

I once worked for an Engineering School Dean who believed on focusing your strengths--and spending very little time to correct weaknesses. His job required that he give multiple speeches a year to diverse constituencies. And so he developed one amazing talk which he adapted slightly to meet the needs of audiences. One talk for a Dean responsible for the leadership of an entire school. But the talk was so good that those of us who heard it--are unlikely to ever forget it. He was hired away to run a much larger university.

My mom started a new career at 50 when her work interests changed. She gave up a coveted job to start her own small business.

David Broder, who died today, and was frequently referred to as one of the greatest journalists of our time--gave up filing and throwing things away. A Washington Post tribute says that his desk was "so messy that at times there was barely enough room for him to slip through the door and sit in front of his computer." I've been reading his work since I was 20, and I'm glad he spent his time elsewhere.

What's in your way? And what will you throw out in order to keep moving forward?

Drawing by Lori Hutchinson


Here are the links to posts on this topic from my wise colleagues at Career Collective--read 'em and reap!

Career Advice Not Worth Taking Part III: Talking About Your Passions

This is the second in a three part series inspired by an e-book of career advice that prescribed answers to interviewing questions. 5460215095_3399c7cf98

Here, I take a look at the Q & A given by the e-book's authors, and suggest an alternative response:

Question: What are you passionate about?

Suggested Answer: This question is a good opportunity to share what is important in your life.

My answer: Talk about your values, your interests, your hobbies – but keep it professional and always remember that there’s a job on the table.

As I see it, interviewing is like the Olympic gymnastics competition. No matter what the forum is—from balance beam and parallel bars to floor exercises—everyone knows what the judges are looking for, and everyone knows that to get the medal, the gymnast must stick the landing. (I expand on this--and share my own hobby here--in a piece for on How Passion Can Improve Your Career Prospects.)

So even if you are the best cupcake maker in Chicago, the best junior scuba diver in Mobile, Alabama, an avid traveler with pictures from two months in Outer Mongolia—you still need to share your attributes, interests and qualities in such a way that it directly relates to the position.

Otherwise, you won’t stick the landing for the question. And you may not get the offer. Because what matters most to a majority of employers—is that you’ll be able to do the job if you hired.

How do you see this one? I'd love to hear your take!

Photo by John Crowley

Career Advice Not Worth Taking Part II: Should You Say You're Always Flexible?

This is the second in a three part series inspired by an e-book of career advice that prescribed answers to interviewing questions. 5460819092_c52c547692

Here, I take a look at the Q & A given by the e-book's authors, and suggest an alternative response:

Question: What type of work environment do you prefer?

Suggested Answer: Always answer “I am flexible.”

My take: Only answer that you are flexible if YOU REALLY ARE. Because when you are hired, you will work 40+ hours a week in this environment, and if it isn’t a good environment for you—you shouldn’t do it.

Any interview is a two-way street: You pick the employer, and the employer picks you. The interview is your opportunity to find out more about the work environment and to see if it is a good fit for you.

You should know what type of work environment you work best in—do you prefer to work with just one or two colleagues, or with ten? Do you like it when others share your interests—or do you prefer to play a unique role in a team. Were you the coxswain as opposed to a rower on the crew team. Or a goalie on the soccer team instead of a forward?

Would you like to work in an environment in which the "only constant is change" or do you like to know what to expect on a Monday morning?

You should know what you offer first, and answer the question honestly--but in a way which also takes into account the needs of the employer.

Here’s a quick way to do this: Take the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) and study up on what others who fall into the same personality type (category) do—and don’t do. (You can even follow-up by checking out the book, Do What You Are, which goes into great detail on this.)

Then develop an answer in advance which is genuine. For example, if you thrive on scheduling and getting things done in advance you might say:

For example, "I can perform well under stress when called to do so, but my general M.O. is to plan so I don't have to. In my last job, my goal was to complete large assigned projects at least three business days in advance to allow time for error or things that come up. This strategy helped my team meet deadlines--and meant I never had to pull an "all-nighter."

That's my answer. What's your take: How would you answer this one?

Photo by John Crowley