Demystifying Career Re-invetion!

posted by Dilip on September 6, 2019

As career coach specializing in re-invention, prospects and clients often approach me to express their frustrations, unhappiness, and limitations in their current job and seek my guidance on how to make a change in their station or their situation. Some even lament that they do not have a clear vision of what to do next, but they do want to do something different. So, during our first meeting when I ask them what you would like to do, instead; the common refrain is, Not this!

Although there is no silver bullet to these kinds of challenges and predicaments, the most obvious answer is simple: seek a change within your company; look for outside opportunities that are aligned with your emergent dreams, which may still be raw; or go on your own in an entrepreneurial way. Yet another avenue is to talk to those engaged in your areas of interest and see what their typical day at work looks like  Each of these avenues requires understanding of what it takes to picking a path, working on it, and then committing your full resources to pursue these in a determined way.

The problem comes when these clients are definite about what is making them run away from their current situation but are unable to formulate an equally definite plan to go in a new direction with conviction and with a determination to win on that path. Often, they want their coach to make up for their hesitation and to commit as their proxy to a possible avenue to their salvation or keep hoping some miracle would save them from their predicament. Some even want their coach to give them some assurance that this re-invention process would result in a positive outcome. So far I have not been able to mislead any one of them, but those who jump in with determination, faith, will power, and positive outlook have often succeeded beyond their expectations.

Let me explain:

A typical case involves a software development engineer leading a small team as Team Lead, who is frustrated in their role and is unable to see a clear path to their next career stop. So, they decide to pursue a project manager path to move forward, hoping that such a path would give them a larger team to work with and allow them to grow in their role as a manager; that “manager” word carries a certain cachet to them for some unknown reasons. This is just one use-case. Other cases can involve a development engineer wanting to go the product-manager route; a customer-support person wanting to go the account-manager route, or a nurse wanting to become a pharmacist, and so on.

Although a good part of my coaching practice is taking on such clients and then working with them to see how their story translates to showcase their leadership in each of these respective areas of their new interest. My ability to translate their current accomplishments in the right direction with the right language is limited by what they have already done. What I’ve been able to do, however, is to look at their accomplishment stories and their leadership that underpin them, identify a common theme that binds them—their genius—and translate that finding into a new message that aligns with what they are looking for in their new career direction. In other words, in their new narrative I am able to translate their genius into a new value proposition for them.

So, if these stories come up short to highlight their emergent message, I work with them in their current role to bolster these stories by asking them to seek the right assignments and by working on the right tasks and projects long enough to allow them to have such stories. This takes time, patience, and commitment on the client’s part to make this work. This is the process of re-invention that works when the client is able to see why this approach is required to make them a viable candidate in pursuing their new career path.

Once these stories are ready for packaging in their new résumé, they form the groundwork on which their overall message can be built before launching a meaningful job-search campaign. Such a campaign requires many elements to come together in unison to get traction, let alone an enthusiastic response to their new career calling. So, what are the many other factors that go into making their campaign productive for a positive outcome?

Here is that list:

LinkedIn

A. Profile: In today’s job market LinkedIn has become a dominant force in broadcasting your message to the entire job market without your having to go after it. It is the “pull” element of the LinkedIn’s feature that allows you to do a passive job search without having to go after a particular job yourself. In this pull mode your Profile allows interested recruiters and hiring managers to search for the right candidates by using the appropriate search terms in the LinkedIn’s search window and see what shows up in the ranked list of the potential candidates that match that search criteria. Ranking high (preferable in the top 10) search rank is a sure way for you to get “pulled” in for further exploration.

A résumé, on the other hand, provides a “push” element of your campaign. This means that you must look for the right target jobs, send your résumé for consideration, and wait for some response for your next move.

Although these two modes of showcasing your talent to the job market are complementary, LinkedIn “pull” greatly overpowers the “push” provided by your résumé (>10X). This is because your Profile is in front of ~500 million potential members, of whom thousands of recruiters and hiring managers. So, having a search-optimized LinkedIn Profile is your best approach to a passive job search.

Some clients are concerned that once they update their LI Profile their current employer will get the wind of their plans and put them in jeopardy, even causing them to lose their current job or position. This is a real threat but can be mitigated by doing the following things differently:

B. Network: One way to keep your Profile update to the right audience and manage ongoing updates and notifications is to first remove all those nosy connections in your current network and also limit the notification of changes you make to those in your network by making the right choices in your LinkedIn preferences. Removing someone from your existing network does not result in their being notified of this, but if they visit your Profile, they can still see the updates you make as would anyone else. So, this is a conscious choice you need to make when you update your Profile to launch your campaign.

The other aspect of this element—Network—is to show that you are well connected in the community of professionals where you plan to land in your next move. So, if you want to re-invent yourself from a software development lead to a program or project manager you should start bringing in other contacts that are already in that role in different companies.  

C. Alerting Recruiters: This is yet another choice you make in your preferences so that recruiters and hiring managers are able to see your Profile and reach out to you if they find you suitable.

D. Skills & Endorsements: This is an element in your LinkedIn Profile that shows your footprint in your area of work and its adjacencies. You can select a cluster of Skills and post them on your Profile for others to click so that how many Endorse you for those skills will show your footprint in that area of your skill.

E. Recommendations: Even more important that your Endorsements is what Recommendations you have and from whom. Having a strong Recommendation from someone important—boss, customer, a leading authority in your field of interest, among others—can be a good resource to back-up your professional claims of expertise in the right area of your target jobs. More current and significant Recommendations are a great asset on your Profile. These Recommendations are also helpful during job search when potential employers start asking for references early in the process. The best response for such requests, without burning your valuable references, is to point them to your LinkedIn Recommendations and then tell them that you are going to provide them their contact information once the hiring process reaches that stage.

F. Groups: LinkedIn has some five million groups of different categories that are populated by its members. The advantage of joining the right group creates your affinity with that group and allows you to exchange professional expertise relevant to that group’s activities. Active participation in such group shows your genuine interest and footprint in that group.

G. Associations: Each major job category has its professional association that dominates that job category. For example, IEEE is for electrical and computer engineers; ASME is for mechanical engineers; PMI for project managers, etc. Being a member of the respective association with some standing (Member, Sr. Member, Fellow, Sr. Fellow) carries some professional cache that is worth pursuing.

H. Blogs: This is yet another avenue for you to make your footprint stronger by posting blogs in your area of pursuit. Merely posting blogs on random topics does not create any branding advantage but posting blogs on your area of pursuit goes a long way in establishing your brand in that area of expertise. If the blogs have broad readership and are commented by established professionals, it is an automatic boost to your brand in the very area you are trying to move.

Writing original blog content takes effort and insights but commenting on widely read blogs can be a good proxy to such publicity avenues. Also, writing a blog in response to someone’s posting, especially if they are a noted figure in your area of pursuit, is yet another way to increase your footprint.

  • Events

There are scheduled events in each area of professional pursuits throughout a year. For example, Salesforce has its annual Dreamforce event attended by some 20,000–30,000 people; SAP has its Sapphire conference similarly attended by those in the customer ecosystem. So, finding the right event to attend and making new connections at such events can be a key part of your building the right connections to get your access to the opportunities that interest you. Also, participating with speeches, panel discussions, and other avenues can elevate your visibility if you focus on the right venues to attend.

  • Thought Leaders

Each professional area of activity is dominated by thought leaders and luminaries who drive the mainstream ideas in their area of work. Associating with them in some ways can be a boon to your branding yourself in their area of participation. There are a variety of ways how one can do that. Commenting on their articles and blogs, writing a blog supporting or refuting their idea, writing a review on their recently published book, and many other such avenues to become a part of their orbit. Such avenues open new ways to connect with these thought leaders and you start becoming associated with their work. This takes time and patience, but is worth doing, among other avenues mentioned above. 

  • Campaign Response

The final step in the process is to see how the market responds to the client’s new message and how the initial discussions go with the hiring manager, starting the recruiter. If they bring up some areas of deficiency during their initial conversation using that as feedback to further bolster your résumé can help with a better subsequent response from other targets. This is why piloting a new message is a good way to learn how to improve your response odds. For example, for a software Team Lead with some experience managing product roadmap if the question comes up about their experience managing product life-cycle, which is typically absent in such cases, we need to figure out a way to insert that element appropriately in your revised résumé to make it more attractive in the future campaign rounds. 

As you can see from what is stated in this blog, re-invention is not always an easy way to go in a new direction. These are just some of the more obvious steps you must take to increase your chances of success in a career re-invention. In the order of increasing difficulty during a transition greater effort is required as you get increasingly more ambitious about your goals: from merely changing an employer (same job, different employer), a promotion in your current role (higher role, different employer), changing job (different job, same employer), shifting job (different job, different employer), changing industry (different vertical, same job), and finally, to career re-invention (new line of work, new employer). In my own case I have gone through five career re-inventions during my 50-year working life. Each re-invention progressively gets easier, so keep that in mind as you keep re-inventing yourself. It is also a lot of fun when it works!

Even after succeeding in the transition it typically takes about three years to develop your own brand in this new area of your calling, so focus and patience are important parts of this endeavor. As George Patten, the famous general, said, Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.

Good luck!

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