“Is it just too sad to be over 40 and still figuring out what you want to be when you grow up?” This question came from a women in a job-seekers coaching group I co-lead with Sharon Hamersley, The Resume Coach.
“Who do you want to be?” is a question we ask of young people until they’re about 23, when we suddenly stop and assume this decision has been made. It’s in the past. Whoever you are, that’s it. You have decided. But this doesn’t reflect the reality. Usually we choose our jobs or professional roles as we listen to other voices:
“I need to pay the bills.”
“I have a family to feed.”
“This is the only kind of job I can get here, now.”
“I have to be practical.”
Then, there’s the age-old favorite:
“You aren’t supposed to have fun. That’s why they call it work.”
What if 2016 is your year for a new career? What if this is your chance to bring what you do into alignment with your true self? To stop pretending and be both authentic and fantastic?
New Career Skills
Fearless exploring is the most important new-career skill you can have. You’ll need clarity on:
- who you are
- what you can do
- how to tell (or shape) your story
Clarity on these three elements (saving the last for last) is where my clients find they need the most support in order to leverage their experience and knowledge into a new career.
Do you know who you are? This can be more complicated than it looks.
If you are considering leaving a current position, you might be dissatisfied with the fit between you and your job. Fit with your job is important. You need to use your strengths every day.
If you aren’t developing your strengths, that could make the work hard or frustrating, or simply leave you feeling empty–which is something you would have to tolerate daily. It doesn’t have to be that way. Your sense of emptiness or fulfillment at work is part of your spiritual life. Your work impacts your spirit just as much as your spirituality impacts your work.
- How often do you get to use your strengths?
- Have you developed all the mastery you can develop?
- Is it still a challenge for you?
When you are looking ahead at starting a new career, you will need to know:
- How do you come across to people?
- What are your strengths? What is harder for you?
- What business problems/challenges do you need to solve?
- What’s your value in the marketplace?
Part of who you are is who you feel like spending time with and supporting, so you must know how to answer these questions:
- What kind of organizational vision, priorities, products, and story resonate for you?
- What are you like at work?
- What do you need from your boss? From your coworkers?
Do you know what you can do? Many people become so comfortable with the skillset they’ve been using at work that it becomes challenging to imagine competence in a different field. When you are looking at starting a new career, you’ll need to know:
- What are your transferrable skills?
- Do you know where they can be most usefully applied?
You need to be reliable, committed, and capable in your work. This is part of the intrinsic connection we feel to a job. If any of those are falling apart, you will be unhappy, and you will start planning to leave.
If you are considering starting a new career but are not yet qualified, what can you do to acquire the knowledge and skills that will equip you? If you are convinced that you should be qualified even though other people don’t see it, maybe you need to let go of that internal “should” message and get the credential you need.
Do you know how to tell your story? The story you tell (known in marketing circles as your brand) must fit your experience, goals, and persona. If anything seems off, your resume won’t get another look or you won’t get past that first phone interview. Knowing how to tell your story is one of the most challenging aspects of starting a new career, whether you are changing industries, hoping for a new career in a new town, or trying to recover from an unfortunate event: getting fired or being several years out of work.
For example, many employers want to see Progressive Experience. “Progressive experience” is a story that corporate recruiters and hiring managers understand quickly, but very few actual human beings have spent a considerable portion of their adult lives in the same industry climbing the corporate ladder. Taking time to shape your story means looking for the progressive aspects of your career and experience and highlighting that progression.
The easiest way to make sure your story comes together well for prospective employers is to be true to yourself. Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” What is less apparent is that there can be many versions of your story that are all the truth.
How you frame your stories about work depends on the perspective you take in the telling. To get hired, the perspective of the hiring manager must be that your past, present, and future come together in a great, reassuring story.
Your search for a new career
Put it all together. You will know you are ready to launch when you can speak fluidly about who you are, what you can do, and how you got to where you are today–when your resume, elevator speech, and interview responses all paint the same picture, a picture of the person your prospective employer wants to hire. An ability to fully explore those three areas is the most important of all new-career skills you can have.
2016 will be closing in about 350 days, no matter what you do. What would you like your career to look like in January 2017?