Brad Waters MSW

Design Your Path

How to Reinvent Your Career

Steps you can take right now to find a new job on a new path.

Posted Nov 14, 2016

It's always an honor to bring in Randy Wooden, Director of Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina’s Professional Center, to share his career perspective. Today he writes about career reinvention.

Simonsterg/Flickr
Source: Simonsterg/Flickr

Are you feeling burned out, frustrated, unfulfilled… and ready for “something different” in your career? Feel like you’re at a fork in the road? Should you “settle” for your present work or carve out a new path?

Most of us have felt this way at some point in our professional life. And, whether it’s our employer laying us off or our proactively leaving, the thought of reinventing ourselves can be both a daunting and confusing challenge.

Let’s explore the reinvention topic. What drives it? How do you go about the discovery process? How do you land that next gig once you’ve determined what you’d like to do?

First, don’t confuse reinventing with mid-life crisis. Changing course isn’t limited to the over-40 crowd. It can occur at any point in your career. Some factors in play may include a sense that what you do doesn’t have value to society, your work isn’t challenging, you never seem to feel “in control” or “caught up” at work, you’re in a dead end job or perhaps a dying industry, etc.

It’s one thing to want to progress in your field, whether that simply means a change of company or more senior job title. It’s another to want a change of job function and/or industry. Yet, we’re creatures of habit where change creates anxiety and fear in many. 

Change often depends on our perspective. Fear of the unknown versus growth opportunity. The book, Who Moved My Cheese? is a quick read and may help with focusing on the positives of stepping out of our comfort zone. I call it a “comfortable rut.”  We know our job and probably perform it well, but we’re simply trading our time for a paycheck. And before we know it, 20 years fly by.

Many of my clients reach their fork in the road as a result of being laid off. Perhaps you’re in the same boat. Sure, you didn’t feel fulfilled in your past job, but it provided an income and your desire to leave never trumped the hurdles involved with charting a new course.  Now that the rug has been pulled out from underneath you you’re forced to take a closer look at what your next job will look like.

You could pursue a similar position. After all, you’re most marketable sticking with what you’ve done. But perhaps your industry is dying. Maybe you’re facing age or other issues (lack of a degree, for instance) which make it difficult to continue your same work with a different company.

What if you want to try something else? How should you go about determining that next step… a step outside your comfort zone?

Begin by taking inventory of what you like—and don’t like—about work you’ve done. The easiest transitions are maintaining your function while switching industries or maintaining your present industry while switching job functions.

Conduct informational interviews with people from industries and/or job functions you think you might enjoy. Additionally, there are many assessments you can take to help guide you based on your interests, aptitudes, and personality.

One of Brad's favorite free resources is the O*NET Interest Profiler via the government’s career portal, MyNextMove.org

Questions to ask during these informational interviews should revolve around several topics: The present and longer term outlook for that industry and job function, walking you through a typical day and the primary challenges, any barriers (education/licensure) you’d face to become eligible, likely compensation, etc. 

Be sure to ask for additional names of people within the field so as to gain a deeper understanding of what you might be getting into. I can’t stress this enough. Look before you leap. 

Here’s a true client story from years ago:

He came to me after only a year or two as a frustrated high school teacher. His father and grandfather had worked in the steel mills of Pennsylvania. My client started there as well, moved into supervision, but wanted to break away from factory life and become a “professional.” 

He thought teaching would be much easier than the steel mills. After all, he “knew” teachers only work nine months out of the year, get off at 3pm, have weekends and plenty of holidays off, etc. So he went to college for an undergraduate and his Master’s in Education. Never once did he speak with teachers in any detail to learn the truth about his preconceptions. 

So here he was in a lower paying, stressful role, dealing with unruly kids while lacking support from parents and school administrators, and working evenings and weekends. To compound matters, he’d made more money in the mills than teaching AND was unable to get his old job back because he was too highly educated. 

Had he invested the time to learn about the teaching profession I know he’d have made different choices. Look before you leap!

Now that you have an idea what you’d like to do, how do you go about landing that next job?

First, don’t expect headhunters to be much help. They operate in a “round peg—round hole” environment where it’s next to impossible to collect a placement fee for someone changing functions and/or industries. They’re good at keeping folks in the same sort of work where the vast majority of their experience lies.

Because changing industries and functions help make you more of a “square peg—round hole” person, you’ll really want to focus on networking and revamping your resume. Simply submitting your standard chronological resume and waiting for the phone to ring won’t get it done.

People tend to hire those they know, like and trust. Become known to those in your new field. Develop target companies. Use LinkedIn to target key individuals within those companies. Knowing someone in the company—or at least knowing someone who can influence a hiring official—can go a long way toward generating an initial interview. 

Your resume may need to be changed from a chronological to a skills-based version. The Internet has many templates for inspiration. Remember, instead of tying your accomplishments to the job where you had them, you’ll now want to tie your accomplishments to the respective transferrable skill you’re promoting. 

During interviews you’ll need to have solid answers to concerns about how you’ll add value to the organization or why they should hire you, why you’re seeking a career change, what salary you’re anticipating, etc.

The beauty of networking and informational interview is you’ll obtain information along the way to easily help you address those questions. 

While change can be difficult, it can also be liberating. Many people take the safe route and stick with their “comfortable rut.” But for those considering a substantive change, I hope I’ve encouraged you and provided some actionable steps to help you reach that next great gig. Good luck!

Ready for more career development articles by Brad and Randy?

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Randy Wooden is a long-time career consultant and Director of Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina’s Professional Center.  You may reach him at rwooden@goodwillnwnc.org or at (336) 464-0516. Access the Center’s free videos at www.goodwillprofessionalcenter.org

Brad Waters, MSW is a career coach-consultant who works nationwide with non-traditional career seekers, freelancers, creatives, introverts, Millennials, and corporate career changers. He helps people clarify their career direction and take action on career-life transitions. Request a free consultation and access free resources at BradWatersCoaching.com or call 773-789-9330.

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