When people find out that I am a career consultant / coach / kick you in the pants job change artist, I generally get one of two responses. Some don’t want to tell me what they do to make a living because they aren’t where they want to be; others ask me for help immediately because they or someone very close to them are keen to make a job change.
These are the top nine things I recommend for folks who want to make a job change but don’t know where to get started, and they want to move quickly with no time for dilly dallying.
1. Divide a sheet of paper into two columns. In the first column, list your skills. Include all of the things that you do at work – and at home – that you can do at work. Then go through the list again and use a highlighter to colour those skills that you can perform at a level of excellence, so that you now have a list within a list. You now have a list of things that you are good at.
2. In the second column, write activities that you really enjoy. We know that people who are doing work that and includes things they like to do succeed at work. That just makes sense, and although you might be itching to make a move right now, keep in mind the relationship between what you are good at and the things that you enjoy.
As an example, you could be very skilled at repairing engines. If an activity that you enjoy happens to be troubleshooting engine problems, then your skill and enjoyable activities complement one another. If however you have great skill at diagnosing human skin disease but don't like working with people, then you could become disconnected from your job very quickly.
3. Go through both columns and rate your level of expertise with your skills and the activities that you enjoy using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is you know how to do it, 3 means you can do it pretty well and 5 means that you can do it in your sleep you know it so well.
Now you have two columns that highlight things that you excel at.
4. Sketch an outline of your next five career moves. These can be lateral moves within your current company, promotions (vertical moves) or moves to new companies. They can also include starting your own company. The idea here is to get an idea of the progress that you are going to make.
5. On a fresh page, map out opportunities for work that you are good at within your current company, or within the target company of your next career move. How do you compare to the people already in that job in terms of age, education and experience? Be honest about how you compare with your competition. Which of them are doing a good job? Of those people, what skills do they possess? Do you have those skills?
6. Make a list of people who could help you. This might mean your bosses boss, a mentor, a previous supervisor, or people that you have not met yet. Just remember that people are often willing to help others succeed, but that they cannot help you if they don’t know what you need. If you aren’t well networked yet, you’ll have to be brave here while creating your list, but understand that you’ll benefit just as soon as you get comfortable operating outside of your comfort zone.
7. Get your resume working for you. Make sure that your resume is up to date and that it looks polished. No spelling mistakes, no lies and embellishments allowed. Your resume is your calling card, and introduces you for consideration in a new job. If you aren’t sure there are plenty of helpful books in the local library, employment office or information on the internet. You can even attend a workshop and really learn how to pull your information together. Don’t rely on someone else to create your resume; it’s your story and you should tell it. Get some professional help if you want someone to help you polish it, and then it will really stand out. Your resume must be up to date BEFORE you start approaching people for jobs, because it helps you to realize just how far you’ve come and how much you have to offer in your new position.
8. Conduct interviews. An interview is just a meeting, and this meeting is for you to talk to the people that you need to, and to ask for the information that will get ahead. This is where you contact the people in the list that you created at step six. When you book the meeting, let the person know that you are interested in getting ahead in your career, and that you’d like to ask them some questions. Have your list of questions ready, and be professional in the meeting. Let them know the types of positions that you are interested in. Most carefully, let them know what YOU can do for THEM now, within your current skills, knowledge and disposition so that they see that there is some sense in what you are saying, and to help you become a person of interest in their eyes.
9. Tell people that you know and trust that you are looking for a new job, and then tell them exactly what it is that you are looking for. Remember that people will often help you when they understand what you need. You might be amazed at what a conversation with a friend of a friend can do, and with the number of people who find the jobs they want through this kind of intentional networking.
Tomorrow, an article about planning for moving up the career ladder when you've got a little time on your side.
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(c) 2008 Pam Robertson, MVPi. Pam is a Career and Life Success Consultant who helps people to create lives and work that are worth celebrating. She is based in Nova Scotia, Canada and can be reached at 902.222.9212 or by email to pam(at)mvpi(dot)org. For more information you can also visit her website.