AdobeStock_83147118 (interview prep).jpg

If you are moving onto a second interview with the same company, congratulations! You have passed through the gatekeepers and are now poised to refine your presentation and move one step closer to getting the job.

So what changes in the second round and how should you prepare yourself differently than for the first interview?

Often companies use further interviews to introduce you to more people, ferret out any concerns, check for consistency (from one interview to the next) and gauge your overall energy level, interest in and fit for the job. They may also present you with new challenges, such as behavioral questions (e.g., “Tell me about a time when…”).

Here are some of the key ways I suggest you prepare for a second interview:

  1. Research any concepts, other companies, approaches or themes presented in the first interview you did not understand or with which you were not familiar.

    For example:

    – a business line, product or service that is new to you
    – a partner or competitor that is significant to the company
    – a type of organizational structure (e.g., matrixed organizations)
    – a certain leadership approach or management style

  2. Reread the job description and make sure you can address all aspects of it.

    Job seekers often have a tendency to focus on certain aspects of a role – the ones that they find more interesting – and assume that the rest will fall into place. You do not need to know every aspect of the job before you even start – and in some cases there will be considerable ramp-up or stretch goals – but you do need to be able to formulate a plan of how you will learn what you don’t know.

    For example, if the job description indicates that you will interact with the Board of Directors or manage a team of 100 direct reports, and you are lacking one or both of these skills in your background, be ready to explain (without sounding defensive) what you have done that is analogous or prepares you for it. In the absence of any related background, you can also build out from what you have learned.

    For example:

    “As you know, I have managed teams of 20, and a good portion of my day is already spent on leadership-building, evaluating and mentoring team members. I’ve spoken with a few of the senior managers in my network, and they have told me that some of the adjustments between managing 20 and 100 are [fill in with some wisdom you have learned]….”

    Half of the battle is to sound upbeat and ready to rise to the task and suffer any growing pains gracefully. Yes, this may nonetheless be a breaking point for your candidacy, but you cannot create experience that doesn’t exist. You can only give it your best shot.

  3. Learn more about management and any interviewers you expect to meet.

    You have likely done some of this diligence before the first interview, but it is good to refresh yourself for the second time around and also check whether what you see presented online matches your view of a company based on what you have learned in the interview and through your additional research and connections.

    LinkedIn® and other online sources provide a great deal of information, as many company CEOs and marketing and recruiting leaders have released videos or articles discussing their goals for the company and talent acquisition. Find out what you can from these sources.

    In addition, become a “mini-expert” on the people who will interview you. You don’t need to know their shoe size or most recent vacation spot – of course! – but you should find out basic information to understand their perspective of the world and what they may want from a candidate.

    For example:

    Do their values match with yours?

    How do they see the firm’s culture and do they participate in creating it? 

    What is their leadership or management style?

    What or whom might you have in common? 

    What topics should you avoid discussing?

    How can you build a bond?

    As an example of the above, I worked with a job candidate on interview prep, and we discovered that her interviewer placed a strong value on diversity. We crafted her “tell me about yourself” story – which was entirely authentic, or it would not have been appropriate – to include the fact that (1) she had moved to the U.S. from Europe at a young age and (2) she was looking for an environment where there were people from many different backgrounds and perspectives. (Yes, she got the job!)

    This candidate had not initially thought of herself as “diverse” but we reframed her perspective, and I believe she will take this larger point of view with her into the job and life going forward.

  4. Be ready for multiple interviewers simultaneously (the panel interview.)

    Another common strategy companies employ in a second interview is to engage you with multiple interviewers at the same time. Some keys here are:

    Remember it’s a conversation, even if it feels like a panel inquiry

    – Show that you are able to relate to multiple people at once

    – Address and show respect for everyone in the room, even if only one person is asking questions (especially if the person leading the meeting is the “boss” and the others will be your colleagues; you don’t want to give the impression that their opinions are not important)

    – Pay extra attention to your body language, as the second or third person may be watching you closely (i.e., facial expressions, hand gestures, eye contact)

    – Give consistent answers and don’t falter if challenged (which is different than thoughtfully revising an answer based on new information)

  5. Prepare follow-up questions to decide whether the job is a fit for you.

    At this second interview, you want to ask what I sometimes call “stage- appropriate” questions to understand fit. That means you can ask more in-depth questions on some aspects of the job than the first stage, but tread lightly on other topics.

    Example:

    I worked recently with a candidate who was encouraged to hear that the office closes early on Fridays but discouraged to note that there seems to be a “difficult person” with whom she will be working closely. We formulated a plan to address the latter but determined that she should save any questions about the workday – do they actually leave at lunchtime every Friday? – until a later stage or (possibly) after the offer.

    On word of a difficult colleague or other negative aspect of the job, I suggest approaching it from a place of curiosity rather than negativity.

    So if Kendra says Lisa is difficult, ask Tomas if he knows more about how you’ll be working with Kendra and what he knows about her rather than seeking confirmation if she is difficult as Kendra would have you believe.

    You also will want to understand – if it hasn’t been explained already – how your group relates to each other and the rest of the company, what success will look like in this role and what you’ll be expected to complete on a daily and long-term basis.

  6. Plan how you’ll clarify any “loose ends” from the prior interview. 

    If your first interview generally went well except that you floundered on a certain answer, be ready to circle that topic back into the conversation in a positive way.

    You may, for example, say that you were reflecting on your earlier conversation and have more to add about a certain question. It could be how you would approach a certain situation or whether you have experience in a certain area.

    Make sure your additional information puts you in a confident light, rather than sounding worried or apologetic. You do not wish to dwell on the point, only supplement and clarify. In addition, address this topic at an appropriate point so you don’t break the flow of the new conversation. For example, if the interviewer asks if you have any questions, you might say, “Do you mind if I expand on something we discussed last time…?” If you have already addressed the topic in a thank you note, you don’t need to revisit it again.

  7. Rehearse situational or behavioral questions.

    As I mentioned above, you may be asked hypotheticals about how you would approach a certain situation or prompted to tell the interviewer “about a time when” you rose to a certain challenge, faced an ethical concern, needed to break bad news or otherwise.

    I discuss how to approach behavioral questions in this podcast, if you have time to review that before your meeting. If not, keep in mind a few key points:

    – Choose situations that speak to the call of the job

    – Have your top accomplishments in mind and pull from those where possible

    – Do not betray confidences of your current or former company

    – Remember that every interview question is a version of “why should I hire you?”  and speak to that

  8. Drive home your value proposition.

    If you do nothing else, have a clear statement of value proposition and be ready to work it into the meeting.

    What are the three or four key reasons you are the one to hire? What do you offer that they need – in terms of soft and hard skills, knowledge and talents?

    Turn back to the preparation you have done for the points above. What does the company need – more generally and from someone in this role – and how can you deliver it?

    If you need more help formulating a personal value proposition, please refer to my worksheets here.

    The second interview is an exciting time! Best of luck!

    Anne Marie Segal - Web Image (Credit Alejandro Barragan IV)

    Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume writer, Forbes Coaches Council member, former practicing attorney and author of two highly-praised books on interviewing and career development.

    Image credit: Adobe Stock.


 

 

 

 

 

Rope fraying

What are your weaknesses?

When I prepare clients for interviews, this is almost invariably at the top of people’s lists of questions that they are not prepared to answer. When they do have an answer, it is usually one of the “Top Three Answers” to the question or some variation thereof:

  • I am a perfectionist (i.e., my own toughest critic).
  • I work too hard (i.e., can’t take a break, vacation, disconnect).
  • I am a people pleaser.

The problem with these answers is two-fold. First, that they are highly overused. Second, they don’t appear to indicate any self-awareness or reflection (even if one of them is, in fact, your greatest weakness).

It is important not to underestimate this question. While many interviewers do not bother to ask it because they believe the answer will be too rehearsed, others take the answer very seriously as an indicator of whether you will be a fit in an organization and your level of self-reflection. While you should strive to find a true weakness, it is also important to put a positive spin on it and explain what you are doing to work on fixing the problem, with examples of steps you have taken to overcome them.

While you should strive to find a true weakness, it is also important to put a positive spin on it and explain what you are doing to work on fixing the problem, with examples of steps you have taken to overcome them.

Here are sample answers about where your weaknesses may lie, in the hopes that they inspire an authentic response on your part:

  • Over the years, I have found that I don’t delegate work as much as I should. I have always believed in the mantra, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” However, I am realizing that I need to spend more time training, mentoring and building my team. In the last year, I have made this a priority. [Be ready to give examples.]
  • I was never one to pay much attention to so-called “office politics” [or, I am not one for small talk] but prefer to put my head down and do my work. At some point, I realized that this would only get me so far, so I am now actively seeking out leadership [or collaborative] opportunities and focused on building relationships [across departments]. I have headed up three important projects in the last year, and I am now part of a working group that includes the CEO and other senior management.
  • For a long time, I was very specialized in one area, but in the last year I realized that I needed to broaden my experience in order to grow. Lately I have taken on projects from other groups and incorporated some volunteer work into my schedule in order to cultivate a wider range of skills. I never thought – being so highly specialized would be a weakness – but I can see now that although I have become an “expert,” a broader range of experiences are what I need to understand the big picture of what we are trying to achieve as a company and how I fit in.
  • I have been lucky to have a very broad range of projects over my career, but I realized that I had become too much of a generalist. Sometimes you really need to get “in the weeds” on certain points, and lately I have realized the importance of having a specialty, which was frankly something I resisted. To do this, I first got certified in [X] – which was a six-month process – and I’ve also become involved in [name relevant organizations] and sought out projects that can deepen my knowledge in the area. [If prompted, have examples ready. Of course, this answer is only relevant if your specialty relates to the target position.]
  • I have learned a tremendous amount by being the only person in my company who focuses on my area, but at times I have gone to conferences and other events and seen how much deeper my understanding would be if I had a team of people committed to the same goal. So I consider it a weakness that I haven’t had this exposure. I realize that the next step in my growth is to join a team with many people working on solving the same problems, so we can mentor and bounce ideas off each other, which is one of the reasons this role is so appealing.
  • I have had great success managing smaller teams of people, up to eight employees as I do currently, but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to manage a larger team as I would in this role. I know that I am ready for the challenge, and I have been actively seeking out other managers who do work with larger teams to discuss the challenges of scaling up. What I have learned is….
  • Early in my career, I wasn’t very focused or quite sure what path I wanted to follow. I took a few different jobs, but none of them was the right match. I finally realized that what all of these roles were missing was that I didn’t have a chance to connect with the ultimate customer. As soon I moved over to the sales side, everything clicked. I sometimes wish I had known from the beginning what I wanted to do, but the truth is that all of these experiences have helped me understand various aspects of the company and become a better salesperson as a result.
  • My biggest weakness is that I am completely deadline-driven. I don’t do as well with downtime, although I have learned to create my own deadlines to get things done. For example, I have found it very effective to break projects down into component parts, so rather than thinking of an overall deadline, I make a calendar for myself with interim dates that I need to finish certain points, so that I can keep on track.
  • I consider it a weakness that I have never been very good at public speaking. Earlier in my career, it didn’t matter as much, because everyone liked my work product, and so I focused on that. At some point I realized that if I was going to become a leader in my field, I needed to interact with larger groups of people across all levels. So I started to take some presentation classes and also volunteer for panels with experts in the field. I figured that the best cure to my fear was to get out and do it, and I am frankly surprised that it is working out even better than I had hoped.
  • Honestly, my greatest weakness is that I still don’t know my way around the corporate culture. I have had two great internships in college, but I haven’t completely settled in. The good news is that I am very open to learning more and a quick study. Also, I’m fortunate to have had some really good experiences that taught me how to work across generations and build good relationships from day 1. [Be ready with examples from volunteering, travel, family life, etc. As a younger employee, by the way, being able to bridge the “Millennial-Baby Boomer Gap” is huge.]
  • I would consider it a weakness that, as I am sure you have seen, most of my experience is in another industry. I have spent the last few months getting up to speed on [name of new industry] in anticipation of the change, but there is nothing that replaces actual hands-on experience in the field. Fortunately, I have two good friends who both work in [name of new industry] who have been very gracious with their time, and I also have [name any other research, connections or background that is relevant]. I know that I can hit the ground running, because…. [If you have additional time, you can discuss leadership and other transferable skills that are cross-industry.]
  • It could be perceived as a weakness that for over twenty years I have worked at the same company, especially now when job changes are much more common. And it’s true that I will probably never be as innovative as someone who has jumped from start-up to start-up, for example. But I have realized that I don’t always need to be an “ideas man.” I can hire people for that. What I have is a really strong grasp of the fundamentals, how to execute and how to grow a company. The other thing I have learned is that even the “same company” is a different company after twenty years, and having moved across different functional areas, I have certainly seen how business evolves. [Elaborate and give examples.]

These answers, as you may see, follow a certain formula: (1) identify a weakness that is specific to your professional trajectory, (2) discuss what you are doing to improve, (3) highlight something that may be obvious to your interviewer already, based on your resume, (4) are not roadblocks for you in the target role (e.g., not being a good writer in a job that requires extensive writing) and (5) characterize the “weakness” as a growing pain along the way to advancing in your career. All of these three points can be absolutely true, obviating the need to sound rehearsed, if you study your own career with some detachment.

Imagine that you were a third-party consultant evaluating your own career path to date with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Everyone has each of these – S-W-O-and-T – and if you can see your own, you will be much further along in your career. At the same time, the more you consider “strengths” and “weaknesses,” the more you will see that they are often two sides of the same coin. Someone who thrives on being a “people person” may not do well in a job that involves a lot of solitary thinking and problem-solving, while an introvert may not take as well to a role that requires teamwork on a daily basis and does not allow for any “alone time.” These are generalizations, of course, and the goal is to figure out where you fall in this analysis, both to help your interviewer decide if you will be a fit and to help you sort out your best career environment, one that plays to your strengths and does not call on you to continually execute in areas of weakness.

In the context of interviewing, the beauty of a real answer to this question or others is that the true answer is not something you need to struggle to remember when you are in the interview room. If you have been actively managing your career, you will already have these insights and only need to work them into a few sentences, with examples, that you can present into the interview.

If you have not been in the driver’s seat in your career but instead treading water lately (which happens to the best of us), creating your “weaknesses” answer will not only be helpful for your interviews but also be a step in making a roadmap for where you would like to go next and how to get there.

This post is an excerpt from Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, writer, resume strategist and former practicing attorney. She has conducted individualized interview prep coaching with scores of clients across law, business, information technology, marketing and other fields.

Anne Marie is the author of Master the Interview and the newly published Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook.

Image credit: Adobe Stock.

With everyone pressed for time and email inboxes overflowing, one of the worst things you can do is fire off an email that is unread, left lingering or summarily deleted. Not only do poor emails waste time on both ends – minutes and hours that could be used more productively – but they also may create negative impressions about your ability to think, solve problems and communicate.

If you want to be known as someone who acts strategically, demonstrates leadership and otherwise has a positive professional outlook, writing better emails is a crucial place to start.

 ✔︎ Prepare

 ✔︎ Write

 ✔︎ Review

 ✔︎ Follow-Up

Click here or on the icon below to read my results-driven system to writing effective emails on Forbes.com. Click here to request my 12-point checklist “Write Emails that Get Results.”

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Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is founder of Segal Coaching, author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and a frequent public speaker in New York, Connecticut and beyond.

Image credit: Adobe Images.

military dog tag thank you on wood

Veterans Day, Friday, November 11, 2016  – FREE CAREER COACHING FOR VETERANS

In honor of Veterans Day and the sacrifices military members make for our country and security every day, Segal Coaching will offer free career coaching for U.S. active or retired military members – and their spouses – who wish to seek out roles in the private sector following their military service and/or position their military career with an eye to such future roles.

Coaching will be available in 30-minute sessions between 11:30 am and 2:30 pm EST on Friday, November 11, 2016, and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Appointments should be set up in advance and will be by phone or Skype, so veterans living in any jurisdiction are eligible. 

This is an amazing opportunity for veterans to gain access to a top career coach to help them troubleshoot and guide their transition.

Please contact Segal Coaching for details through this form or by email at asegalATsegalcoaching.com.

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach and resume writer to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs, including current and former members of the military and their spouses. She volunteers with American Corporate Partners, a veteran mentoring program, and was elected “Mentor of the Month” for September 2016.

Stack of books and binders in front of a businesswoman at desk
Derive More Meaning from an Unfulfilling Career (Adobe Images)

Looking for more meaning in your career?

Kathy Caprino Has Some Answers

Kathy Caprino, a coach and contributor to Women@Forbes, is one of my favorite career writers, as I have said in the past

Recently, Kathy wrote another great article called “4 Ways to Get More Meaning and Value From Your Career Starting Today,” which is also posted on LinkedIn.

Among other things, I love Kathy’s practical approach on career transitions and suggestion (that I often make myself) that you do not need to wait until you have the “ideal career” to start making your career more ideal today. As she says:

“Most professionals believe that they have to chuck their entire careers and start over, in order to find more meaning in their work. They often fantasize about doing something creative or altruistic (like start a non-profit, join the Peace Corps, work on a communal farm, write a book, start a bed and breakfast, or move to another country entirely) to bring more meaning into their work.  But they are often mistaken. You don’t have to uproot your entire life and career to create more meaning and value. You can do it literally starting today, wherever you are.”

-Kathy Caprino

To read more, include Kathy’s excellent roadmap on how to “dimensionalize” your own personal version of meaning in your career – since meaning is different to each of us based on each of our individual experiences – please click here. With her thoughts in mind, if you are contemplating a career transition, you may also wish to (re)read my prior posts on Career Exploration and Vetting that discuss how to take yourself through the process.

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She helps clients with career exploration and other stages of the job search process, as well as presentation skills through interview preparation, resume writing and LinkedIn. For more information, please visit her website at www.segalcoaching.com.

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

shutterstock_229967803 (three doors of decisionmaking)

Kristina has always secretly dreamed of owning a vineyard in France.

She has other dreams, too. But this one just won’t go away.

How can Kristina, from her windowless desk at a bank in New York City, figure out how to bring more of her dream life into her actual life?

Exploration is the first stage of a successful career transition, as I covered in my prior post. Stage 2 is a decision-making process that involves vetting the ideas that have been uncovered through brainstorming, research, informational interviews, networking and other means of discovery. We vet against a set of factors that we have enumerated, such as our values, talents, interests, skills, financial needs and the market.

These two first stages (exploration and vetting) work in tandem but are distinct. In fact, we do them naturally every day, but not always intentionally.  More importantly, too often we rush to judgment about our ideas without fully opening ourselves to the brainstorming process, missing valuable information about ourselves and our true career goals as we try to vet while still exploring ideas. Often this rush is triggered by our own anxiety about transition, while at times it is the expediency of the situation.

In the best case scenario, we will explore and vet in a cycle, which will look a lot like the following image. We explore ideas, we vet them, and then we explore again. In other words, each time we make an interim decision about career transition that has not led us to a final conclusion, we go back to the proverbial drawing board with an open mind, returning to further vetting until we make a final decision (about one or more options to pursue in our career transition).

Here is what this might look like.

Exploration - Vetting

As we covered in the prior post, there are three aspects of the brainstorming phase:

Creative Mindset – Facts – Exploration

Kristina can generate ideas about her vineyard dream, conduct actual research into what it takes to own a vineyard and explore her questions with people who are already in her dream space.

As a coach, one of the points I would try to tease out from Kristina is what exactly appeals to her about this dream. Some of the appeal may be one or more of the following:

  • Living on the land; more in-tune with the seasons
  • Being involved with the wine community
  • Making money while drinking wine! 🙂
  • Doing something completely different than her current job – i.e., curing burnout
  • Feeling relaxed, the way she feels on vacation
  • Owning her own business; being her own boss
  • Living in France; speaking French
  • Feeling as though she has made an impact on the world
  • Leading a team of people committed to a quality product

For your own dream job, I would encourage you to do the same brainstorming about what exactly is appealing about that dream. Think through what is missing in your life that this dream job would offer. Imagine what you would be doing every day and how that would support your values and vision of yourself.

Notice that we haven’t yet vetted anything. We don’t know if Kristina has the money it takes to buy a vineyard (or could get financing), the talents to do it, the stomach for the risks or the true interest in doing the day-to-day work of running a vineyard. We also don’t know if she would be any good at it – would she be able to sell any wine? There are a hundred questions she would need to answer before actually moving forward, and each of those questions (and their answers) may open more ideas to explore as well as offer good feedback to Kristina about how a successful career transition would look.

The reason for separating exploration and vetting is that we often try to make decisions with too little information. Kristina will not know why this particular dream keeps coming up if she does not explore it, without the shoulds getting in the way. (You know the shoulds, I am sure. She should be practical. She should stop wasting time with something that will never happen…. And the rest of their should cousins.)

As part of her exploration, Kristina can explore vineyards from Long Island to Provence and beyond. She can talk to people in the business. She can sign up for Alliance Francaise, if her French is a little rusty. If she feels ambitious and tentatively committed to see if this could go anywhere  – or just for fun, to give it a whirl – she can create a business plan for the vineyard. In other words, Kristina can bring her dream world a bit more into her real world and recall the sensation of being carried away by an idea. 

In summary, the openness and creativity resulting from Kristina’s indulgence of her dream job idea may at some point lead to the actual result of opening her own vineyard – if it passes the vetting process – or it may throw off side ideas that are a better fit.

If you are ready to move to Stage 2, here are the main points to vet:

Values – Talents – Interests – Skills – Needs – The Market

Like Kristina, once you have some ideas on the table and have done your initial exploration with an open mind (whether these ideas represent dream jobs or simply “a bit better than what I have now” jobs), you are ready to subject these ideas to the vetting process. As an overview, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Your Values: Will the targeted role be meaningful to you? Will it meet your top values or will there by any values that need to be compromised (or left unmet) in this role?
  • Your Talents: Does it play to your strengths, and will it best utilize your greatest talents?

To insert an example here, in Kristina’s case, does she understand the how to market wine (or could she learn it) and would she enjoy doing that? What about how to run a farm? Run a business? Manage people? Manage cash flow?

What other talents will she need, and which of these play to her strengths?

  • Your Interests: Will the role be challenging and interesting on a daily basis? Are the problems that arise ones that you enjoy solving?
  • Your Skills: Do you have what is needed for the targeted role and if not, how can you acquire those skills? What commitment is needed to close the gap?
  • Your Needs: Will the role serve your financial needs? Will it meet other needs, such as the need for autonomy, the need to feel part of a team or the need to be recognized for good work?
  • Your Temperament: Will the minor annoyances in this job one day become major ones? Are you well suited to the day-to-day aspects of the role?
  • The Market: Does the marketplace need what you would like to do? How many of this type of role is available at the level that will meet your financial needs? Note: If it is a new idea or a niche market, you may need to conduct market research to know the answer to this point – don’t assume that just because you build it (and love it yourself), they will come.

Through thoughtful exploration and careful vetting – which is not all work, it can be fun too! – you will find new ways to frame and “reframe” your ideas and decisions about career transition. Whether you are looking to make a major change like the one above or if you simply want to tweak your current role, putting structure and organization around the process helps you make better decisions. You also may, as part of the process, find a “bridge job” that will help you incorporate into your life some aspects that are missing, as you continue to explore and vet your longer vision for your career.

For example, say that Kristina decides that she does want to go for it and open a vineyard in France – not an immutable decision, but a concrete goal – and that she has or can find the means to do so. She may first move from her bank job in New York to a similar role in Paris – admittedly also a move that takes effort – as a way to get geographically closer to her goal, meet more people who can make it a reality and satisfy a number of points on her dream list that appeal to her. Alternatively, she may seek a role at a vineyard (or a service provider to vineyards) in some capacity that is closer to her current role and uses her current skills, learning the business as she goes.

Remember: neither is not a compromise, either is a bridge. As she takes smaller risks and gets closer to the life she desires, Kristina will increase her resilience, self-awareness and capacity for change. 

Hungry (or thirsty) for change? What will your next move be? 

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She helps clients with career exploration and other stages of the job search process. For more information, please visit her website at www.segalcoaching.com.

 

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

First image above: Shutterstock.

 

shutterstock_201564593 (cropped woman jeans red light bulbs)Marilyn hates her job. She has many ideas about where she would like to land next and needs help sorting them out.

Rob is stuck in a rut. He has spent so long at the same role that he can hardly imagine doing anything else. He wants to identify new possibilities and opportunities.

Jamie likes what she is doing and would like to stay in the same field, but she wants to find a way to advance within her company or, if necessary, outside of it. She is also open to changing to a new job altogether, if it does not require starting over.

Each of these career-transition questions inhabit Stage 1 of the Career Transition Process.

The Marilyns, Robs and Jamies of the world crave structure around their exploratory work. Otherwise, they live in their own heads, and they fail to make much real progress that will help them out of their current situations and into a better place. I know, because I was there myself once. I also know because I see it every day in my coaching practice.

  • Stage 1: Explore: Are you open to and ready for change at this time? What options are available? How and where can you explore further? Who can help?

A successful career transition begins with creative brainstorming, targeted research and empirical exploration.

Creative Mindset and Brainstorming

Having a creative mindset allows you to generate ideas and be open to a range of possibilities. Brainstorming isn’t about vetting, that comes later.

Stage 1 is the “what if” stage.

  • What if you changed industries, practice areas or careers?
  • What if you stayed in your current role? How could you improve it?
  • What if you decided to go for CEO, another C-level role or partnership?
  • What if you gave up one of those roles to pursue something new?
  • What if you took a risk and …?

Research

While keeping an open mind, research facilitates brainstorming. I often suggest that clients search job descriptions (not to apply, as background material), and read through what they describe as the basic components of the job. Along with job descriptions, they can often pull up resumes of individuals who are already working in similar jobs from a simple internet search. These resumes can give key insights into what actually goes into a particular job, which may be much different than the job seeker had imagined before such research was conducted.

In addition, job seekers in the First Stage of their job search can research:

(1) industries, fields and companies,

(2) what skills they would need to acquire to achieve certain roles, and what that skill acquisition would entail,

(3) compensation in the desired field, and

(4) information about analogous roles that would help them widen their net of possible roles that could be a fit for their talents, skills and interests.

Remember: If you have gone through job descriptions in the past with a feeling of dread, kick that feeling to the curb. These words on a page have no hold over you. You are simply brainstorming to help yourself get on the right path.

Exploration

In addition to analytical research, the third means to open your mind to the possibilities in your job search is to meet and spend time with individuals in your target fields.

“Hi Pam, it’s Marilyn. Confidentially, I am considering a career move that would put me in a role similar to yours. Would you have some time to meet me for coffee near your office sometime next week? I would like to ask you a few questions so I can better understand what your day-to-day workload is like before I make the leap.”

Take time to network and conduct what are called informational interviews (as opposed to job interviews – you are asking for information, not a job) as you continue to generate ideas and ask people what they know, and who else they may know, to help you explore possibilities.

It is worth noting that you should choose your networking contacts carefully at this fragile Stage 1 of your job search. The proverbial Debbie Downer (who sees everything negatively) will not be helpful for you as you are trying to keep an open mind. Keep Debbie for the vetting process, which is Stage 2 and will be covered in my next post.


Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She helps clients with career exploration and other stages of the job search process. For more information, please visit her website at www.segalcoaching.com.

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

Image above: Shutterstock.