Successful Career Transition Stage 1: Start With a Creative Mindset

 

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.

Nine LinkedIn Strategies: Which One Matches Your Goals?

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Eyes (and darts) on the target. Shutterstock image.

LinkedIn® is a lightening rod, charging up diverse opinions about the best way to approach it. At one end of the spectrum, you hear that being on LinkedIn is a waste of time or, worse yet, only for those who wish to commoditize themselves. For many others, LinkedIn is the best thing to happen to online networking, a free space to invite the world to hire you, connect with you, buy from you, etc.

I will not say that the truth lies somewhere in between, as I don’t think LinkedIn (like anything else) lends itself well to one-size-fits-all. Rather, when I teach groups or individuals about LinkedIn, I suggest you start with the end in mind: what do you want LinkedIn to do for you? Once you know your target, you can devise the best strategy to get there.

Here are nine basic LinkedIn strategies. Which one works best for you?

1) No Profile. The No Profile approach is favored by a range of individuals, from those who wish to signal they are too elite for LinkedIn to those who conduct business exclusively offline, whether by choice or association. If your professional strategy is to maintain a low online profile and let your reputation and in-person dealings speak for themselves, then LinkedIn may fail the cost-benefit analysis. If this strategy appeals well to your target audience (be it family offices or firemen) and doesn’t lead to a number of missed opportunities, then it is probably the best choice for you.

2) Stealth. Those who have a Stealth profile want to be able to search for others without revealing anything (or very little) about themselves. They are similar to the No Profilers, except that they want access to LinkedIn’s goods without making an offer in return. Like the No Profilers, the Stealth strategy is helpful if you believe that you have nothing to gain, and only something to lose, by putting your talents “out there” into the marketplace so that someone may discover you. Note that the Stealth Profile is often similar to the Just Getting Started Profile, which is not a strategy at all, just someone who has not bothered to understand or master LinkedIn. (Also note: beware Stealth connectors, who may be looking to hack into your network.)

3) Minimalist. A Minimalist profile, if done intentionally, also conveys that someone has “better things to do with their time” than be on LinkedIn. In some cases, this strategy is effective. However, like the profiles above, it probably will not generate interest (or new opportunities) among LinkedIn’s reported 100 million users. That said, having a Minimalist profile does allow you the benefits of building a network among your close connections. It also may be useful to have a minimal presence if your company actively restricts what you can post or obviously frowns on LinkedIn, as it does allow people to search specifically for your profile and find you (if they know what they are looking for). For those in finance or information technology, for example, a Minimalist approach is sometimes the only way to enjoy some of the benefits of the LinkedIn service without risking account or policy breaches.

4) Basic Professional. The straight-shooting Basic Professional LinkedIn profile includes a bit more information than the Minimalist profile, such as a professional picture, descriptions for some or all jobs, and possibly a summary. It may also include some keywords (i.e., important nouns that can match up to online searches by hiring managers and recruiters), and it has enough information to actually allow the reader/viewer to understand who you are and what you do professionally. It often does not give personal details (that could create a connection), and generally there is little or no creativity in the text or enhancement beyond completing the basic profile fields. Often, it is written in the third person.

The Basic Professional profile is most effective if your strategy is to use LinkedIn for “verification” purposes – giving the reader/viewer comfort that your profile matches the information they already have about you – rather than to generate leads through LinkedIn. It will not be sufficient to propel you to the top of LinkedIn search results (when someone is searching for an individual with your background and talents), so if that is your end game, you should consider a more robust strategy. That said, for certain individuals who want to maintain some distance with the public, as a matter of personal branding or due to the nature of their work, a Basic Professional profile may strike the right balance.

5) Inviting. The strategically Inviting profile can be a variation of the Basic Professional, or it may be more creative and “loose” in its presentation. Inviting profiles often incorporate keywords but are also geared toward making a connection. To that end, an Inviting profile, which is often written in first person, is written with a “human voice” to be appealing and develop a bond or kinship with the viewer/reader. Most job seekers and entrepreneurs benefit from Inviting profiles, especially if they are Active (see below), and thought leaders use them to their advantage as well.

Inviting profiles are in some ways what LinkedIn is all about. They say more than a résumé format ever could, and they encourage people to connect with you because they highlight your talents, accomplishments, interests and goals as an individual. In addition, they can facilitate an interview or other professional conversation (whether for networking, business-generation or employment), because you have already made a good first impression and answered some of the basic questions, including your value proposition, with your Inviting profile.

6) Highly Creative. A Highly Creative profile is similar to an Inviting profile, although rather than putting down a welcome mat for all, it goes all purple shag carpet to say, “Look, I’m different. I am on LinkedIn, but my way.” This strategy works best if you are the one to call when someone is looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack (rewritten, of course, without the cliché.) Like the earlier profiles on this list, the Highly Creative profile generally works best when your reputation precedes you, although the link can be included in marketing materials and”worked” that way, and keywords can be gently massaged into the message to increase the likelihood your profile is found by the right audience. Needless to say, this profile works best for those who are solidly ensconced in a creative field, where innovation is prized. It does not go over so well in banking.

7) Active. I include Active as a separate profile strategy, although it often piggybacks on one of the strategies above. An Active LinkedIn profile is one that includes all of the basic elements of LinkedIn (picture, summary, recommendations, keywords, skills, etc.), which are points that LinkedIn’s algorithm uses to “score” how high up you appear in any given search results. In addition, LinkedIn rewards its users (again, as far as search visibility) for being active within LinkedIn, such as participating in groups, sharing, posting and interacting with others’ posts.

A note about Active profiles: It is often hard to start up an Active profile without triggering a concern that you may suddenly be in the midst of a job search. Being at least minimally active on LinkedIn before you need it is part of the Active strategy.

8) Transition. A very light touch is needed for a Transition profile. The trick is to continue to appeal to one’s current audience without tipping your hand about a possible change, while adding enough keywords and information to your profile to hook and appear credible to your new audience as well.

A subset of the Transition profile is an analogous strategy that is often overlooked. Another goal of a Transition profile may be to use LinkedIn not to find a job at a new company but to highlight your talents within your current company – i.e., get promoted or make a lateral move – so that CEOs and others with whom you are connected can see not only what you offer to your current position but also what you will bring to the company in the new role. In many ways, LinkedIn is the perfect platform to reinforce your goal to have your talents recognized, because it is unlikely (unless asked) that you will be sticking your résumé under the nose of senior management. To be effective in this strategy, you need to highlight aptitude rather than simply focusing on what you have done.

9) Straddler. Like Career Changers, Straddlers target more than one audience, but a Straddler has one role he/she wishes to keep and another one to add. For example, a lawyer may also be a budding fiction writer or aspiring corporate board member, wishing to highlight both sets of talents and appeal to both networks. Rather than creating entirely separate profiles – which can be time-consuming and confusing – a Straddle profile is created by weighing the relative merits and costs of each element added to maximize the benefits of a combined profile while minimizing the risks that any key target audience might not find this approach appealing or effective. A Straddler must very carefully evaluate whether the “second part” of a profile enhances the Straddlers credibility for his/her main target roles or detracts from it. Each audience will respond to different aspects of your profile, and the trick is to highlight the relevant parts without appearing disjointed. 

Unless you want to approach LinkedIn haphazardly, each of the above types of profiles represents a choice of how you wish to present yourself and what return you are seeking from LinkedIn. Whatever strategy you choose from the above, it behooves you to approach LinkedIn with your goal in your sights rather than simply writing about yourself and posting it to the world. As with anything in life, if you know your target, you are more likely to hit your target.

Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nine-linkedin-strategies-which-suits-you-best-segal-jd-ccmc-cprw

Young Women & Interpersonal Cues: Missing Them Can Undermine Your Career

At my office recently, I was approached by someone in the hallway I had never met, a fellow tenant (let’s call him George) with a business complimentary to mine. In a few minutes, it became clear George wanted to sell me on something, an idea more than a product or service. He talked excitedly in a loud voice, as he got himself pumped up on a concept that was close to his heart – a local monthly networking group he leads that he wanted me to join. I mentioned that I knew someone from George’s office, a young woman who worked for him (let’s call her Julie), whom George called out to join us. Julie popped out into the hallway a minute later to say hello, as we continued our conversation.

Suddenly, the floor receptionist (let’s call her Clara) appeared. Clara beckoned Julie to come over and answer a question, oblivious to the fact that three people standing in the hallway deep in conversation could be a “meeting” that was just as momentous as a sit-down affair. It did not appear that Clara wanted to talk about anything important, just a routine matter, and I expected Julie to wave her off with a promise to catch up shortly.

And then a very odd thing happened. Something that I had almost forgotten young women can get wrong and how damaging it can be to their careers.

What happened is this: Julie left the conversation. Like the receptionist Clara, who had no skin in the game, Julie missed the cues. She did not grasp that this spontaneous 15-minute meeting in the hallway was important to George, that it’s the way he does business. George was very obviously giving me his elevator pitch, growing his base of support and relying on Julie to help him carry it to a close. And Julie missed the ball. Completely.

The fact was not lost on George, as he made very clear a moment later. “Julie, where are you going?” he asked, as Julie and Clara stood in the hallway, five feet from us, whispering back and forth in their own private conversation. I expected again for Julie to wave Clara off, reading the cues from George, or at least to try to do so, but again she did not.

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“Clara has a question for me,” Julie said flatly, turning her back on us and continuing the conversation. She did not excuse herself by mentioning anything about the relative importance of Clara’s question, that there was an emergency, that she would be “just 30 seconds” or anything to mitigate her allowing a seemingly unnecessary break in the flow of conversation. George continued to speak with me, although he was visibly annoyed by Julie’s absence, turning to glance at her out of the corner of his eye until she finally returned.

As the observer of this interchange, I wished I could communicate to Julie what I had witnessed from a third-party perspective. By bowing out, she had taken a backseat, undermining herself. Julie had made a decision, perhaps unconsciously, that she was not an important member of our makeshift meeting. She was not part of the sales conversation, she “happened” to be there, and could just as easily have been somewhere else without affecting the outcome. This is an error, in fact, because Julie was the link between George and me, as I had only just met George in the hallway and had known Julie for months. If I were to be persuaded to “buy” what George was offering, she certainly could have tipped the balance.

As a result of her stepping away at a critical point in the conversation, Julie gave away her power, allowing herself to deal with minor administrative tasks while a potentially profitable referral relationship was being made (or lost). Or, if there indeed was a pressing need to speak with Clara at that moment, Julie had not communicated that fact in a clear manner so that George (1) felt confident to rely on Julie’s judgment call to leave the meeting, and (2) had maintained focus on his train of thought and momentum, rather than being distracted from his intent. Julie’s actions subtly communicated the opposite: that she felt George did not need her. The key problem is that if George hears this message too many times at critical points in Julie’s career – he doesn’t need her – then, in fact, he won’t.

Have you witnessed a situation like the one I describe with Julie? As women, we want to be recognized as powerful, strong partners in the business world. There are unseen obstacles to our success, and we are denied opportunities based on our gender. And sometimes, we give the power away ourselves. We need to read, and give, helpful interpersonal cues. When we value our own worth and prioritize the more meaningful contributions we can make, we increase our engagement and opportunities in our careers. 

Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse as “How Young Women Can Undermine Themselves in the Business World by Missing Interpersonal Cues.”

 

Summer Vacations Make Us Stronger. Here’s Why.

Summer vacations make us stronger. Period. Why?

Let’s cut to the chase. In ten short days, you’ll have a summer to enjoy.

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Say that your goal numero uno this summer is landing a new gig (a new job, new client, etc.). Now let’s look at two other goals, or maybe you call them plans, that could be on your list:

2.  Visit the Taj Mahal
3.  Hang out with family at the beach for a weekWe are tempted (in the wisdom of our modern society) to say that goals #2 and 3 are a distraction from goal #1. How can you play when you are supposed to be doing something more important? But if you look at the facts, visiting the Taj Mahal and finding a new gig have a lot in common. How so? Each one requires you to envision, plan, execute and move out of your comfort zone in a big way.It’s not just the precious downtime of vacation that makes you stronger, it’s the mindset of creativity, openness, goal-setting and action. It’s also the stimulus and satisfaction that come from achieving what you set out to do.Compare that to procrastinating at your desk, or letting your body leave the office while your brain stays virtually trapped there. How is that improving your mindset?Even goal #3 of the beach, admittedly much less dramatic than a trip to the Taj Mahal, requires vision, planning and execution. It will also take you out of your comfort zone, unless you are fortunate to live at the shore or your business card currently reads “beach bum.” A trip to the beach requires focus and action, and it exposes you to a whole new set of information and challenges that you will never find at the office.

Hmmm, a day at the beach…. It’s not just hot sand and folding chairs. You may find something washed up on the shore that makes you say “what the heck is that?” And while your mind races through its catalog of information trying to make a match, the other problem you were looking to solve (your new gig) gets a hit in your brain, and your eureka moment arrives. You have figured out the missing piece to make real progress.

Compare again to procrastinating at your desk. No synapses firing wild. No catalog of information activated in your brain. Nope. Guilt for not being productive. Boredom. More guilt. Repeat pattern.

Maybe you can even make a new connection at the beach, someone who can answer the question of what that thing you saw actually is. (Eureka again?) And just maybe, in the way that fate and coincidence often play their hands, she might be exactly the right person to introduce you to the right person.

Need I mention this would not happen at your desk? Or if you miss the weird sea life thing and connection because you are mentally checked out?

Reframe summer: less guilt, more possibilities. Stay in the moment. Vacation strong.

Ten Ways to Beat Your Procrastination

Have a lot to do today? This week? This lifetime?

So why aren’t you finishing that little task that should take 10 minutes (two hours later) or that looming project that should take 10 hours (back-burnered for two months)? And what can you do about it?

There are many different motivation killers, and you could be suffering from one or more of them. Are you bored? Ambivalent? Out of your comfort zone? Here are ten common reasons you may procrastinate, and how to get going:

1) You are tired. It happens. We have high-energy days and low-energy days. So what do you do? Finish the small tasks that will make you feel that you’ve accomplished something on the days that you are dragging, and save the bigger tasks for the days (and times of day) when your energy is at its peak.

If there is a day you can get more done, schedule some time to relax on another day, such as on a Friday afternoon. Procrastinating is time-wasting, and it is non-productive. Reprioritizing your time is taking advantage of your normal highs and lows, and catching yourself at your best. Nap or have downtime if you are tired, and later make it up. Or finish your memo or report first, then get an hour of reward time. And don’t squander it on Facebook or mindless web searches, you earned that hour!

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If you know you’ll be tired this Friday (your deadline) because you plan to be out late Thursday night, let your motivation be enjoying Thursday night because you’re finishing the project by Wednesday.

If you are consistently tired, of course, get more sleep and nutrition. You have to keep yourself running well to do good work, and a tired brain or body can’t go the extra mile when needed.

2) You are hungry. In the modern world, we put off lunches and dinners because we think we will be more efficient. In the long run, we are racing to finish things but not being more effective over the course of a month or a year.

Eat when you are hungry. Have an apple with some almond butter. Or whatever suits your fancy and fuels you up.

I don’t keep it a secret that I have food with me at all times and stash the storable variety in desk drawers at my office. If your workplace does not have a refrigerator, consider investing in a mini-fridge for yourself or with a group.

3) You are bored. Boring tasks are hard to finish. It’s just a fact of life. The worst part is when they take over half a day or more because they are SOOO boring that they rain on your happy-parade. (Yes, I did say that.) I have two solutions for making boring tasks less tedious: get creative and drum up a deadline.

Make a boring task less brain-draining, and keep your focus, by using brightly colored pens or highlighters or crossing out lines on the page as you complete each one. In other words, dress up the task to make it more interesting.

You can also create a deadline, even if one doesn’t exist. I often set a timer on my phone and bet myself how quickly I can finish something. This doesn’t mean you do everything on ASAP mode or ignore important details. It does mean, however, that you get the hard parts done with the momentum of adrenaline. Sometimes, it works even better if you have someone else who can be your designated “taskmaster” on the task. For example, bet that you will pay a friend $1 (or $10) if you don’t finish the super-boring-thing by noon. Or more, if that’s not enough to motivate.

Betting yourself you can finish early doesn’t mean you do everything on ASAP mode or ignore important details. It does mean, however, that you get the hard parts done with the momentum of adrenaline. 

4) You need to move. Maybe you are procrastinating because your muscles feel as stiff as hard as the chair you are sitting in. Get up from your desk. Stretch. Walk around. Oh, and make a plan to go to the gym this week, or get outside and run, walk or swim in the sunshine.

5) You are distracted. Distractions abound, and you need to find ways to get around them. Sometimes they are physical distractions, like conversations you can’t help overhearing that drown out your own thoughts in your head. Can you take action to create a more peaceful atmosphere? Or can you relocate?

Sometimes distractions are emotional, like expecting an important phone call or being upset. Take a moment to recognize the feeling and, if possible, address whatever come up. If it is a phone call, for example, and you are worried about what you’ll say, write down five speaking points for the conversation. If you are upset, maybe the priority for you in that moment is to work out what is going on (or, if you are on a deadline, take at least take five minutes to honor the feeling, rather than trying to bury it). Then you can go back to complete the other task that you have been distracted from.

For the five procrastination triggers above, the key is being aware of yourself and your surroundings. For the five below, beat the procrastination game with tactical strategies and your own priorities.

6) You haven’t broken a large project into smaller tasks. Create a chart or list to map out what you need to do, then cross off each task as it is completed. You will feel a sense of accomplishment to have 6 out of 10 parts done, rather than a sense of defeat that you still have not finished the project. Consider breaking it down by function or mini-deliverable (even if the only recipient is yourself) rather than a step-by-step list.

7) You are out of your comfort zone. Sometimes you may not have the skills or information to tackle what is expected of you, or what you have designated as a new area that you would like to master. Where can you get it? Who can you ask? Or can you start first and fill in the details later? For example, can your first task be to familiarize yourself with the process? Cross that off your list, and you are one step closer to your goal of completion.

8) You have forgotten your priorities. Next time a work project or task is taking more time than it needs, ask yourself what you could be doing with the time if you were more efficient. What’s your big picture, based on your own values and priorities? Chances are that you’ll have lots of good answers about how you could be using that extra time.

At the same time, sometimes we focus more on a smaller task because we don’t want to get to the larger one that is really the priority. It’s fine to do that if you are really getting things out of the way to have a clean slate to concentrate, but not if the lower-priority items weigh you down or are time-wasters masquerading as helpful tasks.

If you looked back on your life a month or a year from now, would you be thankful for how your spent your time. Does it fit into your big picture?

9) You are ambivalent about whether you want to do it. This point is similar to the one above. If you are consistently late responding to someone or deciding whether to commit to a project, maybe you are uncertain whether it is the best use of your time or resources, or if you can make the emotional commitment to see it through. This can manifest as procrastination, but really it’s your gut talking to you. Can you hear it?

Take the time to sort out your thoughts and feelings. How does this person or project fit into your bigger plan? Will you have more energy, move yourself further toward a life or professional goal, do important work and enjoy it? I used to think that at least one of these had to be true to make the commitment. Now I look for all four.

(Note: the” important work” from time to time may only be keeping your job, but if it often feels like that’s the only importance of your work and time spent, maybe a life change is in order?)

10) You want it to be perfectLife is a process, and so is work. Deadlines require that we complete things before they are perfect. And frankly, what may be “perfect” to one person may be only “pretty good” to another, or even to your future self!

You will get more points for getting something done, on time, when you are fresh, than belaboring it through to a long and bitter end, where the big thought could get lost in the polishing of details. Take satisfaction not from perfection, but from valuing yourself and each moment of your time on this planet.

You only get one life, after all. How do you want to spend it?

Anne Marie Segal is a business and career coach to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She writes a blog on career and business issues and often posts on LinkedIn Pulse. You can find her website here.

If you have any more tips to get motivated and beat procrastination at its own game, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Copyright 2015 Segal Coaching. Originally published on LinkedIn here.