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.

Key Moments to Raise Your Hand (And Volunteer for New Projects During Your Career)

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When to say “I’ll do it!” and when to let an opportunity pass you by.

In the corporate world, and in other work environments, there are key moments at which you should raise your hand and volunteer for a new project or responsibility. These moments are critical to get right, because once you “own” a project that is going nowhere, it can be difficult or impossible to beg off at a later point. Knowing which moments are the right ones to volunteer is essentially a process of considering the end game: what are you hoping to get from the experience, and what value will it bring?

If you were always someone who raised your hand in school, eager to step up to the plate, you may volunteer too often and get stuck managing or completing projects that have minimal value to you and the organization. If you prefer instead to keep your head down and “get your work done,” you may miss some critical points to increase your leadership, reach and range. Striking a balance between appearing desperate to get noticed for doing a great job and disinterested in new work, here are three key factors to determine whether you should raise your hand when the boss is asking for volunteers.

  1. Is it high profile?
  2. Is it high need?
  3. Are you highly motivated to do it?

In general, if you have at least two out of the three hits above, you should probably be ready to go for it.

HIGH NEED / HIGH PROFILE

All things being equal, high need/high profile projects are, of course, the best projects to be on. You can increase your political capital within the organization by solving something mission-critical, and you can increase your visibility and level of responsibility for years to come.

If you are highly motivated to complete a high need/high profile project, you have the best of all worlds. On the other hand, if you do not initially feel motivated, brainstorm for possible motivators to get you going, including the obvious points I mention above. Generally, if you are in the right field and concerned about your career, you can generate the motivation to complete projects that meet the other two criteria by focusing on the initial and long-term results they will will bring to you and your company, whether or not the day-to-day tasks are always inspiring.

(Note: If you cannot muster up motivation despite the benefits, you may wish to keep your hand down and re-evaluate your commitment to your chosen role.)

HIGH PROFILE / LOW NEED

High profile projects can bring many benefits, but if they are not important to the organization, consider your motivation before volunteering. You may appear inauthentic, harming your credibility, and in the long run you may not have the commitment to do a good job (while on stage in front of the important individuals and teams within your organization). Examples of high profile/low need projects are the pet projects of senior management, which may allow you to rub elbows with the “right folks” but do not significantly advance (or redeem) the main profit drivers of your organization.

HIGH NEED / LOW PROFILE

Similar to high profile/low need projects, you may only wish to volunteer for high need/low profile projects when you are and can remain highly committed to them until completed. In addition, you should weigh the number of these types of projects that it makes sense to take on at one time.

If you do have strong (or sufficient) motivation to manage or participate in these projects, they could be a boon for your career, teaching you new substantive skills and helping you develop further leadership and self-reliance. You also will demonstrate your commitment to advance the goals of the company, even when being “in the trenches” does not yield an immediate gold star. That commitment can bridge the gap to yet another project that is more significant, if the earlier ones go well for you, and also give you a sense of accomplishment and meaning in your career.

LOW NEED / LOW PROFILE

In the case of a low need/low profile project, you likely should not volunteer regardless of how motivated you are to become engaged in something, unless your goals are no longer aligned with your company and current career path. These projects offer little in terms of advancing your career within a company, and in fact will present an opportunity cost, taking you away from more significant work. If you are tasked with one of these projects without volunteering for it, you may wish to accept it graciously and do your best to complete it (or, if appropriate, discuss your views on why it is not needed). If you are tasked with many of these projects and at the same time wondering why you cannot get traction in your career, you may wish to revisit your career goals and standing within the organization.

Copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

Stuck at the Office? 5 Quick Ways Holiday Downtime Can Benefit Your Career

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Sometimes, for whatever reason, you’ll be the one stuck at the office in late December while others are away on vacation. You may have even volunteered for it, hoping for a bit of quiet. But then sometimes it’s too quiet….

If there’s not a lot to do workwise – and you have already gotten yourself ahead on some tasks for 2016 – here are some thoughts on how to use that holiday office downtime (other than the trifecta of news trivia, Facebook and online shopping). 

If you can motivate yourself to do it, a few minutes invested now can yield significant benefits in the New Year. Think of it as a present to your future self.

Ready for some ideas? Feel free to add your own.

1) Write yourself a 30/60/90 day plan for 2016. What do you want to accomplish in the first three months of the New Year and who needs to get on-board to make that happen?

2) Brainstorm for leadership opportunities within or outside of your organization, such as speaking engagements or writing.

3) Write down five words to describe your personal brand, and check your online presence to see if it matches what you have described.

4) Clean out some portion of your inbox. If it’s very full, don’t have the goal of emptying it all at once. Great an interim goal – say 250 emails – and try to make it into a game or find a helpful reward if you get it done.

Bonus: If you are even more motivated, get up from your desk and clean out some files you don’t need any more. N.B. This has the added benefit of getting your tush out of the chair and some blood flowing to your extremities.

5) Have lunch (or a short phone call) with an important networking contact. If the opportunity presents itself, ask him/her if there is anyone else he/she can introduce who can bring you closer to your 2016 goals.

All the best for the end of 2015!

Anne Marie Segal is a résumé writer and a career and leadership coach to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. You can find her website here.

WRITING SERVICES include attorney and executive résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, bios, websites and other career and business communications.

COACHING SERVICES include career coaching, networking support, interview preparation, LinkedIn training, personal branding, leadership and change management.

Originally published on LinkedInPulse.

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.