Most people focus on their career in a reactionary instead of a strategic way. That means that if things go south, it is hard to understand what went wrong.
If you’ve adapted to the status quo, switching gears is hard. You may face barriers to change that sometimes feel insurmountable. Some of these barriers are very real, while others might be self-imposed.
Either way, overcoming barriers often involves a level of self-reflection during which you analyze your career and, more broadly, your life in order to assess your innermost goals and your value proposition – that is, everything that you can offer an employer. Only after you have taken stock of yourself and your dreams can you make informed decisions about how best to manage your career effectively and achieve your goals.
What is standing in your way? If you feel stymied in your efforts to advance your career, answering that question is the first step towards overcoming whatever barriers you face.
Maybe you’re worried about money. Maybe you don’t relish the idea of starting a new career at the bottom rung of the ladder. Maybe you struggle to find time in your day to job hunt.
Many people are paralyzed by fear – fear of losing their job; fear of speaking up at work; fear of getting passed over for a job because of age, gender or race. Or perhaps you have “impostor syndrome,” the fear that you aren’t qualified to do the job your hired to do.
Perhaps your problem is simply that you know that you are unhappy in your current job, but you just aren’t sure what else to do. Or maybe you know what you want to do, but you have no idea how to pursue it.
Some people worry about lacking experience. By the way, if this is you, you’re not alone. In today’s economy this should actually be everybody’s concern because the rapid change of digital technology is disrupting business processes in so many industries.
A 2016 report by the World Economic Forum forecast that within five years over one-third of skills that are considered important in the workforce will have changed.
Only after you identify what is standing in your way to a more fulfilling career can you focus on overcoming it. But be sure to give the question serious reflection. Arriving at an honest answer here is crucial, and it isn’t always easy.
You may need to dig deep to assess the real barriers between you and your goals. It may even be worth engaging the professional services of a career coach, such as those at The Barrett Group. Career coaches are a great resource for someone in a rut because they intentionally push clients out of their comfort zone and encourage them to consider perspectives and options they may not have thought of.
The methodology starts by investigating all aspects of what’s right and wrong in your life, including financial independence, business success, family and relationships, and health and fitness. Ask yourself challenging questions such as:
What are you most proud of?
What does success look like? or
What is the worst thing that could happen if you
don’t achieve your goal?
Such questions help differentiate between societal ideals of success (e.g. money or status) and personal successes (e.g. work-life balance and a happy family).
Use the “Five Whys” technique to drill down to the root cause of a problem. In this approach, you identify your problem (e.g. I’m unhappy at work) and ask yourself “why.” Repeat the question five times in response to each answer.
Typically, you will uncover alterable behavior on your part that could resolve the problem. When you ferret out self-imposed barriers in the path of your career advancement, you can think through how to dismantle them.
The process can be emotionally arduous, but, ultimately, it brings you clarity about priorities and personal values in your life, and it sets the foundation on which you can rebuild career aspirations.
The clarity process is the hard part. Once that is done, you just need to come up with a game plan for advancing your goals and commit to it. First, consider how you can lessen the barriers that you identified.
Lack of experience? Up your game through online courses, reading books, or volunteering to work alongside someone who can coach you. Of course, if you’re an older worker, don’t underestimate the value of your soft skills.
Lack of time? Completely understandable! Prioritizing a career change is very hard, especially given that it doesn’t provide immediate gratification. Still, the benefits of scheduling even a few hours per week into your calendar to promote your career will build up over time.
Unsure how to pursue your goal? Start by building and
nurturing your network of contacts. Reach out to them and have a conversation
or solicit advice. You’ll be amazed how informative and helpful people can be.
How to Stay Motivated
Change is stressful and the frustrations of a job search can wear down the best of us. Getting organized and structuring a routine in your job search will help. Set S.M.A.R.T goals – goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
For example, schedule 10 hours per week towards enhancing your career opportunities, target three resumes per week to send out, or plan to meet 10 people for coffee per month. Revise the numbers as necessary, but stick to it!
There are several other steps you can also take to stay motivated:
Focus on what you can control and not on the
things you can’t control.
Celebrate small victories whenever you can.
Make a list of all your accomplishments, which has
the dual benefit of making you feel good about yourself and providing you with
a handy reference of your career highlights to use for quick reference. It may
also spark ideas about how to link different career goals!
Take mental breaks – looking for a new job is
Don’t forget to keep things in perspective. If you ask people how they came to be doing what they are doing, they often answer that they fell into it due to chance circumstances. That may be frustrating to hear, but it should actually encourage you.
“Chance circumstances” is a testimony to networking. If you cultivate and grow your network, you will be surprised how opportunities will crop up.
Changing careers isn’t easy, but it’s easier than staying in a job you don’t want. It’s also easier when you have a strategy to overcoming the barriers to your success.
Did you know that 85% of all jobs are landed through networking?
If you know nothing else about networking, that statistic should focus your mind – and your approach to job seeking. Short of being born into royalty, networking is THE best way to land a job, bar none. And, therefore, it should comprise the lion’s share of any efforts you exert to find a new job.
Networking has been touted for years as a valuable tool during a job hunt. In the digital workforce, it is indispensable.
According to a survey published on LinkedIn, networking is the biggest factor in finding a job for all types of people – whether they are actively job hunting, employed, or any combination of the two.
In fact, the survey indicates that the people who get jobs from networking most often are actually employed and NOT actively looking for a job. In many cases, they’ve been offered a job before it was published. That’s some powerful networking!
Are you fully leveraging your network in your job hunt? If not, it’s time to hone your skills so you, too, can slip through the backdoor of a company to land your next job.
Sow the Seeds Early, Reap the Benefits Later
It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today. The same could be said of building a network of contacts.
A network is much more than the people whose business cards you collect. It’s about building valuable relationships.
Relationships develop over time and must be nurtured and maintained. Naturally, a network includes your professional contacts, but it also includes everyone you’ve ever met in any capacity: former co-workers, clients, vendors, school friends, people in your running club, members of your church – your family, of course…the list goes on.
If you’re anxious about getting started with networking, these are the people you should reconnect with first. Sure, your aunt is probably not the one who can help you get a job at Google. But her neighbor’s daughter’s boss might. You’ll never know unless you reach out to connect with her.
When you reach out for the first time, find out what people are up to. Typically, you will catch up a bit and talk about family, work and aspirations for life. When you enter into those conversations, focus on giving to the relationship, not taking.
At some point in the future, your contact may talk to someone about something that reminds them of the conversation with you and they’ll reach back out to you. It may take a short time or a long time – but the opportunity will grow only if you’ve planted the seed.
Continue to build these connections and expand your circle. Surprisingly often, they lead somewhere.
While a business lunch is still a perfectly acceptable way to network, the best way to build and maintain the informal relationships that are most useful in job hunting is through social media. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are popular options with younger folks. For more seasoned professionals, however, the most important one is LinkedIn, where 56% of workers go to job search.
Unlike other social network websites, LinkedIn is uniquely designed for professional networking. You can summarize your career and highlight certain skills and expertise. You make connections by inviting people to join your network. This enables you to see their connections and even the connections of those connections. Through this visual web of professional connections, you can develop new ones at the companies or industries that interest you.
Members in your network can also endorse you for skills, which increases your professional value in the eyes of other members of your network. Your goal should be to get endorsements from 99+ people in your network.
How? The easiest way is to endorse people in your network yourself. People will often return the favor. What’s more, the activity might also lead to a phone call in which you verbally reconnect, catch up and possibly learn about upcoming opportunities.
Three Types of Networks
As you build your professional network, you should remember that networking is not just for jobseekers. Everyone should always be networking because there are so many other tangential benefits. Networking is a great way to build up references, meet potential new clients and vendors, and learn the perspective of people outside your industry.
Operational – this is the group that you engage
with in a professional sense and upon whom your success hinges. These are the
people around you that you need to do your day-to-day work – your immediate
Personal – this group includes those
individuals that you trust and to whom you can turn for advice or just to
discuss career options, even in a social setting, like coaches, mentors or
people you might ask to be a reference.
Strategic – this network may overlap the other
two. These are peers, industry leaders or other contacts with whom you can
share ideas, discuss future initiatives and how to realize your goals. Building
and maintaining this network takes time and attention away from your routine,
so it is typically the most neglected of the three networks. But it is,
arguably, the most crucial one to build.
Whenever possible, you should always try to be on the giving end of a relationship with anyone in your network; it builds good will and you never know when you might need to exercise some of that social capital for your own benefit.
Success in Any Industry Starts with Networking
No matter what industry you are in, it is smart to develop a strong network, especially one that spans many other industries, because you just never know where an opportunity might arise.
He used LinkedIn Analytics and was soon referred by someone in his network to two scientists who were trying to produce an artificial sweetener. He went to work for them, and in his second year made over a million dollars. He never used a recruiter or even a resume. It was all word of mouth.
“This happens all the time,” said Resendes. “Of our clients, 75%
land a job through their social networks.”
leverage your networking skills, you learn about potential opportunities before
they even become available. With luck, that creates an opportunity – and then
you slip in the backdoor.
Are you in a midlife career change? Are you changing careers at 30, 40 or 50 years of age? Do you need a new career? If you are currently experiencing difficulty in your job search, we’re here to help. Please send a message with your information or call.