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List your skills, create network to find new line of work

Coach's Corner--July 13, 2009

The Client
Name: Anita
Age: 35
Title: Designer
Industry: Home construction
Issue: Creating a new professional role
Q. I’ve been looking for a job in my field for some time, and I’ve concluded that I should find a new line of work. Can you help me get started?

A. Bring skills, interests and opportunities together to make a new plan.

The inner game
Start by building some hope. There is a lot of bad job news out there, yet people are finding new positions. You can be one of them. Focus on the positives as you analyze your experience and the environment.

Take a quick look back. Consider the best aspects of past roles, as well as those you’d rather leave behind. Separate the tasks you did from the skills or talents you used. For example, when thinking about being a designer, consider if it’s the creativity, problem solving, expertise, or teamwork that you like the most.

List your skills. Dig deep, including skills from school, volunteering, and other personal endeavors in addition to your professional experience. Go beyond technical skills — interpersonal skills are essential in the workplace, so don’t sell them short.

Research your options. Include industries or roles that show promising trends in the market, as well as those that you’d enjoy. Consider doing an interest inventory to get ideas. Be realistic; if financial pressures dictate, you may need to compromise. Make a list of options, and don’t be afraid to include some that seem a bit “out there.”

The outer game
To further explore your options, talk to people. People who work in fields that you’re interested in, who have made major career changes, or who know your skills will all be able to provide valuable insights. Don’t leave this step to chance. Instead, create a networking plan that fits your style. This may be harder than networking you’ve done within your field, because you need to tap into a new set of contacts and resources. Try professional organizations and asking friends for leads — really push yourself. If you need help getting started with networking, read my past Coach’s Corner columns on the topic (available online), or contact me for a more extensive list of resources.

Know what you want to learn from each person you talk to. Don’t be overly formal, but do have topics clearly in mind so that you use your time well. Take notes and review earlier conversations so that you’re ready. Be professional and make a good impression; each contact could be the first step of a hiring process. Wrap up each interaction with a thank-you note — the handwritten touch makes a strong impression.

Once you’ve determined what you’d like to do, put the pieces together. You’ll have to explain to others why your transition makes sense and why your background provides unique preparation that sets you above others for the job at hand. Test your message with folks who’ll give you candid feedback, and prepare a résumé that supports your message. As always, tailor your résumé and cover letter to any specific opportunity you apply for, even if the first step is an online application.

The last word
Knowing what you have to offer and articulating how it fits in a new setting will help you discover new career options.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted July 13, 2009
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