Career Changes: Steps Along the Way
Back in the small New England town where I grew up, we walked to elementary school — and we all seemed to know where it was. I can’t even recall a parent providing training or coaching in that regard — we sort of all joined the scrum of kids walking to school one day. We all knew how to find our way to school and to find our way home at the end of the school day.
If only it were so easy to find our way to work. Now having coached over 700 clients in career transition, I’m convinced that most careers are a series of unplanned events, a group of jobs that often have not included the kind of work that allowed us to use our special magic — our unique gifts and skills — to the fullest extent.
Over the past 15 years I’ve met most of my clients when they were experiencing much pain and suffering, having just been laid off, fired, let go, had their job eliminated—or, as the English say, “made redundant”. Whatever the termination words used, or how the process was handled, the fear and uncertainty felt by my clients was real. Scenes from the recent movie Up in the Air actually do regularly occur. In addition, today we are constantly reminded how “everything has changed” regarding the strategies needed to implement an effective job-hunting process.
I beg to differ. While tactics and delivery channels are certainly different, I’ve found the following strategies to be as relevant today as they ever were.
 Seize the day
a successful career transition starts with a positive mental attitude. No one wants to hire someone who sees himself as something other than a winner. A recent client in education took some time off, took a hard look at his life, made some important changes, and now has a whole different view of himself and his range of opportunities.
 Discover the "magic"
It’s absolutely necessary to take an inventory of strengths and weaknesses; review what’s worked in your career and what hasn’t; identify moments of passion and success as well as those of boredom and disinterest; in short, to discover the “magic” that makes you unique and special and differentiates your contribution.
 It’s not about finding a job
Don’t worry about “naming” the job you hope to find. Rather, practice describing the situation you seek that you know has best allowed your use of the magic in the past. Describe it in terms of filling a need that a company has. One client thought of himself as a doctor seeking a patient with pain to be eliminated.
 The resume tells your "story"
The resume is the written “leave behind” that supports the story you verbally share with the marketplace. You pluck out selected accomplishments from your work experience that best illustrate that you have done what you want to do next. Do not write the unabridged version of the Dead Sea Scrolls as your resume. The people you will meet in the future will review this document after your networking colleague has sung your praises and introduced you.
Don’t think about “networking” as asking friends and colleagues for help in your search. Instead, engage each in conversation to reflect on some shared moment when you demonstrated your “magic”. Each contact will take away their impression of a situation you seek in which they know you can flourish and tell others!
 “Work” comes in many forms
Great opportunities for meaningful work that matches your magic can be a full time position, a full-time project for a specified time, three days per week, or part-time every day. It may be work as an employee or on contract as a consultant. This will be especially true as we ever so slowly emerge from the recession. The more flexible you can be to meet the needs of hiring organizations the better. In our virtual employment world of today, most all of us are “free agents” whether we recognize it or not anyway!
A thought in closing: Many clients are disturbed by the lack of mutual loyalty in today’s world of work. They miss the connection with an employer whom they can respect and who, in return, respects them. One strategy to implement is to transfer your need for loyalty to “the excellence of the work you do.” You will have a high likelihood of successful implementation if you have matched your magic with a real marketplace need.
 Related Best Practices
- Career Changes: Personal Inventory
- Career Changes: Becoming Your Own Career Manager
- Career Changes: Getting Unstuck
- Career Changes: Career Evolution
- Career Changes: Be Proactive
The author of this article is Frank Cohee
Frank Cohee is an accomplished coach and facilitator of individual client discovery. His highly-interactive process nurtures clients to connect their strategic goals with the realities of market needs. Focused and realistic implementation plans result. During the past 20 years Frank has assisted over 700 managers and executives as they have evolved their vocational careers.
As a particular area of coaching interest, Frank has designed and presented innovative entrepreneurial seminars over 60 times to in-excess of 600 attendees. He’s followed up with many of these clients to assist with marketing and fiscal strategic plans for their new business activities.
Prior to founding his consulting company in 1990, Process Improvement Associates, he spent 25 years in senior leadership roles with Northwest companies. These included seven years as President and COO of an innovative manufacturing company. These prior life activities provide a solid foundation of experience to integrate into his client career coaching work.
Frank holds a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an MBA from Harvard University with distinction.