Career Change 101

Summer is over, the kids are back to school and now it’s time to focus on your most valuable asset, YOU! For those who are considering a change or are coming into the labor force after an extended break, you will need to invest time and energy in the process. Here are the required warm up activities:

Step 1: Conduct research on the opportunities within your desired or current field. While the labor market remains fairly strong, there are some industries and specific roles that are faring far better than others.

Step 2: Dust off the resume and cover letter and be sure that it reflects who you are today. There are tons of online resources that can help with the resume prep process, but my number one pet peeve when it comes to a resume, cover letter or any early communication with a potential employer: NO TYPOS!

Step 3: Update your online presence, including cleaning up your social profiles so they are professional and networking-worthy. This may include changing your settings so they are private. Then get busy and talk to people that you know and also with those with whom you share a connection.

Step 4: Practice your verbal communication skills. In the text/digital world, many have never really mastered how to communicate verbally. If you are rusty, practice with friends or family members and try to be clear and concise.

If you are thinking about leaving your current position, it is important to figure out why you are jumping ship. Sure, a bump up in pay can be great, but will it require longer hours/days or a loss of benefits? Is there a pension involved? Would you lose precious vacation time that you love? Would a move require a longer commute? After doing so, you might come to the conclusion that you are better off staying where you are and asking your boss for a raise.

If you haven’t looked for a job in a while, know that the rules and expectations have changed. You should prepare for even the most casual conversation or interview by conducting research on the organization and practicing how you will answer obvious questions, like “tell me about yourself” or “why do you think you are a good fit for this job?” 

Try to create a narrative of your career, why one job led to another and what you learned along the way. Be sure NOT to bad-mouth any previous employer and when the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, have a few smart ones in your back pocket. If you are invited back for a follow up or a series of meetings with other people on the team, think through what struck you about the prior meetings and try to build on it with the next ones.

When it comes to salary, in many states and municipalities, it is illegal for companies to ask what your previous or current salary is, and many large firms have stopped the practice.  If you are asked, you can do one of two things: ask what the range of salary is for the position you are considering; or make a “non-offer offer,” which is a gentle way of positioning you for the higher end of a salary range. For example, if your research suggests that you would most likely fall into the $60,000 to $70,000 range, you could say, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard that people like me typically earn $70,000 to $75,000.” This is gentle way to create an “anchor” or a reference point that could help you get more money.