By: Andrew de Michaelis
The average person will change jobs about 12 times in their career. Whether you are currently looking for a change or are happy where you are, at some point you will need to understand how to demonstrate your value to other companies. I have changed jobs several times and have made two major career changes in my professional life. I’m working through my third now. It is likely you will move around too – and that is probably a good thing. Below I will walk you through three fundamental steps that will help you successfully navigate this process. According to the Harvard Business Review, recognizing your own value and gathering diverse skillsets may help you move forward in your career. The first step, and most important, is to spend time to understand what you really want.
Step 1: Know who you are and what you want
Before you can create a plan or strategy in your search, you need to understand where you are headed. You won’t know whether the right move is to rise through the ranks, move to a new company or enter a new field until you understand what are your core strengths (favorite skills), what are your values, and where you belong. This is a process of self-discovery that most people don’t take the time to work on but can end up saving you a lot of time or help you avoid making the wrong decision.
Peter Drucker laid out the foundation of self-management and it’s core concepts. This Overview of Self-management Principles is a helpful summary but to really understand it fully I suggest reading his book and spend time digesting what it means to you. This is a process you must go through, the reading is just a guide. I’ll admit some of the language is outdated but the core concepts still ring true today.
Once you have spent some time doing the work to find these important answers you are ready to work on strategies to break into a new career.
Step 2: Use your network
Think about the last time you had a personal conflict or setback. Did you handle it alone or get input and advice from friends? Many times personal decisions are hard to navigate on our own so we use our network, people we trust, to help us arrive at the best answer. They can’t give you the answer but they can help you think it through and challenge your approach.
When I was an accountant I reached out to my mentor who was also a top executive at the company. I knew I wanted to stay within the firm, but I wanted my day-to-day work to align more with my values and skills. We had several discussions about it and the two things I asked for (yes, you should explicitly ask) were:
- Access to his internal network so I could specifically vet the two other teams I was interested in
- Support and his endorsement when I did make my choice
He gave me a list of folks to reach out to from the valuation team and consulting practice I was interested in. In two weeks, I had met with six people and clear understanding of what the work was like. I trusted my gut and told him I wanted to join the consulting practice. Two months later I was on the team. I loved the change – the work and the people were engaging and exciting. It also set me up for my next career change over a year later.
Step 3: Create different versions of your personal narrative
If you know what you are good at then let people know. Sometimes you have to help people understand your strengths by putting it in a context they understand and appreciate. The biggest challenge that comes with a career change are usually lack of relevant experience. Have no fear – you are a star. You just need to show the person reading your resume that by speaking their language. This is why creating multiple resumes that highlight specific skillsets is so valuable in your job search. If you are genuine about finding the right fit for you, then you should be thinking in terms of the skillset needed, level of responsibility you want, and the values of the team you work with. Don’t limit yourself to thinking about job titles. It may be your skills translate to a job you never thought of and one that ultimately brings you a lot of happiness and success. This is, in part, why stellar careers aren’t really planned.
When I was ready to leave the corporate world, I knew I wanted to join a smaller company where my work would be visible and immediately valuable. So, I thought about the skills I had and created two profiles for myself. I had the Operator and the Analyst. I wrote out the top skills for each persona and then create a slightly modified resume for both. Now, my experience wasn’t any different but the narrative was. Language is so important! The words you use in your resume tell the person reading (and hiring) who you are. I knew I was more dynamic than my job title suggested and could speak confidently to my work more broadly as an operator and an analyst so that’s what I did.
When I was searching for a new job after consulting, I would send my analyst resume to jobs that aligned most with that and my operations resume went to, well, operations roles. Again, I wasn’t a different person but I needed to help companies to see how I was a great fit for the role they were hiring for given my job was in an industry outside their own.
It’s remarkable how fast and effective you can be at reaching your goals when you know what you want clearly enough that you can make other people see that vision too. Do the work, learn what skills you have, learn what values matter to you, discover what type of responsibility you want, and then go tell the world. Someone will want to have you on their team.