Career Myths and Mysteries

What’s Blocking Your Career Path?

By Marti Benjamin, MBA

Professional Certified Coach | Certified Career Management Coach

Certified Professional Résumé Writer

If only we could choose a career and then set the cruise control function until we reach a richly rewarding work-life! That might be boring for some but for others it would be ideal to choose career direction just once and then never have to think about it again.

Our parents may have been able to approach their careers with a single choice, but with new occupations appearing regularly and traditional jobs giving way to technological improvements the cruise control strategy doesn’t work well. The US Department of Labor predicts that young people graduating from college this year will change careers—not just jobs, but career fields—six or seven times during their work-life. Success in this turbulent environment requires new skills in career management as well as job performance.

Hazardous curves

As you navigate your career path, you’ll almost certainly encounter obstacles along the way. These barriers often appear without warning and catch you unprepared to think about a new direction or a different route to your destination.

Since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007 (which I still think was not so great!), tens of thousands of people who thought their position or their industry were safe, have found themselves unexpectedly unemployed. Even those who retained their jobs experienced a level of unfamiliar uncertainty as they saw the unemployment rate rise and people they knew (or worked with) losing their jobs. Fear and anxiety replaced security and predictability.

Soon the mindset of shortage over-shadowed career decisions and self-limiting beliefs crept in:

  • “I’m too old to change careers now,”
  • “I don’t have a degree so I’m sure they won’t consider me for that position,”
  • “I’ll never find another job as good as the one I have. I need to just stay put, even if I’m not really happy here.”

While some were limiting their own options, others were re-positioning themselves to be an employer’s best solution in the current situation. They created new pathways for themselves; they changed industries, re-located, earned a new certification or volunteered for a project to develop new skills. Their problem-solving process led them to move in the direction of their goals, even if it required a detour.

One of my career-coaching clients took a position that required him to commute about twice as far because he saw how the experience he was gaining would qualify him for an expanded role as soon as the business climate improved. He deliberately planned his career path and overcame the blocks he encountered. His strategy worked; today he enjoys his ideal position, using the skills he gained in the position with the long commute.

More alternatives

In my 2011 book, Discover UR Best Self: Guide to a Great Work-Life, I offer information and solutions to other career hazards, such as toxic relationships and unrelenting stress. If you’d like to receive this self-discovery guide to a great work-life, please visit www.CareerFromHere.com/books. The e-book version sells for $10.95 and the paperback for $16.95. As a special offer to readers of this blog, I’ll send the paperback to you with no additional shipping charge (usually $2.50).

Marti Benjamin inspires great work-lives in her business and career coaching practice. She describes professional coaching as, “The best possible job in the world for me.” Since she began coaching in 2004, her systems have led fed-up professionals from frustration to fulfillment in their work-life. www.CareerFromHere.com 

 

Testing Career Options

 By Marti Benjamin, MBA

Professional Certified Coach

Certified Career Management CoachCertified Professional Résumé Writer

Where do I even begin to make a career change?” I hear that question frequently from career transitioners. Many people recognize they want to do something different but what they want to do is not always as easy to identify.

Rule out what you don’t want

One place to start a career re-design is to list the jobs and work conditions you don’t want. Think about the components of your current (or past) position(s) that have drained your energy and left you frustrated. Those are clues that you weren’t playing to your innate talents, regardless of the skills you used.

Perhaps it’s a time in your career that you want to be home to help your children with their homework, rather than traveling for business every week. If your priority is family time and your work doesn’t accommodate that life style, you’ll be unhappy with your choice, regardless of how interesting and rewarding the position might be. Include in your “don’t want” list those conditions and requirements that you want to avoid in your next career.

 Reliable and objective assessments

The Internet is full of surveys and assessments that will provide you with some analysis of your personality or preferences. Buyer beware! Avoid assessments where the vendor is unwilling or unable to describe their statistical reliability and validity measures.

If the assessment leads you to a site that sells classes or other products, be skeptical of the results. For example, if you’re asked to draw a figure to see if you have talent for art school and you’re then accepted into an art program for several thousand dollars in tuition, it’s likely that the assessment was meant to encourage your enrollment and has little or nothing to do with your future career success.

Professional career coaches use assessments with strong validity and reliability features and that stand separate from any specific vocational service. (Contact me for more information.) I avoid surveys that dictate specific, narrow occupations because I know that the same assessment results can lead to many different career options.

Assess your interests

Beyond the specific job role or industry, your personal interests play into your career satisfaction as well. Identify what you value the most in your career: money, status, working with facts, aesthetics, achievement, teamwork, adventure, efficiency, routine, imagination, change and variety, social interaction, contribution.

One reliable, no-cost interest survey is available at onetonline.org, under the heading, “I want to be …”

Talk to those doing the work

Use your network to identify people who are actually doing the job(s) you’re considering. Arrange an introduction and request an informational interview. Learn about the position from the perspective that only someone performing it can offer.

Prepare for this interview; develop questions about the growth forecast for the occupation, the critical success factors, qualifications for entering the field, best route for growth and promotion and typical tasks, duties, responsibilities, work conditions, challenges and rewards.

Try on the job

If possible, find a volunteer opportunity that allows you to perform the same or similar work so you can truly see what it would be like for you in that job.

You might also consider a temporary position to try on a job role.

What’s next?

If you’re ready to explore your career options, don’t miss this Career From Here special offer! During February 2014 only, the Jump-Start Career Package—including two career assessments and two hours of career coaching—is discounted for readers of this blog. Normally $490.00, for February only, the price is $425.00 when you request, “Jump-Start 0214”. Contact me for additional information at 775.337.0661 or Marti@CareerFromHere.com.

Marti Benjamin inspires great work-lives in her career and business coaching practice. While enjoying the best possible job in the world for herself, she guides her clients to find the work that fits them perfectly. Her systems have led clients from fed-up and frustrated to fulfilled in their work-life. www.CareerFromHere.com

 

Career Myths and Mysteries

What Got You Here?

By: Marti Benjamin, MBA

Professional Certified Coach

Certified Career Management Coach

Certified Professional Résumé Writer

Perhaps the most prevalent career myth I encounter is the one that says if you just keep doing what you’ve done up to this point in your career, you’ll continue to progress to higher level of responsibility, prestige and compensation. In today’s workplace, the employee seeking advancement or a new career direction needs to manage his or her career progress actively.

Career management demands a careful and objective evaluation of what’s needed in a rapidly changing environment. Some of the skills acquired in the past are obsolete and won’t get you to the next level. The major problem with looking at what got you here is that’s the wrong direction—it’s the past, not the future.

Recently I conducted a complementary sample career coaching meeting with a prospective candidate who told me all of the things he was unwilling to do: learn new technology, report to people who were 30 years younger, work more than 10 hours a day, etc. He said he had, “paid his dues” and didn’t intend to go through all of that strain and stress again.

His feelings are understandable but as a career strategy, his limitations are fatal. He expects a future employer to recognize the contributions he’s made in the past and trust that he’ll do so again, even if he’s not keeping up with business tools and trends. I doubt that he’ll find what he considers a good position for this time in his career and life, unless he changes his expectations.

The story line of your career must be future-oriented, not past-focused.

  1. Begin with understanding your natural talents, those things that are part of your personality and how you do what you do, whether at work or other parts of your life. Are you driven by setting and achieving specific targets? Maybe you’re the person who keeps the team moving forward through encouragement. Or, perhaps you’re the one who senses risk before anyone else. These natural talents are the best assets to develop for your career advantage.
  2. Next, add the skills you’ve learned through education, training and work experience. For example:  verbal communication, writing, making presentations, evaluating data, analyzing financial reports, etc. Identify the important skills in various industries and business settings and notice where your skills match the need.
  3. Identify the growing occupations. There are several government websites projecting the 10-year growth of various occupations; check them out to see what skills are required and what type of personality fits well.
  4. Talk with people in your target careers. Prepare thoughtful questions about the work they do and what they expect in the industry over the next five or 10 years. (You’ll learn more about the reality of the role in these conversations than you will in website search, but it’s exhausting to start on this step without narrowing the field through on line search.)

Career management requires continuous internal evaluation—the skills you’ve mastered and your personality—and a scan of the external environment. The best fit is the one that relies on your natural talents, utilizes your skills and is expected to grow robustly.

Marti Benjamin inspires great work-lives in her career and business coaching practice. While enjoying the best possible job in the world for herself, she guides her clients to find the work that fits them perfectly. Her systems have led clients from fed-up and frustrated to fulfilled in their work-life. www.CareerFromHere.com.

 

Career Myths and Mysteries

Informational Interviews: What Good are They?

By Marti Benjamin, MBA

Certified Career Management Coach

Certified Professional Résumé Writer

 One of the best ways to learn about an industry, position or company is to talk with someone on the inside. The purpose of this conversation is not to ask for a job, but to learn about the job role, industry or company from the viewpoint of a person in that particular position.

 Even though you won’t be asking for a job in this conversation, it’s crucial that you approach this as a career-enhancing interview. Be prepared!

  • Do your homework. Research the company: know what they produce or sell, how they differentiate themselves in a competitive landscape, their major initiatives or contracts, what they claim to stand for (i.e., their values and culture).
  • Look the part. Dress for an interview, even if your meeting is taking place in a coffee shop. Sit and stand tall and project confidence (not arrogance) and friendliness.
  • Use your interview time well. Most people are busy and have more on their to-do list than they can ever hope to complete. After about 30 minutes, check with the interviewer to see if they need to conclude the meeting or if they are free to spend more time with you. Pay attention to clues that they’re ready to end the conversation, such as fidgeting, checking the time or being distracted.
  • Create your list of questions beforehand. Don’t rely on the person you’re interviewing to tell you what you need to know.

Below are a few sample informational interview questions to get the conversation started and add to your knowledge about a potential career direction. Modify these questions to fit your own voice, but keep them open-ended (requiring more than a yes or no response).

  1. How do you measure success in this field? Is it on the basis of projects, education, certification or training completed, years of experience or something else?
  2. How did you break into this industry (or company, or position)?
  3. How are most positions in this field filled—through networking or through the company’s formal hiring process? Where should I concentrate my attention?
  4. What are the ‘must follow’ websites, professional groups and industry leaders that I should be monitoring to learn about developments in the industry (or company)?
  5. Are there particular LinkedIn discussion groups or professional Facebook pages I should join to monitor the industry (or company)? Which have you found to be most useful?
  6. What are some tips or suggestions you can offer, given the skills I have today and the career targets I’ve set?
  7. Which of my current skills will serve me well in this field?
  8. How do you see this industry (or position, or company) changing over the next five years?
  9. Given my background, what would be a reasonable salary expectation for me as I transition into this field/industry?
  10. What work or volunteer experience should I gain to more easily transition into this field (or company)?

Like a traditional job interview, it’s important to follow an informational meeting with a thank-you note, expressing gratitude for the time, support and useful information shared. Send your note within 24 hours by either snail mail or email.

You can also invite the person you’ve interviewed to connect with you on LinkedIn or other professional social media. Build the relationship through regular contact and serving as a resource.  Keep it professional, always.

Marti Benjamin inspires great work-lives in her career and business coaching practice. While enjoying the best possible job in the world for herself, she guides her clients to find the work that fits them perfectly. Her systems have led clients from fed-up and frustrated to fulfilled in their work-life. www.CareerFromHere.com

 

7 TIPS FOR CREATING ENGAGING GOALS

By Marti Benjamin, MBA

Professional Certified Coach

Certified Career Management Coach | Certified Professional Resume Writer

 As a new year begins, many people resolve to change a habit or improve themselves in some important way over the next 12 months. This practice has been popular since the ancient Babylonians began the New Year with promises to their gods to return borrowed items and pay back their debts. And yet, a 2007 study from the University of Bristol reports that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail.

Whether it’s January or any other time of the year, here are some tips for improving your chance of success. Make your goals more motivating by following these suggestions:

  1. State a desirable end. Use achievement language, specifying what you want to gain. Describe what you are working toward, not what you are trying to escape. Rather than a goal of eating less junk food, phrase your goal as, “I will add vegetables to my diet at least five days a week.”
  2. Make it achievable. Stretch goals—those where you go way beyond anything you can even imagine doing—are an energy drain, not inspiration. If the goal is too much of a stretch, you’re more likely to abandon your efforts because you can’t see a way to get from here to there. Define small, achievable steps that lead to your goal and chart your progress for a motivating sense of accomplishment.
  3. Set concrete goals. Remember the Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland story? When Alice asked which path she should take the cat asked where she was going. Alice replied that she didn’t know and the cat said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will do.” Don’t be an Alice! Plan the specific outcomes you want to achieve and state them explicitly so you’ll know if your actions are moving you closer to your goal or off on a tangent.
  4. Make measurable goals. Set objective targets so you know if you have achieved 10% or 90% of the goal. Rather than a vague goal like, “I want to earn more money,” or, “I want to change jobs,” specify how much more money and what type of job you want to hold.
  5. Align your goals with your personal values. When your goals reflect what’s most important to you, you’re more likely to stick with the work and actually achieve what you want. For example, if having more time with family is a personal value, a goal to move into a more demanding professional role is inconsistent, unless you’re able to modify conditions that will accommodate both more work and more time with your family. Your likelihood of success diminishes if there’s conflict between your stated goal and the values that drive your behavior and choices.
  6. Make it fun. Enjoyment is like the wind in your sails—you’re much more likely to work toward something you enjoy than to actually go through with something you dread. If your goal is something you find onerous, modify the means and the methods to make it more enjoyable. I’ve recently returned to an exercise program I’ve enjoyed in the past, even though I have to go to a class and accommodate their schedule to get my workout. While I had tried to workout with equipment in my home, it was simply no fun for me to exercise alone. The social aspect of the class, along with the energizing music and an instructor that will push me harder than I’ll push myself, have made exercise a great deal more fun for me and I’m developing a habit of regular exercise.
  7. Be accountable. Tell someone what you are committing to achieving and ask him or her to check on your progress periodically. Knowing that you’ll be asked about your efforts is often motivation to stick to it when the going gets tough.

Happy 2014 and good luck with your goals!

Marti Benjamin inspires great work-lives in her business and career coaching practice. She describes professional coaching as, “The best possible job in the world for me.” Since she began coaching in 2004, her systems have led fed-up professionals from frustration to fulfillment in their work-life. www.CareerFromHere.com

 

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