Archive for April, 2010

Transitions in an Unforgiving Climate

April 22, 2010

Combined with recruitment, I also provide candidates with professional resume writing services and career coaching.  More than ever, I’m finding that candidates are facing the prospects of career transition head on.  As you can imagine, this challenging economic period has a way of encouraging many folks to do some serious soul searching.  Whether by our own volition or a compelling event, introspection is not something we engage in regularly.  After all, we’re just too busy.

This go-around, however, seems different.  I’m coming across many good talented people with solid career track records who are considering this period as a necessary (albeit rude) awakening.  We’re not getting any younger and life’s not getting any longer.  Almost suddenly, we’re stopped in our tracks to ponder the possibility of other more fulfilling roads to take.  Just as some theologians have stated over the past decade that we as a society are spiritually bankrupt, perhaps the current economic storm has for some, brought to light an unavoidable sense of career fulfillment insolvency.

Granted, we all need to make money and provide for ourselves and our loved ones.  Yet, in doing so, our careers become inextricably intertwined with our identities and sense of purpose.  Such a time as this, a great many of us are assessing the road we’ve walked and asking ourselves, “Is this really the best road for me, and if not, what are my plausible options?”  People are questioning their presumed priorities and recalibrating what’s truly important to them.

To be certain, talented individuals are lacking in career passion and purpose.  For a number of reasons, priorities are shifting – perhaps a little less about materials and a bit more on personal fulfillment.  People want more out of life and this economic downturn has demonstrated that all the things we thought we needed are nice to have, but not necessarily sources of sustained gratification.  As Coco Chanel put it, “There are people who have money people who are rich.”

With this in mind, a number of people are now yearning for a career transition.  It’s been a long standing belief that a downturn is the opportune time to start up a new business.  But what if you’re looking to work for another company AND in a different capacity?  No doubt, this current market presents several significant obstacles to overcome.

First, there continues to be a dearth of viable full-time positions available.  Secondly, the positions that are available are being pursued by multitudes of others who already have domain experience in that field.  To make matters worse, employers are capitalizing on this unbalanced market by pumping up job descriptions with a bevy of qualifications, some of which are completely unnecessary to be successful in the role.  If there are ten check boxes under requirements, eleven must be checked off just to be considered for the role.  Joe Keohane’s recent article humorously depicts this absurd phenomenon:

With this uphill battle ahead, how do you move forward with a successful career transition?  To begin with, your brand’s messaging needs to be tweaked.  You have a great story to tell, yet it has to make sense to a hiring executive.  For example, you’re an attorney who wants to go into sales.  Great!  Now what?  Submit your resume for every sales position out there until someone gives you a shot?  Instead, let’s put some focus into the process and at the same time, craft the messaging to better position you for such a career shift.

Your story needs to substantiate your readiness for a sales position.  As an attorney, you were solely responsible for business development.  You successfully brought on more new clients than anyone else in the firm.  At the same time, you love technology and have been an avid user and early adopter of time and billing software, legal research software, document management software, and other technology solutions.  In fact, based on your real world expertise, you have even influenced other law firms in their technology purchasing decisions.

Combining your firsthand knowledge of law and how law firms function, with your proven ability to acquire new business, and a thirst for technology enabled solutions, you could make a case for a sales career in a software company that targets the legal vertical.  Next step, research software companies that play in the legal vertical and leverage your network to gain informational meetings with C- and VP-level contacts.

All of this is well and good, provided that hiring executives are open to hiring “non-traditional” candidates.  Again, making a career transition will not be a walk in the park.  It involves research, positioning, and networking.  But the more compelling your brand and story, the more doors will open for you.

Action Items

1.  Map out your strengths/interests and try to dovetail some or all of them together to formulate potential new career directions.

2.  The story behind your proposed career transition has to make sense.  Back it up with compelling examples and enthusiasm.

3.  Emphasize specifically how your differentiation as a candidate will lead to a positive business impact with your prospective employer.