A layoff or toxic environment got you thinking of a career transition? Hold on a minute.....
Considering a career change can be a scary prospect for anyone looking to take the leap from their existing job. Whether you’re in a toxic environment and want out, or have been laid off and been contemplating trying something new. Then there’s trying to figure out what companies you want to work for, and getting your resume through the door ...these are all daunting tasks. When I was first trying to break into operations management, I basically felt like I was fumbling my way through trying to figure out what employers wanted and also gaining the experience that I needed to personally grow. For most of us, I think these feelings are very common.
Luckily, there are other people sharing their stories about the steps they took to get their dream job or break into a new industry. It can feel inspiring to see the hurdles that others have had through their career, especially when today's career landscape seems to no longer have any true "traditional" path. Employees seem to be switching jobs and careers much more often and it is now becoming normal to have a new employer every couple of years. In fact, many companies are LOOKING for employees that have been exposed to multiple industries and different experiences so they can bring a more rounded perspective to the workplace.
So should you take the leap into a new industry or role or should you stay put?
We all are wanting out of 2020. As you start to think about what your year in 2021 will look like and how you’ll grow and change, your professional life is 100% fair game. And you’re not alone: in a recent survey by Fiverr, more than half of American workers—59% to be exact—are looking to make a job or career change to kick off this new year and probably even more by the time you are reading this. But before you start hustling those resumes out the door and slapping together a Linkedin profile update, there are a number of important factors to consider first.
Many people have asked me this year:
Does job switching affect employment potential?
In past generations, people who otherwise would have switched jobs INSTEAD chose to stay with their current employer because they assumed too much job-hopping on a resume could make them appear fickle or disloyal. However, as Millennials become the workforce majority and take on more leadership roles, and Gen Z enters the labor force, perceptions about job-hopping are rapidly changing.
I interviewed one guy a few months ago and he said, “I came out of school with this idea that frequent job switching had a negative connotation, and to be honest, that hasn't panned out in my actual job experience.”
Many other clients and colleagues and coaches that I work with, agree.
Several people I work with in younger generations look at job-hopping from an opposite point of view. Which is what I want you all on the older end of the Millennial generation and up to see. See it as, if you haven’t moved around and tried new things or tried to progress your career, then how are you exposing yourself to different projects, different company cultures, and enhancing your skills?
In industries and occupations where there’s more demand for specialized talent, like technology, regularly switching jobs has almost become a norm. Taking new opportunities can help workers consistently grow their skill sets, acquire more experience, make more money, and expand their areas of expertise.
But whether you’ve been with the same company for several years, or you’ve made a lot of moves, it’s really important to illustrate your career progression.
It’s important to show variety, EVEN if you’ve only been with one company.
Pro-tip: When discussing previous roles with a potential employer, it’s crucial you demonstrate the positive aspects of job switching. If you haven’t moved around much, highlight growth and change within your roles and responsibilities. In either case, be sure to discuss specific skills you gained and why your varied experience makes you more hireable.
Also, if you decide to switch jobs, make sure you always leave on good terms with your previous employer. Any instances of unprofessional departures can be a red flag to potential employers.
There’s no doubt 2020 is shaping up to be an excellent year for changing jobs and taking the next step in your career. So I want to provide you with several tips to keep in mind before you embark on your job switching journey:
1. Think through your long-term career goals
Before you make any decisions, take time to consider your career path and ideal destination. I know it can seem appealing to jump on the first new opportunity that crosses your path—especially in an unpleasant work environment or with little upward mobility or your financial stress.
Make sure the move will help you get closer to your career goal, Otherwise, you might put yourself in an equally bad, or worse, situation.
Often, our career goals are job-specific—but not always. It’s always good to do a quick values check and think about what you want to have achieved by the end of your career. For example, are you passionate about making the arts accessible to all people? Do you want to look back and say that you had a career that helped the environment? Do you want to make a difference in your community?
Think about what’s important to you and what you’re interested in achieving. It doesn’t have to be a pie-in-the-sky, pageant contestant answer about world peace—it should be about your own personal values and priorities.
As you think about changing careers, your goals and values should help guide the process of choosing your next phase.
2. Be patient
This is so important especially as we enter the holiday season and still some uncertainty. Many factors can impact your job search timeline, and some of them have nothing to do with your skill set, experience, or hireability. The time of year and level of competition within your profession can affect how quickly you hear back. Don’t become discouraged if you aren’t hired immediately, and try not to take rejections personally.
If you’re in the job market for several weeks without a response, you may want to review your resume and LinkedIn profile to ensure you’re aligning your professional history and experience with employers’ needs.
In addition….Do you really want a career change, or do you just hate your job? Are you impatient with others?
When things aren’t going well at work (like when there’s stress, performance issues, poor leadership), any change can feel like the right one. Right? The romantic ideal of going off somewhere and becoming a park ranger like you always wanted to be can sound like the right call when you’re tired of working as, say, an accountant or a customer service specialist. But when reality kicks in and you’ve exchanged your career path for a totally different one, will it turn out that you didn’t hate accounting so much as you hated doing it at your former company?
So before you make major changes, ask yourself if you’d be happy staying in your field if you had a different position or a different company. Making a lateral change is usually easier than changing paths altogether.
3. Invest in education and training to set yourself apart
An advanced degree or additional certifications shows employers you’re dedicated to improving yourself and advancing within your industry. BUT don’t just go get one if you aren’t going to actually apply the knowledge.
Getting a specific certification IS especially important if you’re trying to break into a new industry where you’re up against candidates with more relevant experience. It can also help you meet people in your field of interest who might be able to help you get a foot in the door. Choosing a new career may mean that you have to do extensive training, right?
Although, making the decision to change is great, the timing and expense of these educational needs should be considered before you hand in your resignation or start applying for new jobs. For example, healthcare is an extremely hot career path right now. But many jobs—even entry-level ones—in the industry require baseline education or certification. So going back to school, taking online courses, or starting down the path to getting certified or licensed should be part of your thinking from the very start.
4. Tap Your Network
Your personal and professional network is one of your most valuable resources when you enter the job market. Before you begin your job search, identify people who can introduce you to employers you’re interested in working for, provide referrals to help increase your chances of earning an interview or even offer you some mentoring. In any job search, your network is one of your best assets. Word-of-mouth opportunities, knowledge-sharing, support—all of those things can help put you in the right place. Your existing network is likely geared toward your current career and job—so now is the time to start branching out a bit. Start looking for and engaging people in your hoped-for new field. Ask questions. Gather information about what it’s like to work in that industry.
And you don’t have to abandon your current network! You never know when putting out feelers with your existing contacts can yield something interesting.
“Hey all, I’ve been thinking about moving into bookkeeping. Anyone have any advice or contacts?”
5. Identify and highlight transferable knowledge and skills
Before you apply to a job, I want you to take the time to determine which skills and experience from your current or most recent job align best with requirements listed for the new role. Highlight those items on your resume, LinkedIn profile and in your interviews.
Don’t just provide a biography about everything in your background. Pick and choose information that’s relevant to the position you’re considering.
I know that making a career jump can be especially tough if you’re starting over in a field that’s totally different from the one you’ve been in. But even though it may involve losing some of the career steam you’ve built up, it DOES NOT mean you’re starting with nothing. Ok? Even if your work experiences don’t apply so directly anymore, you still have a TON of valuable skills and on-the job learning that can help you!
When you’re ready to start preparing your new resume, think about your skills in general terms. How have I showed leadership? What kind of a problem solver am I?
Once you start realizing the universality of your skills, it becomes easier to apply them to jobs that may seem totally different than what you’re used to doing.
(need help crafting your resume? Reach out!)
6. Weigh the risks and benefits
Leaving one job for another can have plenty of advantages, but you may experience a few drawbacks, too. Acknowledge and prepare for any changes between the two positions. For example, while you may earn a higher salary with a new employer, you’ll likely also have to adjust to a new culture and different processes.
Consider your commute or remote issues, schedule, benefits, and other details important to you. You should also be financially prepared for any gaps in employment when transitioning from one company to another.
The hardest truth about changing careers is that it may involve sacrificing seniority, pay, and experience in order to get re-established in a different field. Now’s the time to think about whether you’re truly prepared to do that. This planning includes number-crunching. Are you prepared to take a pay cut to get an experience-building foothold in your new industry? If you’re used to being a manager, are you ready to be a bit lower on the organizational chart?
It may be that you decide these smaller sacrifices are worth it for your broader career goals, but it’s essential to factor them in before you commit to a big change.
7. Don’t burn bridges
Unprofessional behavior can impact future opportunities. I know you know this, but this can be especially hard when you are working in a toxic environment. You never know when you’ll need to reach out to a former colleague for a recommendation or work with the same people at a new company. Additionally, you may quickly recognize your new job is not a good fit, and want to return to your previous employer, which I’ve had happen with a handful of clients!
Think about this...once a company knows who you are and what you can do, it’s easier to get back in, which is why leaving on good terms is a must. This has helped me personally and professionally time and time again.
So do these steps all make sense? Determining whether to stay with your current employer or pursue an outside opportunity is rarely a straightforward decision. There’s fortunately and unfortunately no book of life detailed out for every situation we encounter. In many cases, there are various factors you’ll need to weigh before you come to an informed conclusion. This is why mentors and coaches are SO vital in this process.
However, with the way our economy is and with all the new opportunities available across a wide range of industries, this may be the BEST time for you to make the leap. So long as you take a strategic and thoughtful approach, switching jobs (performing that career transition) can help you advance your career while enjoying many other perks and advantages.
This year has been a challenge for us all. So if you are looking for some accountability, support, guidance, people to listen to you and help you overcome obstacles, join my LinkedIn and FaceBook groups.