The Stop Sign has received several reader questions that basically say, I know I want to do something different in my career but don’t know how to start. Turns out, a lot of people are quitting jobs or planning career pivots.
Career transition is a huge topic. Mr. StopSign could write a book on it. In fact, at the end of this column, I will suggest a book. Fortunately, the question before us is a bit simpler—How does one start? I think two or three pages should suffice.
Let’s consider the case of Alice, a job-seeker considering a career pivot, who is meeting with a career coach:
The Cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked good-natured, she thought: still it had very long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect.
‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘—so long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’
OK, that was really an excerpt from Alice in Wonderland, but I hope the meaning is clear:
But, wait--- there’s a second lesson contained in the story. Note how Alice is asking the cat/counselor what career direction she should take. A lot of people ask others what they should do with their lives. Stop doing that!
It’s your life. You control it. You lived it; so, you know yourself best. Use that knowledge.
In other words, the answer to “how to start?” is---Start with yourself (self-examination).
Here’s a five-step program to help you get started:
1) Ask yourself questions and write down the answers.
· What are you good at and enjoy doing?
· What activities do you enjoy, but you’re not too adept at them?
· What are you good at that you simply don’t like doing?
· What activities are you simply not so good at?
Mr. StopSign enjoys communicating and educating people. I’ve been told I’m quite good at it.
I am also a good programmer, but I don’t enjoy it as I find it boring.
I used to enjoy trying to draw things, but was terrible at it. I’ve not tried it recently.
2) Organize your skills into two categories: hard and soft.
Hard skills are skills that can be tested. Examples include typing, language proficiency, and coding. It is said that hard skills are learned abilities acquired and enhanced through practice, repetition, and education. Employers value hard skills, because they increase employee productivity and efficiency and subsequently improve employee satisfaction.
Soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person's relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered to be a complement to hard skills. Soft skills can’t be easily measured/tested, but must observed over time. The seven primary soft skills sought by employers are: Leadership, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, the work ethic, flexibility/adaptability, and interpersonal.
3) Create a list of your transferable skills.
Your transferable skills are your talents and abilities that can be used in many different jobs and career paths.
In other words, they are your skills that would interest employers in your new industry.
4) Go talk to people.
After you have completed your self-study, it’s time to gather ideas on what you could do with these skills.
You might be tempted to do online research. I think it’s better to get out and get some AIR—Advice, Information, and Referrals.
In other words—Network: Meet people. Tell them your situation and relate your interest in pivoting.
Solicit advice; gather information; ask them who else you should meet with.
And by the way—never ask for a job! (Don’t do that!)
5) And if after following the above four steps, you need more help choosing a direction, consider hiring a career coach and/or taking an assessment test.
Just remember, assessments and coaches are not there to tell you which road to take. We are here to help you organize your thoughts and express what you already feel.
So, there’s your five-step program for starting a career pivot.
Please note how all the above is just the beginning for a career pivot. As I said earlier, I could write a book on the topic. Fortunately, a host of books on the topic have already been published. One I recommend is Switchers, by Dawn Graham.
As there is a lot more to this topic, such as “How do I pivot after I’ve chosen a specific road,” I think I’ll write a follow-up column to this one. Maybe, something along the lines of Stop going down that road!