5 Ways to Screw Up Your Career Decision–and How to Avoid Them

These 5 ways to screw up you career may seem exaggerated, but I have run into each of these ideas many times in classes and coaching. Often, they are not exactly people’s first topic of conversation. They are hidden in their assumptions, but once revealed, tell a lot about why someone is having problems with their careers. See if any of them are lurking in your assumptions. Below each is a short discussion of a better way to go.

1. Decide that what you’ve done in the past and your current skills list are all you can ever do unless you start from scratch.

The past need not predict the future. It’s up to you. There are many ways to move into new areas or advance. Look out for projects at your company that will expand your role or set of skills. Look for mentors. Look for volunteer opportunities. Look for internships. Change doesn’t necessarily require going back for another degree, though that’s an option too.

Even if you go for education, you may not need to get a degree. A client of mine who decided he wanted to switch careers and become a technical writer was discouraged when he talked with a for-profit university about the courses he might take. They told him he couldn’t choose a few courses, but had to get a full degree. That wasn’t possible. But that was only one view. Fortunately, we were working with a variety of informational interviews. He talked with technical writers and managers who were hiring technical writers and learned that he didn’t necessarily need a degree. Some job postings confirmed this. He needed to develop a solid portfolio and that this was very possible to do without a degree.

2. Rely on career assessments and follow their advice even if you feel uncomfortable with the career options

I continue to have clients who have done extensive career testing and have come up with ideas for careers that not only don’t excite them, but actually depress them. This doesn’t mean assessments can’t be helpful, only that the ultimate guide is you–not a standardized assessment comparing your answers to others. Look for what challenges and interests you instead of how you match up with others. Look for what seems meaningful to you that you’d like to keep doing and what you’d like to learn about. In addition, look for the kind of work environment and opportunities you’d like.

3. Decide where the big paying careers are and choose one of those that you can do.

As practical as that sounds, it can be a sad choice in the long-term. We want happiness and a sense of purpose most of all. So start with those factors before looking at the money.

4. Put off a career decision until you feel inspired to act

A great idea if you want to procrastinate.  As artist Chuck Close says, inspiration is for amateurs (vs. hard work, dedication, trying things out…) Or Edison–Genius is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration. Inspiration can be amazing and set your brain and life on fire. But if you’re just waiting for it, it’s not likely to arrive. Instead, if you start moving toward a decision regardles of inspiration, you are making progress on getting a career you may really love and creating a better mental space for inspiration to strike.

5. Go for whatever opportunity comes up and just see where that will lead.

That might be a cool way for someone in college to try out some part time jobs or internships, but I hear client after client tell me that’s what they did in their careers, and now they want to make a more conscious choice about their lives and careers.

Don’t get me wrong. Unexpected opportunities are great. Research has shown that people who are deemed “lucky” are people who do notice opportunities, so that’s a great skill.  Sometimes you have to jump at new opportunities without knowing if they will work out.

But that doesn’t take the place of defining a career you’ll love. Once you do that, you are more likely to see RELEVANT opportunities than if you just wait for someone to hand you a job opportunity.


Get Ahead by Going Abroad

Guest Post: by Kelly Dunning

Are you stuck in a career rut? Are you struggling to find a job in your field? Do you find yourself hitting a road block when it comes to your career goals?

Perhaps the best solution might be to back your bags and leave the country. Working abroad can help you get ahead in your career in a lot of ways.

Stand Out in a Good Way

When you move to a foreign country to work abroad, you automatically gain the advantage of being different than everyone else which makes you stand out in a job interview.  You will have studied at a different school and your life and work experiences will be something unique from every other applicant your age in town. The interviewer will very likely remember you more than anyone else, so make sure you highlight your foreignness as a positive.

When my partner Lee worked abroad in retail in Canada, his English accent and his stories of his travels made him very memorable to customers. We are intrigued by people who are different than us, so why not turn this into an advantage?

Take Advantage of a Better Economy

If your home country is struggling with high unemployment and lack of jobs, you might find it much easier to get a job somewhere else. For example, check out Australia which was almost completely missed by the recession and has a booming economy right now.

There is a huge demand for mining jobs in the Outback of Australia right now and international workers are being paid more than $100,000 per year.

Find A Place Where Your Skills Are in Demand and Make More Money

Another way that working abroad helps you get ahead is that it will allow you to relocate to a destination where you will get paid more for your skills and have more jobs to choose from. For example, if you are willing to get a Canada work permit and work up in the far north you can sometimes earn more than twice as much for doing the same job as anywhere else. You will have to get used to living in cold tundra region, but this can be an adventure in itself.

If you have teaching skills, there are many lucrative ESL teacher jobs all over the world which pay better than entry level teaching jobs in your home country, especially when you factor in that they cover your accommodation and flights.

Do a little research to find out where your skills and areas of expertise are the most in demand. Where there is demand, it will be easier for you to find a well paying job.

Skip a Qualification

It might be the case that in your home country there is a qualification standing in the way of you and your dream career, which doesn’t exist in another country.

For example, if your dream is to work in real estate and you live in the USA, you will need to complete a course at real estate school before you can be licensed. However, in the UK the only requirements to be a real estate agent is a UK work permit, drivers license, confidence, and great sales skills.

If you already know that you will be great at the job, why go through unnecessary and expensive training when you can get starting working somewhere else right now?

There are many ways that working abroad can help you to jump over hurdles and make it to the next step in your career.

Top Tips for Working Abroad

Here are a few bonus tips to keep in mind if you are considering working abroad:

  • If you are between the ages of 18 and 30 you have the option of applying for a working holiday visa. Dozens of countries around the world offer this type of visa, which allows you to work and travel for up to 12 months. This is a great way to see if you enjoy working abroad.
  • If you decide after your working holiday that you want to come back and relocate permanently, look into the longer term work permits offered by your country of choice. Make sure you find out this information in advance, as applications can take a while to be processed.
  • Research your destination in advance. How much is the average wage? What does monthly rent cost? What cities have the best job prospects?
  • The internet is your best friend when it comes to working abroad. You can start looking for jobs months before you leave, setting up meetings with potential employers for after you arrive so that you can hit the ground running.
  • Save up money before you go. Most work visas require you to demonstrate that you have the funds to support yourself in the beginning and you will want to have this just in case you need it.
  • Last but not least, make sure that you take time to travel around and enjoy the culture, food, people, nature and other aspects of your new home!

Author Bio

Kelly is a writer for Global Visas, the world’s leading authority on immigration, work permits and all things related to working abroad. To find out more about how you can obtain a working visa to many countries around the world, contact them today.


7 Steps to Success

Steps to GoalWhile the new year is a great time psychologically to set new goals, we often go about it the wrong way.

We lose our excitement and motivation once the old obstacles, stresses, and time constraints re-appear. So here’s a better start that will help you stay motivated and succeed with ANY goals you may have.

First, focus on why you want to do what you want to do.  That’s another way of saying, check in with your vision. So if you want to go to the gym more often, think first about why. If it’s to get fit, ask yourself why again.  Why do you want to be fit?

In other words, what will be better for you, what will you feel like and be able to do better because of going to the gym. Visualize it.  Name it. Put up pictures relating to it.  That’s your driving force. If you lose track of this, all you’ll see is the tough workout ahead at the gym.

If it’s redoing your resume, that’s going to be a killer unless you again think what will be better for you if you do it.  What’s the bigger purpose–to move ahead in your job search process. But that’s not exciting either.  Why are you moving ahead in your job search?  To find a job. OK, but what will that do for you? What will be better for you? What will you feel like and be able to do better because you have found the job you are seeking.

Use the same approach with any goal.

After you have your future vision clear to help you in the present, your next step is to go to your past for help. Ask yourself (or have someone else ask you) what times you’ve succeeded in your life around similar issues. Don’t reject any answers because they are not an exact match. They don’t have to be. You’re looking instead to connect to that energy, motivation and happiness that you had around achieving generally similar goals.

When I coach people, they talk differently and become more excited once they’ve made this connection with who they are when they are at their best. But it’s not just the emotional and spiritual connection.  Once you’ve felt this memory of happiness and achievement, use your analytical powers to take a look at how you succeeded.


  • What skills did you use?
  • Which of your qualities or traits helped you?

Maybe you were just bullheaded and persistent.  Maybe you drew upon your friends and weren’t afraid to ask for the help you really wanted. Or maybe you took a risk and let yourself feel a little more fear than you usually feel comfortable with.  These are all skills you can consciously recall and draw on now to succeed.

Finally, there may be a pattern to your successes that you can follow again.  For instance, one client told me she would get excited about a new project but wonder if she could do it.

Her next step was to talk with people about it, ending with one person who she knew would always tell her to go ahead and try. Though she knew that person would say that, just hearing it out loud gave her the final OK she needed to devote time to the project. Then she’d do thorough research, make a plan and tell herself at the tough times that at the very least she’d be learning something new. That worked for her.  Each person’s model is different.  Find yours and see how to best apply it to this year’s goals.

To sum up.  Here are the ideas in order:

  1. Remember the purpose of your resolutions–the bigger vision and purpose to doing what you want to do.
  2. Mentally look for past successes in similar areas
  3. Visualize and remember these successes so you connect to how you felt about your actions and your success
  4. Ask yourself what skills you used, what traits you drew on
  5. Study the patterns in all of the related successes you visualized
  6. See if there is anything from those patterns that can be applied to your current vision and goals
  7. Get started!

Take Charge of Your Job Interview

Business woman at job interiewYou’re headed for the job interview, and you know it’s coming.  After that first moment of good eye contact, the firm (but not too firm) handshake and getting settled in an attentive, but not too-eager position in your chair, it arrives: The simple question that stymies so many jobseekers–Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?

Highly competent engineers to new college grads suddenly become silent or start babbling on about a favorite hamster at age 7 or worse, droning on about their list of jobs that already put the interviewers to sleep when reading about them on a resume.

Actually, this question is a great one because it gives you control of the interview, if you approach it the right way.  Your answer can shape and direct the interview along the lines most favorable to you, pointing job interviewers toward the kinds of passions, skills and accomplishments that you want them to be asking you about.

Follow these 4 steps to breeze through this opening question and get your interview off to a positive start.

1.  Make it easy on yourself.  Script your opening line and practice it.  That opening might be something like:
As you can see from my cover letter and resume (or my application), I am really passionate about (whatever key work activity you are passionate about that you know is important for this position).

EX:  As you can see from my cover letter, I am passionate about learning the latest web developments and have been using this to help companies stay ahead of the curve in creating customer loyalty and excitement online.

2.  After your scripted answer, be prepared with a very brief story that illustrates your passion/skill in action, that proves what you have said.  That is, back up your statement with an example from a recent job.  Stories engage and make an emotional one-to-one connection with your interviewer–something your resume cannot do.  This connection is the key to a successful interview.

3.  Then indicate there are lots of other examples and passions (relating to relevant, developed skills) that you’d be happy to talk about, and let them ask you about them or ask if they’d like to hear about a particular one.  You can end your answer there or…

4.  Take more control over the interview with something like:  So I’m really excited to be here today and to find out if this is as great match for both of us as I think it might be.  Would you mind telling me what qualities are most important in the person you’d want to hire?

Saying this has you engaging them, showing initiative without being pushy, and most important–allows you to discover what is really on their minds so you can address these qualities in your subsequent answers.  These skills or qualities will probably be the same as what’s in the job posting, but hearing it from them will give you a much clearer sense of what they mean and the priority for each skill.

Be Smart About Your References

Work references are crucial to any job search, even when switching jobs within the same company.   Recently, Team Office, a major placement firm, released the results of an independent survey of hiring managers, showing the importance of references AND what the hiring managers were seeking from references. You can read the full official release here

The main findings were that 21% of candidates get booted from consideration based on references. The references were asked primarily about past job duties and experience (36%) or about “a view into the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses” (31%). By contrast, confirming job titles and dates of employment was most important to only 11% of hiring managers.

Office Team has some recommendations that I’d boil down to:

  • Choose people who are willing and happy to provide good references
  • Give them the materials they need—your resume, the job(s) you are applying for and who may call
  • Make sure you have all the email/phone info available for the people requriing the references
  • Keep good relations with past supervisors, etc. in case the hiring company calls people not on your official list
  • Thank people for helping you and keep them up to date on the results of your job search

Number 1 Leadership Skill

In its 2010 study of 1,500 Chief Executive Officers from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide, IBM discovered that chief executives believe that – “more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision — successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity,” according to an IBM press release. “Less than half of global CEOs believe their enterprises are adequately prepared to handle a highly volatile, increasingly complex business environment.”  But by instilling creativity throughout the organization, today’s challenges can be met, in their view.

Creativity?  Now we’re talking.  Creative problem solving abilities and creativity in general are crucial to career and any other success, in my view, so I am excited and rather surprised.  In the past, talking with company leaders (CEOs and others), I’ve often found a lot of polite lip service to creativity when the topic is raised, the way you hear people talk politely about fostering diverse viewpoints.  It always sounds so great in theory but the reality of encouraging creativity or diverse viewpoints is actually quashed in most businesses in favor of “efficiency” or “teamwork” or simply unwillingness to deal with diverse ideas or people.  Or creative thinking.  So this is new.

Lesson for Jobseekers?

The CEOs thought that creativity would help with finding new business models, challenging the status quo, innovating, and taking risks with new ideas.  While you’d expect companies to hunker down and stick to the most tried and true solutions during this recession—that’s not what these leaders are saying.  Perhaps jobseekers should keep that in mind when seeking work.  That means they might want to highlight their creative abilities and successful challenges to the norm more than just focusing on being reliable, productive workers.  Certainly that’s something to keep in mind, at least for management positions.

The rest of the list is telling as well.  Integrity was second at 52%, global thinking received 35%, influence at 30% and at the bottom, fairness and humility at 12%.   Actually those bottom numbers are intriguing—humility is not exactly considered a big positive for CEOs or for business success in this country, and apparently fairness isn’t either.  Oh well.

Forget Time Management

If you’re stressed out and overwhelmed with too much work and getting home late all the time, if you’re worrying about work life balance, or if you’re always running around scattered because of so much to do–stop!  Don’t run out and start implementing time management systems.  Forget about time management….for a moment.

Instead rethink what you’re really trying to accomplish.  Instead of framing this primarily as a time management issue, look at your situation as a creative problem solving situation around your main goals (overall or for the day or week).  Instead of cutting out 5 minutes here and there so you can get home 15 minutes earlier so you can run off to do something else–figure out what you really want your life to look likeThen look at what changes need to be made to start moving you in that direction. Only THEN can you meaningfully start looking at what needs cutting and what doesn’t.

In fact, sometimes making things faster and avoiding interruptions may be a big mistake as it can increase the sense of being always on the go.  It can eliminate time to be creative and fully engaged.  It can eliminate the best social elements of work (which are always important even if not part of anyone’s job description).

In other words, don’t start by trying to save time every which way or writing down your to do list in a computer program or iPhone app.  Start by deciding what you’d really like.

For example, if one thing you’d really like is an hour a day more with your kids, start solving that challenge.  That may lead to dropping less important tasks or it may involve rearranging a schedule or even batching errands together more efficiently.  The point is to know that this is a priority and you’ll do whatever works best for making sure that gets done.  It may mean slowing down rather than speeding up so you can be relaxed enough to really enjoy time with your kids.

Step one then is to come up with all your goals about work and personal life and prioritizing them.  Even better is to start with your dreams rather than the more rational idea of goals.  A great way to do this that I use all the time with clients is to journal a few days in your ideal life as you’d imagine it.  That makes it concrete, real and detailed.

If you start this way you are motivated by your passions.  But if you start trying to save time with a sense of getting more done, you may get more done but then you will likely wind up with so much more stuffed into your schedule, you are wind up back where you were, feeling as stressed and overwhelmed as ever.

Here’s a start to this approach:

  1. Dream up a vision of what your day would look like if things were as you really wanted–at work and beyond
  2. Based on that, come up with key priorities or goals you can start working on now in each of your key life areas–personal, family, work, etc.
  3. Take the top priorities and start using a variety of creative problem solving techniques (not just time saving ones) to help you achieve your goal.

I know that isn’t always easy.  But I also know if you start with reading another book (or seeing another talk on) time management and don’t do these 3 steps first or something like them, you may become more efficient and technically more productive (if you’re lucky), but not happier–and isn’t that your real goal?

Learning from Success

Intriguing research from MIT has shown that when we are succeeding at a new task or learning something, our brain begins physically (or biochemically) changing.  Neurons start acting differently in ways that make doing the new task easier the next time.

Makes sense.  But much more surprising—the experiment demonstrated that the brain does NOT go through any discernible changes when we are failing at a task or after we fail.   We don’t automatically learn from failure as we do from success.

That’s a bit disconcerting, considering all the common wisdom and advice that some of the best learning comes from our mistakes.   Consider this classic quote from IBM’s early president, Thomas Watson, Would you like me to give you a formula for success?  It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure.

Ignore Failure?

So does that mean we should just forget about failures?  That seems like a rather extreme conclusion to come to, but some people already are working on that model.

Alex Bogusky is a partner in one of the giant ad and marketing agencies (producing some famous edgy commercials such as the “truth” antismoking ones a few years ago).  He should appreciate the new research as he disses ALL learning from failure.  For some, failure is not an option.  For Bogusky, failure never happened.

At his very successful firm, failure actually does of course happen (losing clients, bad campaigns), but they just eliminate all signs of ever having worked for that company as if it “never happened.”   As Bogusky said at a recent conference, “When failure happens we hardly recognize it.”  By this he means there are no discussions, no blaming, and no attempts to find lessons or ways of improving.

Failure IS an Option

The MIT study’s lead researcher Erich Miller comes to an opposite conclusion from Bogusky.   Earlier this year, he told Harvard Business Review: “Maybe the lesson is to know that the brain will learn from success, and you don’t need to dwell on that. You need to pay more attention to failures and challenge why you fail.”

Learning from failure may be more work, but still valuable.  After all, think about all the biographies and stories you’ve heard about people making the biggest and most successful changes in their lives after learning from a big failure.  Think about your own life too.  Maybe we don’t hear as much about learning from success because that doesn’t take the same effort and is far less dramatic.

We can also incorporate Bogusky’s ideas by focusing most of our attention on doing well rather than on overcoming what was unsuccessful.

We know that high expectations and seeing success in others tend to lead to better results.  For instance, there’s the well-established Pygmalion effect.  In studies of this effect, teachers at the beginning of a school year are told certain students are expected to grow and learn a lot and do well as determined by evaluation tests.  But these students were randomly chosen.  There was no reason for them to perform any differently than the other students.  But these students did do much better than the other students, as the teachers unconsciously did things to encourage and help them more than the others.

So maybe there’s a solution in setting up a culture based on honoring and encouraging success and downplaying failure and especially blame.   At the same time, a well-facilitated meeting where people see what can be learned from losing clients or poor performance can also be invaluable.

What do you think?  Do you feel you learn more from success or failure?  Let me know what you think.

If you want the more technical details, you can find the study in the journal Neuron (June 6, 2009.  The article has the snappy title:  Learning Substrates in the Primate Prefrontal Cortex and Striatum: Sustained Activity Related to Successful Actions)

HR and Hiring–the New Big Brother?

Think your online reputation is a secondary matter to be handled the same way you handle an update on FaceBook?   Think again.  Please.

A recent study by Cross-Tab for Microsoft in Europe and the US, interviewed HR execs, recruiters, and consumers about the impact of your online reputation on getting hired.

Findings included:

  • 70% of US recruiters and HR professionals in the survey have “rejected candidates based on information they found online.”
  • It’s not just used to rule out the obviously inappropriate candidates.  Nearly half of US recruiters and HR professionals surveyed say that a strong online reputation influences hiring decisions “to a great extent.”  More than 85% say it has some impact on hiring.
  • Unfortunately, many people don’t yet know this. The study concluded that consumers (except the French) generally underestimated the impact of online information about them.   In fact, about 1/3 of consumers don’t believe their online reputation affects their professional or personal lives.  Apparently they need to read this survey that they participated in.

Big Brother Arrives

Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that employers can and in fact ARE checking out your personal life in ways they never could legally do before during job interviews.

For instance, they can and do easily check out your religious and other affiliations, finances, family situation and even medical conditions.   Big Brother goes corporate.

You need to take charge of your online presence.  By the way, I might add that being invisible isn’t a great strategy, either. Having no presence is even worse (though this wasn’t discussed in the survey’s key findings).  Talk about suspicious—not using FaceBook, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. may keep you safe from revealing data, but think how that will look to most employers and whether they’re more likely to hire the one with the good online reputation or the one with none.

What can you do?  Here’s some basics that the survey found consumers were doing to manage their reputations:

  • Being careful about what they post and where
  • Using multiple personas for different sites
  • Adjusting privacy settings (a recent big issue on FaceBook)
  • Googling their names and doing other searches to see what a potential (or current) employer might be seeing

You also need to be careful what you post about OTHERS as that will come up and could bite them.

I’d also recommend a much more proactive approach where you actively campaign for yourself.  You can do this by posting important credentials and goals on LinkedIn and VisualCV, participating in LinkedIn and other professionally oriented groups, posting comments and answers on other people’s blogs related to your career and work interests, and generally being a knowledgeable, helpful presence online.  If you are more ambitious, you can also use WordPress to put up your own blog about a topic you know something about and participate in the rapid, ephemeral messaging world of Twitter.

Finally, I don’t want to scare you as if every silly comment or misspelled message might cost you a job.  Just realize that your online presence is typically a very public one, even though you are creating it in the privacy of your home, cubicle or on your smartphone.  So think first, upload second.

You can find a link to download the entire PDF report here.

5 Questions about Your Resume

Can you say yes to these 5 questions about your resume?

1.  Do you have a Summary of Qualifications at the top?

In the old days people used an objective statement, and it was deadly dull —“…looking for a challenging position that can use the skills of a go getter…” They were not only boring—even for a resume, but also very general, predictable and of not much interest to the employer.  They said this is ME and what I want.

Now it’s still says, this is me, but it is more attuned to what the employer wants.  After all the employer has the money and the benefits and jobs, so it’s OK to figure what THEY want so you can get that money, benefits, and great job and career.   For instance: “Problem-solver with 10 years experience in sales management who opened up 3 new states for an expanding business, helping their revenues grow by 35% in 2 years.”

If that’s what they’re looking for it will get their interest more than telling them what you’d like to be doing.

The Summary of Qualifications should be a short paragraph or 4 or 5 bullets.

2.  Did you use all the main keywords and phrases you need?

The name of the game when trying to make your way past the profound wisdom and compassion of the computer screening programs that decides the first round of screening  is to use keywords.  Computers get their warm fuzzies by searching your resume for specific words and phrases.  Go ahead and make them happy, which means you need to include the words describing what’s wanted in the job description.  Use the exact phrases in the job description, even if you have a different and better way to discuss your experience.

Don’t spam the keywords over and over, but get them in there, get them near the top.

Tip—After the summary of qualifications you can also list all the keywords in a separate bulleted list of skills, assuming that is, you have those skills.

3. Do you customize each resume you send for each job?

It once was extremely difficult, but today it’s relatively easy, so you can and in fact need to customize each resume according to the job description and needs of each company.  You don’t have to rewrite the whole thing each time.  Just make sure you focus on what is most important to the company.  If one company is emphasizing innovation, frame your accomplishments in terms of what you added that was new.  If they want social media skills, include accomplishments with that, even if it is volunteer work.  You want to be the one whose resume seems such a solid match, they have no choice but to interview you and be in a good mood about it, too.

4.  Did you spellcheck?

A famous (or maybe infamous) career blogger wrote an entry saying, go ahead, blow off proper spelling for your professional blogging.  No big deal any more.  That post got lots of attention, which is great for the contrarian and intentionally provocative blogger.  Bad for everyone else.  As appealing as that idea may be, it’s nonsense for anything professional and certainly shouldn’t be extended to resumes.  You aren’t too likely to find an employer who won’t flag a bunch of resume typing errors as an issue–not only because your spelling or typing isn’t great–but because it shows lack of attention to detail when getting it right is very do-able.  Use the spellcheck.   Don’t stop there.  Have a human being, not you and preferably one who can spell without using the spellcheck, proof your resume.

5.  Do your accomplishments include things that are measurable and/or observable and/or specific?

Employers want to know how wonderful you are, not just that you are wonderful.  They learn this (or think they do) by seeing that you didn’t just “boost sales with a new training program” but “boosted sales by 23% with a low cost new training program adopted nationally for 300 sales representatives.”

Use the numbers, the results, the observable happiness that came from all of the wonderful things you did on your past jobs.

How did you do?

Were you able to answer yes to each of these questions?   If not, don’t panic.  You can make these changes and still get the ultimate passing grade of a great job.  By looking online, you can find models of resumes that do all of these things well.  The extra effort at this stage can make or break your job hunt, even though the resume at best is only a pass to an interview.  Without that pass, though, you don’t even get in the door.

.…In case you’re wondering, I don’t write resumes for clients.  Sorry.  But I’d be happy to coach you about your entire job search and career search, including a thorough review of your resume.

5 Tips for Your Career Change

Making a career change typically takes time, creative thinking and great support.  Here are 5 tips that cover the most basic elements of success for launching a new and better career.

1.  Know where you’d like to go–not just where you don’t want to be.

Often people know what they don’t want in a job, especially if it’s a current job where the boss demands way too much.  But you need to find out what you do want besides the end of that problem.  What positive things would you like in your career and job?  What would you love to do?

2. To be creative, get a structure for your creativity.  In other words, get a plan.

Just going by the seat of your pants toward some long-term vision can be fun…until you hit a big bump.  Designing a business card and finding your first consulting client, for instance, may seem the quick way forward.  But for long-term goals, this approach usually winds up getting you even more bogged down and confused as soon as something goes wrong.  While you need to be able to jump at opportunities that arise unexpectedly, you can do that best within a basic structure.  A map of your journey.  A plan.

3.  Add deadlines to the plan (or lifelines to pull you forward).

Plans go nowhere without clear timelines, even if you need to constantly adjust them.  They give you perspective, create order, hold you accountable.  In some ways it’s like college or high school.  You didn’t study for the test until the night before.  Why?  There was a deadline.

4.  Get help—Develop your support network

  • A Success Partner–someone to hold you accountable for what you want to do and agree to do
  • People who can be a sounding board–a few opinions about your bigger ideas or ways of moving forward–your board of directors for the career change
  • People who can give you information on what the career you want is actually like and how you can break into it successfully–make sure you are interviewing each of them to find out just what you need to know that you can’t find out by researching online
  • People who can help you remain motivated —who believe in you and help you believe in yourself
  • Mentors or advice givers–for when you need specific ideas about something directly in the career field you want to move into

Don’t worry—you probably have most of these people in your community of support already.  You just have to ask them when needed.

5.  Be persistent

If you have a vision you really want to achieve, persistence in spite of difficulties becomes a lot easier, so we’re back to number one.

Know What You’re Really Doing at Work

Tech and social media guru Seth Godin just wrote a blog post on who will save publishing…or newspapers. His answer in a nutshell—no one will save things as they are, and therefore no one will save the jobs as they are. He wrote: “We need to get past this idea of saving, because the status quo is leaving the building, and quickly. Not just in print of course, but in your industry too.”

A depressing statement. And flip. And apparently callous as jobs are a bit more than categories to eliminate in the name of social or technological or any other kind of progress.

But his point is a good one—as he concludes, “no saving is needed to save the joy of reading…” In other words, what people really care about will continue and in new, hopefully, more powerful ways.

So what does this mean for you in whatever job or career you have?

Your Main Career Mission–the Big Career Idea

It means you need to recognize what you are really about at work beyond your job title and listed duties. You are not about project management or accounting or in my case, coaching.  Those are convenient labels. But you’re about how you are contributing and love to contribute through work. If instead of seeing yourself as project manager, you see yourself as the person who gets information and people working together in some way for some result, then your career may change, but it isn’t about to disappear. It will only change in the tools you can use and the industries where you may be using them.

If you’re in marketing—there’s been remarkable changes in the tools available and in the entire model of how to engage and reach possible customers or clients. These range from Adwords to Twitter to giving products to people who influence their groups. If you only know about magazine and newspaper ad placement, you are indeed in trouble. But if you understand you are about connecting people to products and engaging people emotionally through creative use of resources–and you keep updating your skills to match that mission, then you are not going to be just kicked out the door as obsolete.

In my case, I help people get unstuck, get motivated, get a vision. I help them solve problems to make their vision real regarding careers. If career coaching becomes a passé idea, I do not necessarily need a new lifework mission. That’s because people have always gotten stuck, lost their way and motivation, and thrived when they have a vision. I just need to continue to help people resolve those problems in a new way that fits the times.

The key to all this is a clear mission, a lifework statement that can act as a rudder so you don’t get away from what you love. That rudder can also keep guiding you to any new skills you need to learn. If you go beyond your job description this way, and understand what you’re really doing and accomplishing, you’ll stay motivated, and you will keep up with technology and changing industries. You won’t need saving, either.

If you don’t yet have a clear Lifework Statement or sense of career purpose and direction, contact me about ways I might help you get there.