When I published the article “You’re hired!”…and it took me a year, I had no idea that I would be looking for work three years later. Back then, I had just concluded an intensive search after my position in a stable, global financial institution was abolished, ending a successful career that progressed nicely over 16 years.
When I accepted the offer for a permanent full-time position the following year, it was not quite the dream job I was looking for, but I was convinced, and still am, that I was forging a new path to take me to the next level. In fact, I deliberately disrupted myself. It was a newly created job with the mandate to develop and deliver a marketing strategy for products I had never marketed before.
Two years in, there were budget and staff cutbacks. I sub-consciously knew that the time to move on was fast approaching. Last summer, my position was eliminated.
Although it’s cold comfort, I realize that I am not alone. I’ve met many mid- and advanced-career professionals on the job search trail. I see the struggles to remain positive, diffuse anxiety and stay the course. My career transition experience has given me some insights on stumbling blocks that can potentially derail a job search and how to avoid them.
- Other people’s stories are theirs, not yours
During my networking, I’ve met many people who’ve “been there, done that” and they tell their stories of how they got through it. The Winners, who took only 2 to 4 months to land on their feet; the Whiners who give very detailed explanations as to why they won’t ever get hired (age…, conspiring former bosses and colleagues…, no one hires in summer… etc.) and the Copped-Out & Lucked-Out who boast about the luxury of being able to retire early so they avoid looking for a job.
Then there are those who haven’t “been there.” They have never lost their jobs. They are really Secretly Scared that this could happen to them, while they hint that they pity you and don’t envy you. There are also the Helpers and Hinters who in an awkward effort to provide good advice, actually end up saying exactly what you don’t need to hear (“You’re doing something wrong, otherwise it wouldn’t take so long…”) or they send you job postings that are no match for your skills and experience.
It’s so easy to buy-in to other people’s stories. Comparing your experience with other people’s stories is a waste of time and energy. The truth is you need to own your story.
Instead of trying to explain your story, make a commitment to yourself to be clear on what’s best for you. Only you can make sense of your life’s journey. Only you really know the things that motivate you and ultimately matter to you. Very few people will understand your story. Most people are trying to figure out their own story and others don’t have the time or are not really interested in listening to yours.
The temptation to set low expectations and settle for less becomes real when you compare yourself with other people. It takes courage to say “no” to seemingly good opportunities in order to say “yes” to the very best. You are not a loser if you haven’t found a job within a given timeframe or if you made it to the final interview but didn’t get the job.
Even if you don’t have the financial independence to prolong your search, if you accept a position out of necessity, remind yourself that you can work while continuing to search for your dream job.
- The corporate ladder is an obsolete metaphor
Job seekers, who have progressed over many years in one company, tend to be overly concerned with titles, organizational structures and status. In most progressive organizations today, dotted lines, flat organizational structures and collaborative team environments are the norm.
I agree that people should look for challenging work that fits their experience and expertise. But looking for a job with a title that fits into the next step on the corporate ladder can prevent you from finding enriching opportunities for meaningful work that expand your talents and capabilities.
The truth is that we are living in a new corporate world order where the corporate ladder is fast becoming an obsolete metaphor.
Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In, encourages professionals to forget the corporate ladder and consider careers in terms of a jungle gym. You can venture down different paths and explore numerous possibilities on the way to achieving your goals, just like trying to climb to the top of a jungle gym. It took me quite some time to get this during my career transition four years ago. I am glad I did, as I ended up finding an interesting opportunity which has broadened my experience not only professionally, but in my volunteer work and social life.
- Being stuck really sucks!
Following on my two earlier points, getting stuck can happen very easily if you can’t define what you want or if your definition of what you want doesn’t fit in the new corporate world order or with your values.
I’ve come across a few people who are stuck within a destructive ‘my way or the highway’ mindset, hanging on to what was and what will never be, taking job loss personally and feeling victimized. When corporate priorities change, it so happens that some jobs are no longer needed. That’s why no one should take a layoff personally.
I know that it can be a drag to be out of work and pounding the pavement can be tough. But here’s the upside: going through a career transition can be the best opportunity to reorient a career. On reflection, many people thank their lucky stars that they had the chance to move on, rather than stay stuck in a career that was no longer meaningful.
Most successful careers rarely ever follow a smooth, upward north-eastern trajectory. Compromises and disruptions do occur along the way. The truth is that compromises can be beneficial.
Speaking from my own experience, the job with a lower salary with less formal influence may just be what you need to gain more relevant experience in a changing world, while applying your past experience in a way that is beneficial to the organization and to your career in the long run.
Take ownership and responsibility for your career transition
The world is waiting to embrace talent and you have a fair shot to offer yours. Don’t let people, old ideas or a closed mind derail your job search. The power to shape the future resides within each of us. That’s why it is important for every job seeker to take ownership of their career transition.
When you can clearly articulate to potential employers, who you really are and why you care, they will see that the value you bring to their organization is far greater than what you know and what they expect you to do. This sets the stage for you to find meaningful work and for your future employer see you as a true partner, stakeholder and contributor to the organization’s success.
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Camille N. Isaacs Morell is a proven marketing strategy and business development enabler. She is passionate about inspiring people to make decisions that support business success.
She currently seeks opportunities to contribute to the success of enterprises and non-profit organizations with direct responsibility for developing the marketing strategy to support business development and stakeholder engagement.
See the BIG picture…Focus on what’s important