Category Archives: Career Planning

Transitioning to a Second Career? 5 Questions to ask yourself first

Second Career Danger Zone Ahead:  5 Questions to ask before leaping

About to embark on a second career, or even a third?  Maybe yours will send you back to school for the first time in years. Like any transition, that can be exciting and scary at the same time.

You completed an intensive career exploration program and found a career where you can be remarkable, given your temperament and interests. They’re saying employers will line up to hire you when you graduate in two years.

Career Exploration is just a first step toward a second career

There are a few more questions you need to answer. I don’t mean the kind of answers you can’t get from the recruiting officer at the local college or by surfing the internet. I mean the honest, unbiased answers you only get from talking to people who actually hire in the new field.

I’ve experienced first-hand a second career transition, from retail lumber manager to corporate banking after an MBA. My resume wasn’t anything like corporate recruiters were seeking. Had I known then what I know now, I could have changed that resume significantly with some targeted activities during my time as a student. In my resume, my appearance and in my answers job interview questions, I needed to look like someone who had already made the transition from manager of a lumber yard to an executive position.

Choose a Second Career Carefully

Choose a Second Career Carefully

If your new career is a very predictable extension of your current career, you don’t need to concern yourself much with these 5 issues. But if there is little or no continuation from old to new, like truck driver to restaurant manager or plumber to librarian, they may matter a lot when it comes to your jobsearch.

You only need one job, but….

Add your new diploma to your current resume. Imagine that you are applying today for the position you want in two years. What’s missing?

Need more accomplishments? If so, between now and graduation, you need to create enough significant accomplishments to make you remarkable.And just completing the requirements of your program won’t make you remarkable.

Suppose your career exploration tells you financial planning would be just right for you. Your dream will differ but the basic issues are the same.

5 Questions to ask before investing your time and money: Continue reading

A Dream Job is Not a Luxury

What Color is Your parachute?

What Color is Your parachute?

I was puzzled. I had in my hand one of the first editions of “What Color is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles, (much like the one at the right) long before it became the best-selling career book in history. Unlike other career guides, it didn’t start off with resume or interview skills. Instead, Bolles asked you to complete a series of exercises that produced “one piece of paper” that succinctly described your dream job. That is where I was puzzled. In his stories it was normal to precisely describe your ideal job and then methodically set out to land precisely that position. That couldn’t have been further from my own experience to that time or that of anyone I knew. In my world “beggars couldn’t be choosers”. Unless you had scarce skills that we were in high demand, you were grateful to be offered any job. If it wasn’t what you wanted, you just adapted.
After I completed the exercises, I had identified 8 characteristics of a dream job. I no longer have that one piece of paper, but I recall one particular requirement that seemed especially unrealistic. I wanted to commute less than 30 minutes of my home, which limited my options to our small city. The kind of job I wanted was typically found in the much larger city an hour away. I filed the little piece of paper and forgot it. After I had been hired, I happened across the list and compared my dream to the present position. To my astonishment, 7 of the 8 desired characteristics had been satisfied, including a 20 minute drive time! Did creating the list help me to get that job? I couldn’t tell you, but I no longer considered Bolles’ promise to be a pipe dream.
What kind of boss do you prefer? Would you rather work alone or as part of a team? You will be asked these questions in a job interview and you may be tempted to provide an evasive response. After all, you reason, you can adapt to whatever circumstances you encounter. In today’s job market it is essential that you credibly and persuasively communicate to an employer that you are already a good fit for that position. It is precisely when there is the glut of applicants for the position that you must distinguish yourself. The question of whether you prefer to work alone or with others is standard. If you haven’t sorted that out in advance you will likely give the unconvincing answer that you imagine the interviewer wants to hear.
So knowing yourself well is not a luxury in a competitive job market. It is more valuable than ever. Thank you, Mr. Bolles.

Career Risk Management Begins Before Your Career Choice

As a child, I heard stories of sadder-but-wiser bargain hunters who drove 100 miles to Toronto from our small town in response to newspaper ads offering new cars at huge savings. Sometimes the advertised vehicle wasn’t available, perhaps never existed. Or everything from the spare tire to the wheel covers was extra. Like the con man, the high-pressure salesperson fought vigorously to “cool out the mark” by redefining the situation. If that is done skillfully, the customer will purchase a vehicle from the same dealer that tricked him, even paying close to the same price as was offered by the dealer back home. Even worse, now he has to go to that dealer for service, with the big-city dealer’s sticker on the trunk lid.

Career Bait and Switch

What A Social Worker Really Does

My social worker friend spends 60% of his time satisfying ever-increasing requirements for documentation of the work he does is in the other 40%. It’s not just that he resents not getting to do more of the kind of social work that initially attracted him to the profession. It’s also that he, like many people whose passion for helping others and giftedness is suited to social work, strongly dislike the nature of the documentation duties and resent the emphasis those duties have in performance evaluation. It can feel like somebody did a “bait and switch”, when the nature of your daily duties differs radically from the expectations you had when you were first attracted to their profession. By the way, I realize that the load of paperwork is only one issue frustrating social workers today but it does feature prominently in the accompanying photo.

Did anyone really do a “bait and switch” by providing distorted or incomplete information about careers? Yes. Educational institutions at all levels have a vested interest in attracting top students to their programs and are now often partnered with professional organizations that need to add new members. Objective information can be difficult to find. The career risk is entirely borne by you. So it’s your job to manage it.

To be sure, you need to accept some of the blame for your conclusions. Most adults realize that no job is without unpleasant elements but without careful research that awareness remains vague. You can’t accurately assess how much those elements will bother you 5 or 15 years from now if they remain vague. Most of us don’t research our careers very carefully. The head of career services at a local university told my career counselling class that most students spend more time planning their spring break than choosing a career. Sometimes, like the car shopper, we fall in love with our mental image of the anticipated future and we don’t want dis-confirming evidence.

To manage this aspect of career risk, thoroughly investigate any line of work that requires extended preparation before you actually get to practice. To avoid “bait and switch”, arrange multiple information interviews with people in the field. Don’t just ask them for advice on how to become an accountant or social worker or nurse. Find out what aspects of the job other people really enjoy, what they really dislike and pay careful attention to those answers. Find examples of people in your chosen field whose temperaments similar to yours. If you can’t find any, that might be a red flag? (In job interviews, ask them to describe someone who was outstanding in the position and someone who really wasn’t cut out for the job. Make good notes of their answer! Ask yourself whether those less desirable aspects of the job will make your life miserable or even sabotage your performance. Most of us will have several careers over a working life. We need to become proficient at choosing our work, one key component of managing career risk, as well as performing our chosen work.

However, what I learned from Tilda Shalof is that we can be exactly in the profession where we belong but find aspects of our work that we don’t do particularly well and/or we strongly dislike. Those aspects can distract us, but they don’t have to if we choose otherwise.

Source of photo:

Career Success Without a Perfect Fit

She knew she wanted to be a nurse since the age of 6 when she served as the primary caregiver for her ill mother. She considers herself a born nurse but struggled to achieve her career goal and would have abandoned the journey long before if she had listened to the advice of others. The dean at the University of Toronto shook her head in frustration as Tilda Shalof walked across the podium to receive her nursing degree. She was undoubtedly born to be a nurse but that did not mean that her career was one uninterrupted series of remarkably successful steps. It took hard work and an unrelenting commitment but 25 years later Tilda has written 4 books about her experiences as a nurse and speaks regularly about serious problems in healthcare that we otherwise would never hear about.

My first acquaintance with Tilda’s story was when Carolyn Weaver interviewed her on Bio Library. She had completed The Making of A Nurse, the second of her four books, following The Nurse’s Story. She told Carolyn about her realization one day that there were many skills and qualities that she would need to acquire if she was to become an excellent ICU nurse. She was the only university-trained nurse in the unit, surrounded by experienced, competent nurses whose training was hands-on, not theories from a textbook. Additionally, her supervisors and colleagues doubted that she had the right temperament for success as an ICU nurse. Tilda could have transferred to a less demanding unit in the hospital. There was a severe shortage of nurses, it would have been easy, but she stuck it out. She was determined to become that excellent nurse and she certainly did.

I had never before that day heard anyone articulate that simple idea so clearly. Tilda’s statement confronted my preconceptions that if you identified your calling, you could achieve excellence in that area with easy-to-moderate struggle. It wasn’t so much that she refused to accept that she didn’t fit. We all know people who aren’t particularly good at what they do. The Peter Principle said that was actually normal. It was that Tilda took personal responsibility for addressing her deficiencies. In her mind, staying with ICU nursing implicitly meant a commitment to becoming an excellent nurse, because that was the only way she could provide excellent patient care. Read her books and then tell me that you are not grateful that she stuck with ICU nursing!

I am reminded of Tilda Shalof every time I meet someone with a dream who is surrounded by others who want them to be more “realistic” and choose an easier path. Maybe when we ask whether we are a fit for the career of our dreams we are asking the wrong question. Maybe the better question is whether we are willing to do what is needed to become fit for that career! A number of writers now tell us that we can achieve above average competence in most skills with deliberate practice. As to our temperaments, we can learn to moderate our natural tendencies. More about that later.

Career Reality Check

Miguel, a newcomer to Canada seeking full-time employment sits across the desk from a career counsellor, carrying a simple resume that exactly matches a job posting circulated earlier that morning.  A quick phone call sets up an interview and at the evening meal he celebrates with his family his wonderful new job that begins the next day. His younger brother, Carlos, presents himself a few days later at the same career centre expecting a similar outcome. His timing is also fortuitous (or so he is told) as a full-day workshop on job search techniques is about to begin. When the longest day of his life mercifully concludes, he arrives at the same kitchen table with a fistful of paper bearing advice/mandates about networking, information interviews, accomplishment statements and one mysterious insight. Carlos is mostly orange which is unusual in a bookkeeper but he shouldn’t be alarmed. Like everyone, he is really plaid. In Carlos’ home town, plaid is worn only by sedentary male tourists who wear belts at chest level and black socks with sandals.

Like Carlos, many of us are dismayed to learn that the job market of the past is gone forever. A whole new portfolio of job-seeking competencies is required to find our next position, even if it pays half our former salary.  Mastery of these competencies requires us leave our comfort zones to a degree that dwarfs any adjustment to a new workplace.

If Carlos embraces this opportunity and masters those new job search skills he will build a foundation that will serve him well for the rest of his working life. Information interviews will open his eyes to a broader range of opportunities and introduce him to some new friends. As he begins his next position, he will recognize opportunities to create accomplishment statements by taking on challenges and realize that his evil supervisor is really just gold and also plaid. When he finds himself back in the job market (and he knows that he will), those tools will fall readily to hand.

Miguel, on the other hand, will also be unemployed again and may never learn what Carlos knows. He is encumbered by his erroneous belief that job search for him should continue to be easy and by his pride. After all, if he steps out of denial and attends those workshops he will be admitting that it was just dumb luck the last time.

Success in every arena of life comes to those who are willing to do what others will not. Including preparation for the employment marketplace.