Feature: The Three “P’s” of a Successful Career Change

Feature: The Three “P’s” of a Successful Career Change

Feature: The Three “P’s” of a Successful Career Change

Lately, I’ve been speaking to more and more people who are in the midst of a career transition. They’re not changing jobs; they’re changing careers. These transitions are increasingly common as technology, global market shifts and even the weather change the dynamics and opportunities in different career fields. New forms of work are definitely being created, but old forms of work are also being destroyed, and those two factors are moving-some would say pushing-a growing number of us into a search for a new career.

How does one conduct a career search? Based on my discussions with those in the midst of such transitions, I would say the principal strategy might best be described as trying harder. Most are performing all of the tasks typically involved in conducting a job search, only they’re doing them more and more frequently. And, there’s the rub. Eventually, you run out of hours in the day with such a strategy.

No less important, conducting a career transition is a very different challenge from that of executing a job search. The steps involved in achieving success, therefore, are also very different. When you’re looking for a new or better job in a career field in which you’re already established:

  • you have a reasonably good understanding of the nature of the work you must perform and the expectations of employers that will hire you to perform it;
  • you have (or should) relevant skills that will enable you to perform that work according to accepted quality standards and within expected time and financial guidelines; and
  • you have a track record that can be evaluated and peers and supervisors who can vouch for your competence on-the-job.
  • These factors make you competitive in the job market. They give you credibility and diminish the employer’s risk in making you an offer. No less important, they make it easier for recruiters to recognize and accept your qualities as a prospective employee.

    When you’re making a career transition, in contrast, none of those factors are working for you. Indeed, in many cases, they’re actually stacked against you. You’re competing with others who have the experience, credentials and contacts that you lack. That’s why I think that a successful career transition requires a different strategy from that which you use in a job search. The tasks involved in this strategy are not unlike those in a job search, but the way you do them is. In other words, you’re not doing more of the same thing, but instead, doing those things differently. I call it the three “P’s” of success career change. Here’s what I mean.

    Preparation: Do your homework.

    The grass isn’t always greener in another career field. You may need to make a career transition, but you should select your new field with considerable due diligence. It’s easy to think that you can conduct all of your research online-and there’s certainly a vast range of helpful information available to you on the Internet-but the only way to get an accurate and total picture of what the work will be like is to get out of your fuzzy slippers and into the workplace. Talk to those in the field you’re considering and probe for bad news (there’s always some) as well as good. The key is to assess how well you fit-your values, interests, capabilities and goals-with the reality of the new field-its values, opportunities, requirements and future prospects. A misfit is likely to make you as unhappy as the career you have now and are trying to leave.

    Posture: Make yourself a work-in-progress.

    In most cases, those making a career transition do not have the skills and experience required to move laterally from whatever level of position they had their old field to a similar position in a new field. No one wants to start all over, of course, so they hope that employers will see the value of at least some of the skills they successfully used in their previous career. While recruiters may be willing to accept that line of reasoning, they face the inflexible requirements imposed on them by hiring managers. So, what can you do to make yourself more believable as a candidate? Go back to school. Take a training program or academic course in a key skill or knowledge area that you lack and add that ongoing educational experience to your resume. You’ll not only signal that you’re actively gaining the expertise necessary to meet the new field’s requirements, but you’ll set yourself apart as someone who recognizes the importance of up-to-date capabilities and makes it their responsibility to acquire them.

    Position: Get to know your (new) peers.

    An employer takes a risk whenever it selects a person who lacks the experience and expertise necessary for successful on-the-job performance. And, those making a career transition represent the greatest risk because they lack a background in the appropriate field as well as the capabilities required for a specific position. There’s no sure way to eliminate that perception, but there is a way to dampen its impact. That’s by building relationships. The better people know you, the more likely they are to believe that the risk you represent is worth it. How can you build such relationships? By networking. Join the national and the local associations for your new career field. Attend the meetings of the local group and participate in the online discussion forums of the national group. While it’s O.K. to let others know that you’re in transition, the more important goal is to introduce yourself as a seasoned professional-someone who’s been in the world of work for awhile and knows how to make good things happen on-the-job. Position yourself that way with your new peers, and some are likely to see the risk in you as an opportunity.

    Looking for a new or better job is tough work. Making a career transition is even tougher. There are some steps you can take, however, that will help to overcome the inherent disadvantages you face in moving into a new field. They give you the preparation, the posture and the position that are the keys to strengthening your perceived value among even the most discriminating employers in the career field of your dreams.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Remember what you learned in kindergarten: It’s nice to share. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!”

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    HotJobs.com released the results of a June survey of recruiters which found that 74% prefer to find candidates locally. In a similar survey of job seekers, it found that only 30% were willing to relocate for a new or better employment opportunity. To help you find such local employment opportunities, HotJobs.com has partnered with Internet Broadcasting System (IBS). IBS operates local news and information sites for over 60 TV stations representing NBC, Hearst, Cox and Washington Post Company. HotJobs.com will power the employment areas on 55 of the IBS sites.

    Korn Ferry International, an executive search firm, announced the results of a recent survey of international executives. When asked to identify the most important trait in a leader, 43% voted for having a clear vision, 38% cited the ability to motivate, and 17% pointed to trustworthiness. In selecting a person for a senior position, 58% said the most important factor was fit with the organization’s culture and 38% said it was the fit with the position. As to their own situation, 40% said they were slightly underpaid, 39% said they were adequately compensated, 16% said they were grossly underpaid and just 1% admitted to being grossly overpaid. An astonishing 42% said they would live anywhere for the right opportunity, although 27% would turn down Beijing, China and 19% would spurn Mexico City, Mexico.

    Netshare, a confidential executive job site for those earning $100K+/year, introduced a new Member-to-Member Forum. The feature enables subscribers (who pay a fee to access Netshare job postings) to trade job leads, share contacts and ask others for advice and assistance on such topics as job search, compensation and employment contracts. Responses are made in private directly to individual requesting assistance.

    Society for Human Resource Management and CareerJournal.com unveiled the results of a recent survey of HR professionals and managerial and executive employees. It found that 83% of employees were extremely or somewhat likely to seek new employment once the job market recovers. What are they looking for? Fifty-three percent want better compensation and benefits, 35% are dissatisfied with their career development prospects, and 32% say they are ready for a new experience. What are HR professionals doing to retain top performers? Sixty-two percent are offering tuition reimbursement, 60% are offering competitive vacation and holiday benefits, and 59% are offering competitive salaries. What’s missing (or, at least, not mentioned)? An internal mobility system and commitment to individual development that will give employees the new experiences necessary for growth within the organization.

    TrueCareers announced the results a survey that underscore the growing popularity of telecommuting among employees. Among the survey’s respondents, 80% say the ability to work from home part or full time is an important consideration when looking for a new job.. That’s down from 92% last year, but still an impressive level of support. Why is it so popular? Twenty-four percent of respondents say telecommuting gives them more time with their families, 19% say it saves time and money spent on commuting, and 43% say it enables them to be more flexible in managing their workday.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    Which site will cause a bad reaction if you’re looking for a pharmaceutical sales job?

  • JobPharmacy.com
  • SalesDoctor.com
  • PharmacyWeek.com
  • DrugDiscoveryOnline.com
  • Where is the “holy growl” for those seeking a job as a pet walker?

  • FlipDog.com
  • BigBlueDog.com
  • Pet-Sitters.biz
  • SuperPuppies.com
  • If you want to work for a company that hires veterans as truck drivers, which site would be a dead end?

  • Vets4Hire.com
  • VetJobs.com
  • TAOnline
  • Truck-Driver.net
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2003 Guides and Directories

    Association for Financial Professionals


    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time/consulting jobs: Yes

    Distribution of jobs: National: USA

    Number of jobs: 151

    Salary levels of jobs: $41-50K, $76-100K

    Offer a job agent: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    How long are resumes stored: 1 year

    Restrictions on who can post: None

    Other services for job seekers: Career/job search information, Links to off-site resources, Confidentiality feature: block out contact information in resume database; resume not released to employer without candidate’s permission

    Answers to Site Insite:

    4. SalesDoctor.com, a sales consultant’s site

    5. Pet-Sitters.biz

    6. Truck-Driver.net, a listing of truck driving schools and career resources