Tough Career Question of the Week: How Do I Contact Someone for Info on a New Job Field, But I’m not Ready to Say “Yes” To the Field?

new job field

How Do I Contact Someone for Info on a New Job Field, But I’m not Ready to Say “Yes” To the Field?

This is the hottest question that has come across my desk (ie email) this week, and I’m excited to share some perspective on this!

Basically, what this person was asking was as follows: they’re exploring several career paths but have not yet chosen which way to go. They know that to find out information on each of their potential paths, they gotta talk to some people in those roles, but they want to strike a good balance of not wasting the person’s time by being too vague and non-committal and being gung ho about the field before they are ready.

So I’m here to give you some quick tips and a script to get moving and not let you trip you up. Remember, don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good here!

 

  • Talk to one of your close peeps first: You may not have this, but if you do, absolutely start with people who know you well and that don’t mind you bumbling around to get more information!
  • Gather preliminary info first: Check out an info session online for the professional association of the field you are exploring. Do a (timed!) Google search on the field. I say ‘timed’ so you don’t fall down the Google rabbit hole. 45 minutes per field is PLENTY. Make notes of what appeals to you for each field and what additional information you want to ask someone about.
  • Check out live in-person networking events in your area: It’s a good way to get a grasp on the lingo people in that field are using, what kind of ideas they’re talking about and what’s important to them. Heck, you might even make a connection there! But if not, that’s fine- the name of the game is info gathering.
  • Join LinkedIn Groups in your proposed field: Now, not all LinkedIn groups are created equally, so some might…well, they might suck. But check some out, see what kinds of (non-promotional) discussions are taking place in there and see how people are talking about the issues of their industry/field and what information is being passed around.

 

Once you have a basic sense for what appeals to you about the field, how your current skillset could gel with the proposed field and some questions you want to ask, you’re ready to contact someone for an info chat.  Woo hoo! Congrats!

I’m including a brief script you can adapt for your outreach – to make it specific enough that you get a response, but not so specific that you’re painting yourself into an interview for a job you’re not even sure you want!

This is adapted from a script a good friend going through her own career exploration process has used with massive success. When she was first sending it out, she had an 85-90% positive response rate. So, try it and let us know how it goes! J

 

Here’s the script:

 

I hope this email finds you well, and I apologize for the “cold call” approach. I’m currently exploring a transition from a WHAT YOU’VE DONE BEFORE at COMPANY into a career in NEW PROPOSED CAREER, and I would be so grateful to spend 20 minutes with you to learn more about your own career path and your role as THEIR ROLE AT THEIR COMPANY. You are highly respected in WHATEVER THEIR FIELD IS and I’ve noticed your work doing <CITE WORK YOU’VE NOTICED> and I would be extremely appreciative of any insight you may have for me as I navigate this new area.

 

If you’d be willing to meet for just 20 minutes and chat about your career and experiences please let me know. I can come by your office or call you via phone at a time convenient for you.

 

Thank you very much for your consideration and time.

 

Warmest wishes,

 

YOUR NAME

YOUR PHONE NUMBER

A LINK TO YOUR LINKED IN PROFILE

 

So, in closing, there IS a way to connect with people even when you’re not 100% sure of the final direction you want to go- it just takes some up front research and a specific ask to do so, as you’ve seen in this blog. And remember, it’s a great way to start to build a relationship – who knows, maybe you know of something or someone or a resource that can help them down the road, so if you’re feeling shy about reaching out, remember that- it’s a two way street!

The Article That’s Changing My Life…And It Could Be a Game Changer for Your Career Change

 

I was at the office last Tuesday, and I was having a bad day. I had even parked myself in a private room because I couldn’t fathom even saying ‘hi’ to anyone. Yea, it was that way. Personal life bled into biz life, cuz, you know, life isn’t neat little lines all the time and stuff, and I was just not myself. Everything was irritating me, which led to a rather unproductive day, which led to more annoyance, which led to me screaming the lyrics to the album “Lemonade” to.…you get the picture.

The best thing I could have done that day was take an actual lunch break. Not my usual 20-30 minutes, but a full-on 45 minutes (Whoaaaa!). As I was eating, I rather mindlessly picked up my copy of the most recent New York Magazine. The cover read, “Put down your phone.” I’ve become increasingly interested in the importance of being DIS-connected recently, so I was intrigued and flipped to it.

Mind blown.

The author talks about his own addiction to being constantly connected. “Every hour I spent online was not spent in the physical world. Every minute I was engrossed in a virtual reaction I was not involved in a human encounter. Every second absorbed in some trivia was a second less for any form of reflection, or calm, or spirituality. “Multitasking” was a mirage. This was a zero-sum question. I either lived as a voice online or I lived as a human being in the world that humans had lived in since the beginning of time….after 15 years, I decided to live in reality.”

Sounds about right. He missed the part where we fast-forward 20 years in the future and we’re facing an unprecedented scoliosis, arthritis of the hands and slipped disc epidemic from leaning over our phones. But let’s back up to Last Tuesday. I was waiting for wedding vendors to respond to my messages (some 2+ weeks old and the wedding is closing in! And Event Planner Jill doesn’t love that.), so I was constantly checking my email. There are a couple of days a week where I’m largely working alone, so I was craving text interactions with friends that sometimes lasted…longer than I’d like to admit to you here. And I’m beta-testing the Career Change Kitchen Online Course so I’m especially on edge, as I always am when I put myself out there so fully.

So what did I do? Made up emails to write, freakishly checked Facebook and Instagram, got into text marathons with friends, and the like. And you know what the end result was?

My body felt weird and disconnected from my mind. I felt sluggish and my mind felt heavy, fragmented and frazzled. And ironically, I felt less connected than ever. I felt like the movie “Boiler Room” looked. Oh, and I’m sure my work product that day was crap.

Then I started to think that this has MAJOR ramifications for ya’ll, my party people going through a career change. There’s that statistic out there that upward of 70% of people are not engaged at work. I’d venture to guess that a large percentage of that group is not engaged because they’re not in the right role for their skills, passions and values, but even less of those people even attempt and successfully make a career change.

Why? Well, I’d also venture to guess that this constant connection thing that has pervaded our society, ESPECIALLY in always-on-the-go NYC and other large cities, has fragmented our minds so much that it’s become near impossible to stay focused and keep our eyes on the prize for long enough to see it through! We’re tired and frazzled and at the end of a long day, we have no energy left to pursue something else. But what if this phenomenon many of us experience (including me when I was working two jobs and building my business on the side) has less to do with external factors like time and how much sleep you got the night before (though important) and more to do with just being mentally exhausted?

So if you’re still reading this blog, which is a bit of a departure from my usual tips and tools and how-to posts, I did a massive brainstorm today on giant post-it notes all over the place to come up with a brain dump/laundry list of quick ideas to make this more top of mind for you as you make your career change a reality:

career change

  1. Turn off all notifications from your phone. I no longer get notifications for email, text, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn (or any app) on my phone.
  2. Better yet, go into your settings on your phone and manually turn off your email. This has been a game changer. If someone needs you, they’ll call. (Yes, I keep phone notifications on!)
  3. Leave your phone at home. My phone is almost always at home on date night, and I have started to leave it at home for other personal activities (but not business).
  4. Put your phone in a drawer one day a week. For me that’s either Saturday or Sunday. Some weeks are easier than others, and I currently don’t have a hugely high success rate here J Again, if it rings, I will hear it, but all other notifications have been turned off.
  5. Pay attention to when you go to check your phone, ESPECIALLY when you leave it at home. I left it at home to go to dance class last week, and I noticed that on the way to class (approx. 25 minutes) I reached for my phone 3 times. Of course it wasn’t there, but because it wasn’t there, I was able to actually NOTE that I was doing it, rather than doing it mindlessly.
  6. Stop posting sh*t: This is another area where I could use some help <cough> Instagram <cough>. I love photography and weird stuff so it’s FUN for me to try different angles and lighting, especially with my DSLR, but I also get into what the article mentions re: social validation and seeing who said what about a post.
  7. If you run your own business (or want to, as a career changer!) or you’re a blogger on the side, schedule those posts into buffer or Hootsuite or whatever the Generation Z kids are using these days so you can set it and forget it.
  8. If you are on your laptop a lot during the day- another thing I want to do less of eventually!- notice when you’re opening up your browser to check email or Facebook. For me, it’s when I’m about to do something that’s scary or makes me nervous and I’d rather distract myself.
  9. Work places where there’s no Internet sometimes. DUN DUN DUN. No internet, Jill?! NOOOOO. I know, it seems nuts. I’m currently typing this up at a local café where people come in and sing the Greek National Anthem at the top of their lungs, so internet sounds like it might be a nice alternative to that, but I just don’t ask for the Wi-Fi password. I also left my phone at home, hehe.
  10. This may mean doing the research you need the Internet for ahead of time. Or….not, and filling in the blanks later.
  11. Figure out which set times you want to check email per day. I’m working on getting down to 2 times per day for 20-30 minutes per time, prioritizing client questions and emails
  12. If you work at an office that seems relatively normal and not insane like my brief stint when I returned from Argentina, see how much more you can get done implementing some of this stuff over the next few weeks, and if you’re done at 3pm, see if your company will allow flex time. Or a change in schedule, so that you can do some of your career change stuff during actual work hours. (WHOAAAA). I know not all companies are like this (see: Crazy 2013 Company), but for many, if you’re able to prove that you are responsible and can get your ish done in less time, it’s worth the ask. The key here is to prove it first and ask later. And it takes some nuance- you don’t want to tell your team or your boss that you’re embarking on this little experiment only to have them be all, “Great, here’s a whole other pile of work for ya!” And if your company has 9/80 (work an 80-hour work week in 9 business days, so you have every other Friday off), use a few hours of that day
  13. Go somewhere with no cell service. I know, I’m giving you heart attack inducing ideas here. Make sure there’s a landline and you’re set! The author of the article went to a meditation center for 7 days. Think big even if it’s seemingly impossible (e.g. “Oh I can’t sit in silence for 7 days because who will feed Fluffy?”). Challenge your limits.
  14. CALL PEOPLE, FOR THE LOVE! I’m dedicating myself to limiting text blitzes (minus the “Oh I’ll see you soon- can’t wait!” kind of quick things) so that when I get to actually talk to or see my peeps, it’s a deep meaningful convo and catch up. And I called three friends this week just to say hi. People may be like, “isn’t that intrusive?” A) No, if they can’t talk, they won’t answer. B) IMHO, it’s more intrusive to get a barrage of texts that will.not.quit.
  15. Consider working with a mindfulness or meditation professional while you go through your career change. Or go to a weekly meditation at a Shambhala Center near you. A friend of mine from high school, who’s a meditation, mindfulness and certified Alexander Technique professional, is working with me on a six week ‘course’ he’s putting together during the launch of the Career Change Kitchen and the lead up to the wedding. LIFE.CHANGING.
  16. Think about having a ‘no phone available’ part of each individual day. This is a little different than the full day with your phone in a drawer. For example, my office is about a 12-14 minute walk from my house. I carry a backpack. My phone goes in the backpack. Presto change! It’s so cool what you see when you’re not rapid fire texting your sister, hoping you’re the first to tell her about Brangelina splitting (oh, just me?)

I really think there is no shortage of ideas to add to the list. But since I don’t have the internet ;) this is all from my own brain and not inspired from any other source. It actually feels great, so let’s add that to the list:

  1. Consider writing. It can be about your career change, but it doesn’t have to be. You can also close out each day asking yourself the question, “How am I feeling right now and why?” and writing for 2-5 minutes about that to close out your day.

I’m speaking at the W.E.L.L Summit next month and I have an inkling that this is going to be part of my wellness-during-a- career change talk! Do you have other ideas to add to this thread for my talk? Or have you tried any of them with success? Or maybe they didn’t work for you? Comment below!

Day In the Life Series: Leadership Coach

I am so jazzed to bring you this new series a couple times a month where I’ll lay down what it’s actually like to DO the career in question, through the eyes and voice of someone IN IT. Some of these stories are my clients, who we’ve transitioned to a new career, so in those cases you can also see how the career change transformation happens! We’ll also be talking to people at every stage of their career transition. We often see articles about people who have ‘made it’ but rarely do we see discussions with people who are making progress AND still figuring stuff out.

Enter Amy Hall. We sat down recently at Starbucks in Union Square with Amy, a former senior manager of training and talent development at SoulCycle, and we’re talking about her transformation to a leadership coach in New York City. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

amy hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Tell me where you were at (mentally, etc) when we met.

I would say at that point I had a sense for what I wanted to do. I wanted to work for myself and have that sense of freedom. On the other hand, I had an amazing job and definitely what would be perceived by others as an amazing job. Giving that up and starting a business felt irresponsible and scary and I didn’t have a super solid picture of what that looked like or how to do it. I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed at work and confused. Ultimately I was scared to make the change.

  1. What transformed for you?

Deciding to work with a coach is a huge investment in yourself. I knew I’d be responsible for taking action on my thoughts and I was excited about that. The transformation was in doing all the things I said I wanted to do for years. I actually DID them! Having someone to hold you accountable was huge, but also what was helpful for working with you specifically was that you were doing exactly what I wanted to do. So it was career coaching and business coaching. Figuring out who my ideal client was and getting to the root of what I wanted to do AND WHY. Did I really want to be a coach or was I looking for a way out of my current situation? I was able to cut through all that and really get to the bottom of it.

  1. What are you working on right now? I’m working on a few things! I have private clients that are looking to build confidence and develop their own unique leadership style, and some who are looking for accountability and encouragement through major life changes, and I’m also working with two small business owners who are looking to grow their company from a handful of locations to scale and so I’m helping them set a vision for what they want it to look like in 5-10 years. I am creating organizational structure and hiring plans. I’m working with them on leadership workshops for their senior leadership out in the field. I’m helping millennial managers- first time managers with almost no experience and huge responsibilities! I’m helping them define their leadership voice and helping them clarify their roles as the company is growing.

 

  1. You are in this huge discovery phase of really narrowing in on the type of work you love doing the most. Take me through a day in the life of having a lot of different coaching projects/opportunities that come your way?

I talk about what I’m doing with everyone and through word of mouth I’m getting a lot of different opportunities. Because I’m in a discovery phase, and I came coming out of an intense corporate environment, I feel like I’m re-programming and even getting to know myself a bit more. I’m learning how to create my own schedule, am I am morning person or am I a night owl? And when am I most productive? Which projects are and aren’t right for me? etc.

Mornings are for me. Me time. I’m usually up by 7AM and I read, write, meditate, or exercise until about 8:30AM. Those are the things I’ve decided to do to keep on track with how I’m feeling and stay present to which jobs or opportunities are and aren’t for me.

At 8:30AM I Set up my desk, open my laptop and get to work. Every day is different for me.

I have a blog and a newsletter and I’m passionate about creating digital easy to download content. I dedicate two days per week to my blog and writing because I really want to create content for people that is accessible without working with a coach. Before I decided to work with you, I spent 2-3 years trying to decide if I wanted to work with a coach. In that time, I tried to do a lot of stuff on my own. For example, I read a lot of books- some helpful, some not. I read and tried a lot and did a lot of self -discovery. There are a lot of people in that same space- that space of thinking about working with a coach for a long time. So when I spend these 2 days on my blog, I am working on content for people in that space to help simplify the process for them.

Three days a week I’m meeting with clients and doing a lot of free consults. I meet in person over coffee, via phone, and skype. I am working with a mix of small businesses and I’m starting working with WIN (Women’s Information Network). I’m doing a workshop with them this weekend. I am in the process of getting my name out there, and I’m letting people know what I’m doing so I can get as much experience as possible.

Another great thing I’m loving are my pay-what-you-can sessions. They are advice style 45min calls and I often refer to them as “power hours.” I wanted to provide an affordable introduction to the coaching relationship while also providing as much value as possible in a short period of time. You can read more about the pay-what-you-can sessions and how to sign up here.

There is still a lot I am figuring out but I am SO happy I made the investment in myself and took the leap. Really, a big thing I solidified while working with you is that I want and need freedom and creativity – and how important that is to me. So I’m trying to be thoughtful with how I spend my time and solidify my next steps!

 

Turning Anxiety Into Success- Career Change Edition

Every person I’ve helped with his or her career change is different- different dreams, personalities and skill sets. However, there is one commonality among everyone- there is always some degree of anxiety. The fear and worry of making the wrong choice. The all-or-nothing-oh-my-god-what-if-I’m-ruining-my-life feelings of utter dread. Although the degree of intensity of the feelings differs, some level of anxiety around this move exists for nearly everyone. If you’re reading this and thought you were alone, you’re not.

This anxiety is often what prevents people from taking a leap and seeing what might be possible for them, so the fact that you’re still reading this posts shows you’re intrigued by what might be possible for you.

As I move toward launching the Career Change Kitchen Online Course, I’m really aware of this crippling fear that threatens to keep us firmly planted in our current misery/boredom/combo thereof, so I wanted to spend some time helping you reframe your anxiety so you can actually USE IT to get moving on your career change.

anxiety

How?

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CAREER CHANGE KITCHEN, GET A FREE MINI COURSE AND BE NOTIFIED WHEN WE’RE READY TO GOOOOOO.

  1. The Worst Case Scenario Test. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if you embark on this career change and don’t like it?” Write it out in as descriptive terms as possible. BE SPECIFIC. Then ask yourself a) how likely it is that that will happen and b) if it did happen, what could be some possible solutions? Let me put it in very real terms for you. When I was deciding to leave the events world, I felt crippling dread that I would fail. Even when I launched my business, I was all, “WHAT IF THIS DOESN’T WORK, I AM DOOMED!” Also- secret time: I STILL have moments like that from time to time. But I always tell myself that my worst case scenario is to become an employee again at a company. And when I think about that as my worst case, it’s not really bad at all! The WCS for me is not eviction and hunger and no home. Think about what your WCS. Naming it and facing it before you walk away from pursuing a career change (again) is a huge part of continuing to move forward.
  2. Use Anxiety to Your Advantage. This one’s cool. An article in the Atlantic earlier this year talked about using your anxiety in a positive way. Instead of the idea of “Keep Calm and Carry On” or trying to forcibly calm yourself down when you’re feeling anxious, this idea of “anxiety reappraisal” comes down to telling yourself you feel excited when you feel anxious. The idea here, according to the author and the studies, is that anxiety and excitement are both arousal feelings so it’s easier to move from anxiety to excitement rather than from anxiety to calm. Check out the article for how she recommends you proceed.
  3. Practice. Just because you do either of these things once doesn’t mean the switch is flipped and you never experience anxiety about changing your career again. It’s about keeping that mindset top of mind and being aware when you’re slipping into the dark hole of career change anxiety. In the Career Change Kitchen Online Course, I work with you on mindset stuff and help you move through it. Here’s some more info on the course (and click the button to get notified when we’re ready for launch!)

Just to hammer home the point, if you’re feeling anxious about the idea of changing your career, that’s a GOOD THING. It shows you’re also potentially EXCITED about the opportunity. And I can’t stress this enough- you are not alone in this up and down roller coaster my friend!

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CAREER CHANGE KITCHEN COURSE, GET A FREE MINI COURSE AND BE NOTIFIED WHEN WE’RE READY TO GOOOOOO.

Tough Career ? of the Week: How Can You Get Employers to Think About Your Skills Creatively?

This is a new series I’m starting to answer YOUR burning career needs to help you think creatively about your toughest career challenges. Comment below and I’ll write you a blog post (and let me know your email so I can let you know when your personal answer is up!)

This week’s Tough Career Question is from Emily in New York, NY. Emily writes:

How do you get potential employers to think about your skills creatively as it applies to their needs? I’m trying to potentially transition into a different career and I’ve tweaked my resume and written excellent cover letters (I think at least) to outline my skills and how specifically they would transfer well to the position at hand but it’s still very difficult to get any traction or even an interview. It seems like companies think very literally and uncreatively about a person’s experience. If you don’t have 5 years (or whatever the requirement might be) in a particular industry, they just dismiss you and move on. Is there anything else I can be doing to really drill home the fact that I am worth interviewing? Should I be really up front about my lack of experience in the industry but then drill into all the ways it doesn’t matter?

This is one of those things that really grinds my gears. It’s a common occurrence and happens for a variety of reasons. One reason could be that the more corporate you go, the more rules-based and rigid they become to satisfy various quotas, rules, etc. Or, as I’ve seen first-hand, the hiring team is overworked and understaffed, so weeding out resumes that aren’t an exact fit on paper is a quick time saver. Sad, but true. Lastly, maybe the hiring team isn’t thinking creatively about the role for whatever reason.

I tell you all of these potential reasons, Emily, because this is one of those times where it’s time to get off paper and get in front of them physically. I know that sounds crazy- and I don’t mean to show up at his or her offices demanding to speak to someone, so let me explain.

You’ve done a bang up job on your resume. You’ve tied your experience and skillet in your cover letter to exactly why you’re a fit for these jobs and you’re still getting radio silence and/or a “no”.   How about considering building your network up and networking your way into the company? Who of your first-degree connections on LinkedIn knows someone there? Can you ask for an introduction? Is a representative from the company speaking at an upcoming networking event? Sign up to attend and introduce yourself to the speaker while there and follow up via email. If this company is ‘the one’, talk about it with whomever you’re with- at a friend’s house for a dinner party, at events, at weddings- you name it. I truly believe this is not DOA until you’ve tried to network your way into the company.

CreativelyCase in point: A client of mine worked in marketing for treasury services for JP Morgan. Not exactly the sexiest work in the land. She wanted to work in marketing for a higher end fashion brand. She was told “no” tens of times and got radio silence to her application the other dozens of times. So we got thinking creatively and started her on the networking circuit- setting up coffee chats, asking friends for intros- she spent a lot of her post-work weeknights meeting up with people in fashion. And once she got in with one, she was introduced to others. She was able to tell them exactly what she had been trying to get across in her cover letters and sure enough, she got a job within a couple of months working in fashion!

This approach has another added benefit. Maybe you’re reaching for that one top company (my client’s was Burberry in fashion), but you end up at another equally great company in the same field. She may not be working at Burberry yet, but she’s in the field at another well respected company in fashion. So as you build up your network in your field, maybe you get your next position at a similar organization. Thinking creatively, strikes again!

Remember, there’s so much at play here besides someone reading your cover letter the way you want them to. There’s timing- Burberry didn’t have any openings for my client, for example. There’s the email black hole. There’s those damn keyword portals that suck up your application and run it through an algorithm for Pete’s sake! So why not take yourself offline and network your way into the field? It may not be the EXACT company you want that bites, but it can get you in the door of that new field. You’re doing a great job, Emily- please know this is one of those ‘it’s not you, it’s them’ issues, but there ARE things you can do to get around it!

MISC Tips to think Creatively about your skills:

  • The cover letter call out. I had a client call herself out in her cover letter to Anthropologie. She started the letter with something like, “I know it may seem strange to see a professional with 9 years of accounting experience applying for this merchandising position, so hear me out.” She was called back within minutes and got the position.
  • Drop off the application in person. I know, old school and semi-stalkery right?! Well, it has to be the right context, but if it at all makes sense to walk your application over to a prospective employer, you never know what might happen. Most people don’t do it, so why not do something that makes you stand out?
  • Multimedia: Why not put your cover letter together in a different way? The key here is to do it in a way that shows you CAN do the job. If you were going for a graphic design position, maybe the cover letter is done as some sort of graphic design project, for example.
  • Do part of the job for free. If appropriate, take the part of the job that you don’t technically ‘have’ and show them you can do it. This is related to the multimedia tip above but if you don’t have a creative multimedia way to do this, why not just go out there and ‘do’ that part of the job? Maybe you’re going for a fundraising position but don’t have the formal experience. Is there a place you can volunteer for where you learn the ropes for free and put it on your resume? How can you SHOW you can do it? Fundraise for a cause you believe in for free? Think creatively and see what happens!