Tough Career Question of the Week: How Do I Know When to Stop?

This week’s TCQW (that’s kind of a crappy acronym) is from H.J. in NYC. She asks, “How do I know when to keep going with my career exploration and when to stop?”

 

It’s a fact: When we have full time jobs and are thinking about changing careers or are in the process of changing careers, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are kids to take care of (and be with) and bills to pay and weddings to plan and disagreements with partners, not to mention your actual DAY JOB– all of this is normal. What’s not normal is how we think we need to continue ‘doing it all’ when we’re JUST.TAPPED.OUT.

 

This is where HJ’s question is coming from. And while Old Jill circa 2011 when I was crazed would say “Keep pushing through!” New Jill says the following- and don’t worry, it’s SUPER simple.

 

I want you to ask yourself two things:

 

  1. How are you feeling right now?
  2. What do you need?

 

If today just isn’t the day for you to revamp your resume, let it go. It will not run away overnight (as much as we wish it would).
IMPORTANT disclaimer: I’m not saying ‘give up’. I’m not saying go back to the status quo. I’m just saying to be light with yourself as you go through this process and give yourself a break. If you need someone to give you permission to do this (as I often do) I, JILL OZOVEK OF SOUND MIND, am giving you permission.

 

It’s only when we begin to make conscious choices about how we’re feeling and moving through this stuff does the real progress and change begin to take root.

 

So follow me and grab a walk or a bubble tea or a weekend or week off from this career change work. And come back and rejoin the cause when you’re recharged. That’s when your best work will happen- I know it.

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!

3 Tips to Stay Focused At Work When Your Mind Is Elsewhere (as in, at another job!)

You want to get the heck outta dodge when it comes to your career, but you’re conflicted- you’re not out to screw anyone over at your current place and you have a high standard of the quality of your work. It’s quite the predicament and one I remember well: How do I maintain my quality of work and stay focused and do right by my co-workers when I am spending every other waking moment figuring out my next career move? 

 

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  1. Develop/grow/explore a mindfulness/meditation practice. I truly believe this helps maintain a focused mind. My mindfulness teacher Dan Cayer of Fluid Movement, suggests10 minutes at the start of the day, and maybe a ritual of clearing your desk space and sitting for 2 minutes with eyes closed in silence to close out the day. I’m by no means an expert and I’m learning too, but I’ve been doing this 7 day challenge on my calm.com app and it’s really helping. There really is something to the whole, ‘don’t always be ‘doing’ something’ thing. It seems not logical to get un-focused to stay focused, but it works. 
  2. The Post It Note effect: A client came to me this week asking for tips to stay focused, which inspired this post. They are in the research/reporting field so I suggested a checklist on a post-it note on their monitor with, ““Did you….” and then a checklist of those few things. For her, for example, maybe it’s ‘check fact’ or ‘check spelling of names” so there’s a checklist HANDY right there before you submit your project/work/research/etc.
  3. Don’t let our NOW culture get the better of you. If you’re feeling RUSHED to submit something, move on, etc, fight the urge. Let it sit there for a bit, maybe go to lunch or get up, and then come back with fresh eyes.

If you suspect or know that your boss knows you’re making mistakes or slipping, I’d also suggest the idea of letting him/her know you know you’re aware and you’re putting xyz (maybe some of the above stuff) in place to rectify it immediately. This also sets the tone that you’re proactive and helps in terms of goodwill when you want to leave. It keeps the bridges in tact!

What other tips do you have to remain focused at work when you’ve got 9 toes out the door? Leave ’em below!

Tip of the Week: Should I Apply To Many Types of Jobs?

Q: Ideally, I’d like to get a copywriter position, but I’ve been telling recruiters that I’m also interested in social media positions as well because my last two full-time positions have been social media ones. What thoughts do you have on how best to position myself and my personal brand?

A: It is truly all about being clear in your personal brand positioning. Having multiple options may seem like a good idea (“I could do social media or marketing or…”) but it really only confuses recruiters and dilutes your value proposition. Also, your LinkedIn is key to telling your story- using that summary space they give you and having a good solid headline with appropriate keywords so that you can be searched for is important. I’m including a link to my online class on this here.  

Ok so how do you tell your story (if you don’t want to watch me on video explain it)?

  1. Know Your Path: This may go without saying, but if you’re changing careers, it is tough to dive into this whole articulating personal brand thing. You may be easily able to say where you’ve been, but you’re unable to connect it to where you’re headed, which is a crucial component to the whole shebang.
  2. Articulate the Needs of your Field/Industry: This isn’t an exercise in writing about or speaking about how great you are (although it can be a good pickmeup!). Instead, take the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) approach. What are the perennial or new needs of the industry you’re trying to break into or move up in? How do you add value in those areas?
  3. Write or Dictate Your Long Form Personal Narrative: Sometimes (usually!) bringing together everything you’ve done in order to pull out the salient points can be difficult. I highly recommend writing out or telling your story to someone. Telling it to someone, like a coach, partner, colleague or friend and having them capture what you’re saying is a super helpful exercise and one I work on with clients all the time. The end result is that they’re able to pull in elements to their story that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. I did this recently with a client working in wealth management as we transitioned her to auditing, and she came up with really important points that tied her whole story together. The end result is that she was able to clearly ‘sell’ her new employer on why someone with no auditing experience was right for the role, and she got it!

Personal brand is something we spend serious time on in the 30 Day Swift Kick in the Pants Career Change online bootcamp starting February 23. You’ll spend a week of this bootcamp honing your personal brand and understanding how to apply it to your LinkedIn, cover letters and resume. End result? You get noticed more for the actual jobs you WANT. Here’s the info and a link to register– early bird discounts still apply for a bit longer!

Totally Doable Job Tip of the Week: Getting Through the 3pm Hour

We all have that time of the day. It may not be 3pm, but it’s sure as heck sometime of the day, and you know it: it’s characterized by lethargy, maybe a headache/head explosion feeling or if it’s hot in my office, a lethal combination of the lethargic sweats. (TMI?) Also, with my pesky lil back issue, I sometimes feel like the C3PO, or another robot of your choice.

In other words, it ain’t pretty. And it ain’t really that healthy either.

So, what are ways you can take control of your least favorite or least productive working hour?

What’s included here is not some magic elixir I whipped up- although, LGS, wouldn’t that be nice?- but instead most likely some reminders for the brain-stretched among us:

Block out your calendar: Seriously, I do not allow calls or meetings at specific times of the day. It’s not selfish- it’s for the common good of those also involved in the meeting. If we wanna make the big moves like Jermaine Dupri in 1998, then it’d be a disservice to my peeps to show up and half-arse something.

Know your body: Is it hungry? Is it tired? Is your mind buzzing a million miles a minute? Get into the practice of checking in with yourself. My Alexander Technique and Mindfulness teacher, among other people, talks about a full body scan. Just now, I was nauseous and realized I had had too much coffee and not enough food, so I ate part of my healthy snacky stash. And that motivated me to write this blog. Since I needed a reminder and maybe some new ideas, I figured others might as well. Real time, Jill, at your service!

Go Away. Hopefully you work for a company that isn’t tracking your every move, or you work for yourself or you work from home or you work for a sane company. My point being, we’re not robots, so our break times and work flow is all different from one another. Go for a walk, get some frozen yogurt, go get some errands done, call your momma…these are all things I did during a brief 15 minute break during my 3pm slowdown time at my contract job I worked at while I was building my business. I came back refreshed and was more alert/able to contribute. Boom.

Boost Ya Brain: Is there a crossword that’s been in your bag for forever? Or a magazine article you almost finished on the train. Take it out and get your brain working in a different way than the ‘work way’. This was huge for me as I transitioned from my contract job working on events during the day to my evenings of building my biz (TOTTTTALLLY different mindset/skillset and my brain often hurt). Or, combine brain boosting with connectivity. Maybe you’re playing Words with Friends with your sister- get a dose of friendly banter and competition along with connectivity and brain fodder.

Take a Nap: Ok this one’s not always possible for many of us. But if you work at one of the increasing numbers of companies that have nap rooms or couches and the culture encourages it, do it. 15 minutes alone can boost how you feel for the rest of the day. I ran a morning workshop recently at 8am-10am, meaning I had to disrupt my normal sleep pattern to get my morning routine in there AND get to the place. So what did I do when I finished? I took a 25 minute nap and then had some of the most productive and sharp 2 hours of work in my life. It’s not lazy, it’s life changing.

What other tactics do you use to get through your toughest hour? What’s worked and what hasn’t? Leave some comments!