Category Archives: Job advice

Professional Associations: Helping Professionals Progress Their Careers

Professional associations are some of the most helpful (but often under used) resources for networking.  There are literally thousands of professional associations representing every different type of industry and profession.

A professional association is a group of professionals within a career field who come together for:

  • Individual professional development and advancement
  • Promoting the field as well as educating the public on issues related to the industry
  • Networking and collaborating
  • Sharing new ideas and practices that set standards for the industry and workplace
  • Representing interests of industry before federal, state and local governments

To explore and discover the professional association that would fit your goals, visit the American Society of Association Executives at www.asaecenter.org or you can visit their searchable directory to find associations in Colorado by clicking here.

Following is an interview with Mark Beese, who was recently inducted into the Legal Marketing Association Hall of Fame.  Mark is also a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management.

Mark is President of Leadership for Lawyers, a consultancy dedicated to helping professionals become better leaders and business developers. He is the former Chief Marketing Officer of Holland & Hart, a 450 attorney law firm based in Denver.  Mark also serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law, where he teaches Strategic Marketing and Business Development. Contact him at mark@leadershipforlawyers.com and www.leadershipforlawyers.com.

How can job seekers benefit from engaging with professional associations during their job search?

Hopefully you haven’t waited to get involved with a professional association before you had to start a search.  Even if you did, find the one or two associations that best fit your career interest, attend meetings and work the room.  Look for highly connected people (ask the Chapter President or Program Committee Chair) and ask them for introductions to people who do what you want to do.  When you find them, ask them for help in the form of an informational interview.  You would be surprised how willing people are to help others.  Take them out for coffee, lunch or drink and pick their brain.  Ask:

–    How did you get into the business?
–    What advice would you have for someone trying to break into the profession/industry?
–    What skills, training, experience or background is critical to land a job in this area?
–    What companies in this area hire people like you?
–    Do you know of any companies hiring in this area?
–    Whom else should I talk to in order to learn more about the profession and job opportunities?

Don’t sell, be pushy, self-centered or ungrateful.  Keep in touch with the contact so that when you land your dream job, you can thank her or him for the role they played in your success.

And if you are the someone lucky enough to be asked out for coffee, lunch or drink:

–    Say yes when asked for help.  You likely benefited from a mentor, coach or kind person years ago and you need to pay if forward.  Pay for said cup of coffee, lunch or beer.  Money can be tight for a job hunter.
–    Be open about your story – your successes and failures – and take the opportunity to encourage the job seeker.
–    Search your network for people who might be able to open doors, give advice or offer assistance to the seeker.  Make an email or personal introduction.
–    Don’t feel like you have to hire or refer the seeker to others for employment.  You don’t have to solve their problem, just help them along their path.
–    Keep in touch so that if an opportunity pops up in the future, you can offer additional help.  Keep an eye out for educational and networking opportunities you can pass on to the seeker.

What advice would you give to professionals contemplating becoming involved with a professional association?

Choose the organization wisely.  Go to a few meetings and work the room.  Find a board member and ask for introductions.  Are these “your” people?  Can you learn from them?  Are there ways that you can contribute?  Did you have fun?

You have to give to the organization in order to benefit from the network.  Look for opportunities to contribute your time, expertise and energy.  The program/education/activities committee is a great place to start.  Look for the best way to meet the most people.  Be vulnerable and open to making new friends.  Go the extra mile to have substantive conversations with people and offer to help others and the organization whenever you can.

Be generous.

Consider a multi-year plan to increase your involvement, run for a board position and consider a regional or national committee or board position. At each level you will enrich your network and leadership opportunities, as well as have an opportunity to help others.

Don’t forget to bring your firm or company along for the ride.  Seek their support in your quest for networking and leadership development.  Bring back great ideas and share them with your company.  Bring members of your company’s leadership team along with you to appropriate programs or conferences and use the time with them to build your relationship and discuss each others vision for your company.

What point in your career did you become involved in professional associations and why?

I joined the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) as soon as I started at Kideney Architects as their first Marketing Director.  Frankly, I didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing.  The local chapter gave me an opportunity to meet other marketing folks from architecture, engineering and construction companies.  I was fortunate to meet a number of veteran marketers who took me under their wing and let me drill them with questions.  They informally mentored and coached me over the years.

I attended local meetings and the national conferences. The education programming was very helpful to me as a young marketer. I joined the board in the second year of my career.  Our board meetings were frequently held in restaurants.  We would trade secrets over dinner, then conduct business afterwards.  The most valuable thing for me was learning how other people dealt with common issues.  After being on the board for a few years, I felt a need to give back, so I ran for President of the Upstate New York Chapter, which opened doors for networking and learning on a national level.

That was 1990.  I’ve been involved with either SMPS or the Legal Marketing Association ever since.

How have professional associations helped you in your career?

SMPS and LMA have been my main source of mentors and mentoring for 25 years.  I have been very fortunate to develop friendships with some of the kindest and smartest people in legal marketing and law firm management.  These role models have been generous in their advice, direction, encouragement and referrals.

Some time ago, I was at my wits end working for attorneys.  I was ready to either go back to marketing architecture/engineering or finding a new line of work.  I was fortunate to have a few close friends through the LMA with whom I could share my frustrations. They were generous in their support and advice, leading me to find a new CMO job with Holland & Hart in Denver, a job that I enjoyed for nearly nine years.  I am forever grateful for their help in getting through a difficult time.

In late 2008 when I left Holland & Hart to start my consultancy, it was my LMA network that helped me find some of my first clients and speaking gigs.  I would never have gotten Leadership for Lawyers off the ground without their support, confidence and connections.

Associations also give people an opportunity to build professional skills and credibility. I started speaking at association meetings in 2002.  I wasn’t very good at first, but over time I gained confidence and competence in designing substantive sessions and delivering them in an effective and entertaining manner.  Speaking is now an important part of my marketing mix and has helped me develop credibility as a consultant, trainer and coach.  I am now a professional member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), an association for professional speakers that has opened a whole new world of learning and networking.  BTW, Denver has a great chapter that offers world-class training for professional speakers.

Building a strong network is critical to success.  Not only do you know whom to call for help or advice, but you have an opportunity to help others as well.  In the 16 years I have been involved with the Legal Marketing Association, I have met some of the most creative, energetic, strong, resilient and brilliant professionals on the planet.  I look forward to seeing them at regional and national events to trade stories, learn from each other and hopefully helping each other.  The network has evolved to a very active online discussion forum on Facebook and LinkedIn – a place were we help and supports each other.

I have been consulting as a sole practitioner for five years.  Most of my work and inbound referrals come from contacts gained through the Legal Marketing Association and the Association of Legal Administrators.  I frequently speak and write to these audiences in order to keep my brand fresh and to expand my network among possible referral sources and clients throughout the country.

As a member of a professional association, how have you been involved? (volunteering, board of directors, committee, events, speaking, writing, etc.)

Professional associations are a great way to learn leadership, management and communication skills.  One of my earliest roles was doing PR for a professional association.  I had to learn how to write a press release, fax it to media outlets and follow up by phone.  Those activities introduced me to local and industry media contacts, which helped me with PR duties for my firm.

The same goes for management and leadership.  Getting involved with a professional association allows you opportunities for delegation, mentoring, creating vision, developing strategic plans and networking.

When I arrived in Denver as the new Marketing Director of Holland & Hart, one of the first things I did was to track down Lisa Simon, the local president of the Legal Marketing Association Chapter.  I went to a few meetings and then conspired with Chancey Green to be the program co-chair the following year.  It was great way to meet other marketers from other professional service firms and to benchmark my firm’s efforts with our competitors.  I learned a lot from my fellow marketers and developed strong friendships with many of them.

Over the years I served on the Rocky Mountain Chapter Board, including a stint as President.  This served as an entry to serve on the International Board and on several national committees including the Your Honor Award (National Award) Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and others.

After I stepped down from the National Board, I focused on speaking and writing on the topic of leadership to chapters and associations across North and Central America.

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Don’t Worry: Everyone Goes Through the Job Search Blues

I recently received a few different messages from job seekers who were feeling beat down by the job seeking process.

One told me, “It’s 11:00 a.m. and I’m still in my pajamas.  I’m having a hard time finding any energy to send out another resume.” Another said, “I’m stuck!  I’m usually a positive, energetic person, but today, I’m just depressed.  I just can’t take another rejection!”

I know there are a lot of other job seekers out there who, from time to time, struggle to find the motivation to even get out of bed or have days where worry and anxiety seemingly overwhelms them.  Sometimes it lasts for one day, other times it can last for several days.  While it’s hard not to take your job search incredibly personal, job seekers should know that frustrations and anxiety are common; the goal is develop strategies so that you can continue a sense of constant and positive forward motion in your job search.

There’s a couple of things I would recommend you consider that can help you get out of the job seeking mud.

1.) If you are full of anxiety and becoming depressed about your job search, then take a couple days off.  Don’t jump onto any online job boards, don’t make any phone calls and don’t send out any resumes.  Instead, use this time to just clear your head and re-boot.  Everyone has individual motivation strategies that they’ve had to use in their life to overcome a problem or a challenge.  Maybe its as simple as going on a long hike or maybe its hanging out with friends or family that can give you positive reinforcement.   Start thinking about the things in your life that have helped you get out of a funk and also start thinking about the things that have worked in your job search to date to help re-focus your job seeking plan.

2.) If you are in the thick of your job search and you don’t feel like spending the whole day job seeking, then at least commit to do doing at least ONE thing that will provide continued forward motion in your search for employment.  Maybe its making one phone call, sending out one resume or simply spending an hour on a job board writing down job leads that you can come back to later.

3.) Lastly, its easy to get to a point where we can get overwhelmed with negative thoughts about our job search.  Let’s face it, for anybody, there is an unnatural amount of rejection tied to a job search.  Maybe you are not getting the responses you hoped for or maybe you’ve been to an interview but didn’t get the job offer.  Most of the time, we are never told why were rejected and are left guessing.  In these cases, we can easily overwhelm ourselves with negative assumptions we make about why we failed.  I call this ‘stinking thinking’.  Don’t let stinking thinking overtake the focus of the positive things that make you a valuable candidate; your skills, your education, your experiences, your expertise, your accomplishments, etc., etc.  You always need to remain focused on the value you can bring to a future employer.

I’ve never met a job seeker who was “unemployable”!  We all have things that are valuable to employers.  The most successful job seekers I’ve met have one common thread:  they are confident and focused on their core skills and how those skills translate to the jobs they are applying and they never waver from all the things that make them a valuable addition to an organization.

Are you a job seeker who has struggled from time to time during your search?  What are things you do to get out of the job seeking quicksand?  Email me at ahudson@ahjobslist.com and I’ll share these next week.

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Found a job you want to apply? Here’s what to do next.

So you are looking for a job?   After you’ve found some positions that you’d like to apply for, here are some tips on what to do next:

1.)  Before you apply, determine that you’re qualified for the job.   A good rule of thumb is to apply for a job where you match 75% or higher of the key job qualifications.  Measure your strengths based on what the job requires in terms of background, education, job responsibilities and other key criteria.

2.)  Look for the clues.  Each job posting provides you with clues to what the company believes are key areas they will be ranking candidates to determine if they will be granted an interview.  Usually, there are 4-5 critical phrases in the job posting that will help you to understand what the company is looking for.  Based on these phrases, customize each resume and cover letter to show how your relevant background and skills make you the ideal candidate for the position.  You can never assume that someone will connect the dots – you have to be specific and clear in showing the recruiter who will be reviewing your resume why you are the ideal candidate for the job.

3.)  Research the company.  The more you know about the company – its business, its industry, its competitors, its culture, its leadership, values and mission – the more you can connect your background to prove it is a good fit for them.  This will be helpful throughout the process: from writing your resume all the way to your final job interview.

4.) Apply quickly.  Don’t wait until the deadline to get your resume in.  Recruiters tell us over and over that due to the amount of resumes they receive, often they will stop accepting resumes after they have received ‘enough’; and that means you have to get your resume in quickly to make sure it is seen and considered by the HR recruiter.

5.) Have a friend review the job posting and your resume you are about to send in.  Often a second pair of eyes will catch typos as well as give a constructive review of whether you are representing yourself in the best way possible in relation to the job for which you’re applying.

6.) Follow up.  If you have applied but not heard back after two weeks time, call the company and make sure your resume was received and ask about the hiring process.  Companies are known for not responding, so take action and find out where you stand.

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So you’ve lost your Job. What do you do now?

Losing a job is a traumatic experience under any circumstance.  Losing a job creates immediate fear, anxiety and worry.  Not only because of the loss of a paycheck, but because our identities are so closely tied to what we do for a living; its WHO we are and WHAT we do!

And when a person loses a job, conventional wisdom says to immediately start looking for a new job. The resume gets dusted off, the job board power surfing begins, cover letters are being written and before you know it a full-blown ‘shot-gun’ job search is underway.

Three months later after dozens of resumes have been sent out, hopes have been dashed, confidence is blown, and self esteem is lowered as the job search trudges on, with no interviews or job in sight.

What happened?

Often, professionals who have just lost a job rush into the job search way too quickly without giving themselves some time to take a deep breath, consider their options and better yet, look at the situation as an opportunity to do some soul searching and some self introspection about their careers and their lives.

Yes, I know….there are bills to be paid!  Mortgages, car payments, credit cards…this is not a time to dilly-dally!  You need a job quickly!

But in my research, successful job seekers improve their chances of finding a new job when, even before they begin writing their resume, they invest a short amount of time in asking themselves some important questions:

1.    What do I want to do?  Not what SHOULD I be doing, but what do I WANT to do?  It is the most basic of questions, and if you are honest with yourself, your answer may even surprise you. Have your passions and your values guided your career choices in the past or have you got stuck in a hamster-wheel mentality of working in jobs where others have told you your skills best fit?  By answering this question honestly at the very beginning, you will start to eliminate a ton of frustration and begin a focused job search that is based on the the type of career and life you envision for yourself.

2.    What are the most important criteria for my next job?  Make a list of things ranging from things like salary, daily commute time, amount of travel, benefits, size of the company/team, etc. There are a lot of different things different people place importance on and it’s critical for you to start developing your list of what’s important.

3.    What kind of company or organization do I want to work for?  Is it important for your future employer’s values to match your own?  Are there specific work environments you’ve experienced in the past that have allowed you to thrive?  What does that look like?  Is the company culture reflected in the things that are important to you?  Does the company provide you with opportunities that reflect your skills, your ambitions and opportunities to move ahead?

4.    What is the proudest moment of my career to date?  Was it a project or an assignment?  An accomplishment that resulted in a raise or a promotion?  It’s important to think of these moments because your proudest moments are usually full of examples of your tangible skills, talents and expertise.  Not only are they reminders of the types of situations you LIKE to be in, but they are also good anecdotes to explain how your background is of value to a future employer.

5.    What is my salary threshold?  In other words, let’s cut through the what I’m worth dilemma and answer the question head on: what’s the LEAST amount of money you will accept for a new position?  It’s important to think of it this way.  Let’s say you have a salary range that you believe is reflective of your education, your experience, and, of course, what you have been used to making. That’s good to know, but, what if the job you really want is going to offer you $5,000 less than the range you’ve come up with?  This situation comes up quite often and it is up to YOU to know when it is time to walk.

6.  Am I the right person to write my own resume?  According to a recent survey, 65% of candidates selected for interviews had professionally written resumes over self-written resumes.  Why?  Often, we are our own worst cheerleaders. We have a naturally tendency to want to be modest about our accomplishments, but a professional resume writer will demand that you take ownership for your accomplishments. We often don’t recognize our skills, expertise, accomplishments that are important to highlight or that are valuable to future employers.  Professional resume writers know what recruiters are looking for and how best to present you in a resume format that will get a recruiter’s attention and YOU a job!

BOTTOM LINE – By taking the time at the beginning of your job search to answer some important questions, you will immediately approach your job search with more determination and focus.

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The Rocking Chair Factor

With many of the decisions I make or the directions I take in my life, I weigh it with the perspective of what I call ‘The Rocking Chair Factor’; in other words, when I’m an old man looking back on my life, am I going to be in a rocking chair with a smile on my face reminiscing about the wonderful experiences and adventures I created for myself?  Will I feel satisfied that I lived  a life of integrity and ethics and accomplished what I set out to accomplish and lived the life I dreamed of?  Or am I going to be a bitter and cynical old man, constantly thinking “If only I had….” and wondering how time got away from me.   This kind of decision making process might not be useful to everyone, but for me, it is a constant reminder of what is really important in my life and how incredibly valuable and precious our time is on Earth.

Columnist David Brooks of the New York Times recently asked people over the age of 70 to send him ‘Life Reports’; essays about their lives and what they feel they’ve done well and areas in their lives they regret.  His column provides a fascinating snapshot of some of the common themes from those looking back on their lives.

From both the strategies of the successful as well as from those who harbor regrets in their lives, there is a ton of useful knowledge that we can all learn from and grown from in these essays.  While some of these themes might seem to some simple common sense, I would challenge everyone to ask themselves what area of their lives they can improve or change.

Read the column by clicking here

What do you think?  Are you living the life you want?  What will you be thinking when you  are in your Rocking Chair?

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Keys to Reinvention: Reinvent Your Career – Transform Your Life

On November 9, AH Jobs List will be holding its quarterly seminar entitled “The Reinvent Event.”  This seminar will feature discussions on a variety of career reinvention strategies.  This event typically sells out, so make sure you register soon.   Click here to find out more information and to register.

I’m an example of a ‘reinvention’!   I spent the majority of my 20-year career in the marketing and communications profession.  But 12 years ago, I began a weekly email that provided job listings in Denver to a couple hundred public relations professionals.  A simple e-mail blast, this free service helped top PR professionals connect with some of the best jobs in the Denver metro area.  The list grew into Andrew Hudson’s Jobs List, an automated website with several categories of jobs in Colorado and today, more than 25,000 subscribers have signed on to receive the weekly updates.

About two years ago, I began the process of figuring out how to turn my ‘hobby’ (which had turned into a passion) into a full-time career.  I imagined life running my own business and helping others by dedicating all of my time to Andrew Hudson’s Jobs List.  I knew the job site was working; I’d heard from hundreds of employers and employees that it was one of the most effective job boards in Denver.  I also knew that if I could commit my life to building on this idea of a localized job board, that I could make it even MORE effective.

But turning my ‘hobby’ into a full-time business?  It was completely intimidating!

I had no experience in entrepreneurship!  How do I write a business plan?  What about licenses, IRS rules, business accounting, lines of credit, investors, how would I insure myself?  There were many times when my dream just seemed like – a dream!  Was I really handcuffed to the comforts and benefits of a full-time job?  What if it didn’t work out?  What if I couldn’t make it work?  Was I willing to put my reputation on the line?  I talked to a lot of people who encouraged me but I also spoke with others who warned me about of the risks of starting a business in a recession.

The thing that kept me pushing forward was imagining the life that I REALLY WANTED!  I imagined what it would be like and how much freedom I could have if I was doing what I REALLY wanted to do.

There were several keys that helped me overcome the common fears and anxieties of ‘reinvention,’ which I believe are critical to anyone wanting to do something different in their lives.

Whether you want to start a business, transfer your skills into a new line of work, or learn a new set of skills to follow a new career path, here are some strategies I found helpful:

1.) Imagine and make a commitment to living the life you want to live.  Attitude is everything.  Friends tell me all the time, “Andrew, if you want to do something, you simply figure a way to get it done.”  They are right.  I’ve been inspired by this attitude in others throughout my life and luckily, it’s rubbed off.

If you have an idea of what it is you want to do, you need to first, make a commitment to yourself.  Start with the basic question, “What does that life look like?”  Does it fulfill a desire and a passion?  Is it something that you envision making you happy?  Is it a passion you can imagine doing as your life’s work?  Now is also the point where you change your attitude from “I’ve always wanted to…” and start thinking “I am committed to….”  You will see that this one shift in attitude is the first and most critical step of your reinvention journey.

2.) Make a plan.  Sit down with a pad and pen and start answering some critical questions.  What do you need to do to reinvent yourself?  What are the strategies and tactics you need to follow to make that life happen? Does your reinvention include additional education?  What financial investments will it require? Do you have to make modifications to your current life in order to make this happen and what do those modifications look like?   Realize that your reinvention journey is most likely not going to happen overnight, but is a process that will take time, effort and energy.  In order for your reinvention to not overwhelm you, try to address each issue in manageable bites. Then, draft a simple timeline that spells out achievable short and long-term goals.

3.) Research.  Determine what is required to pursue your dream.  For example, if you are a Human Resources trainer but you want a career working in marketing, what additional skills will you need?  Inventory your current skills and talents to determine which skills transfer into the career to which you want to transition.  What are the types of jobs that are available?  There is a remarkable amount of information on the Internet and from professional associations that describe career path scenarios for many career sectors.  If you are starting a business, there are accessible resources available from organizations such as the Small Business Administration, local Chambers of Commerce, the Secretary of State’s office, local government economic development agencies and workforce development offices. These include resources on how to write a business plan, low-interest loans, free workshops on career transitions and many other areas that will help you.

4.) Learn from others.  When I made a transition into entrepreneurship, I leaned on a lot of friends who had successfully started their own businesses.  They mentored me and gave me guidance about common issues and pitfalls I needed to avoid.  In the same vein, if you are looking to make a transition to a new career, talk to friends and colleagues that are currently in careers where you want to move.  Or if you know someone who has reinvented themselves, talk to them about their journey.  When you ask for advice, REALLY LISTEN.  While you may be reinventing yourself, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – or in other words, learn how to avoid making common mistakes.

5.) Educate yourself.  We all have the potential to be lifelong students.  If you believe additional education is necessary in order to pursue your dream, then go back to school!  Scholarships and financial aid are available to students of ALL ages.  There are also a variety of non-traditional ways to further your education.  Some universities have programs that allow you to earn an MBA in only one year’s time!  There are many technical colleges as well as traditional universities that cater to professionals’ unique schedules and timelines.  In my case, I researched business plans online and bought reference books.  I attended seminars and listened to new business lectures on YouTube and took online tutorials to learn new software.  I learned the basics of small business accounting.  I also enhanced my marketing and public relations skills and learned savvy sales and pricing techniques.

Bottom line:
Making the commitment to reinventing yourself is a major lifestyle change; it requires a huge dose of confidence and belief in your goal, it involves taking yourself out of your comfort level, it means you must be willing to take some risks and ultimately, it requires patience.  Most reinventions don’t happen overnight.

But choosing and committing to live the life you want can also be one of life’s most richest journeys.

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The Process of Career Reinvention

Stuck?  Unemployed?  Ready to follow your passion?
Learn the process to transform your career: an interview with Linda Sollars

Linda Sollars, is President of Creating Purpose (www.creatingpurpose.com) and is one of Denver’s most well know job-seeking consultants. She will be leading the career reinvention seminar at next week’s AH Jobs List Reinvent Event which will be held on Wed., November 9 at the Denver Athletic Club in downtown Denver.   Two of Linda’s clients who have successfully reinvented themselves will sit on a panel to discuss their career reinvention process.

Linda provides her inspiring, heartfelt and common-sense approach to job development and has transformed jobs seekers in defining their personal brand and aligning their strengths with a solid foundation of purpose, quality and success. She provides individual sessions and workshops designed to recognize core visions and values and to develop solid networking and job search strategies.

She spent 20 years in senior level marketing positions before transitioning into career coaching and consulting several years ago after discovering her purpose in empowering others. She has been a featured panelist on CBS, Channel 4, Beating the Recession, featured expert on ABC, Channel 9, Get Me A Job! and the national forum, Careerwell. She is also the keynote speaker at many conferences and events regionally and nationally.

Linda holds a master’s degree in Adult Development, with an emphasis in Leadership and Coaching, as well as an advanced certification from University of Denver in Training and Development.  She is also an Affiliate Professor at Regis University and is on the UCOL Alumni Board of the University of Denver.

Recently, I sat down with Linda to discuss the process she takes job seekers through and some of the common challenges as well as successful habits of professionals who have reinvented their careers.

Linda can you talk a bit about the career reinvention process you take job seekers through?

Most of my clients, when they first come to see me, are either stuck in a job they don’t like and want to get out of, are recently unemployed, or want to follow a passion and don’t know how. Most of the people who reach this stage simply don’t know what to do; they are stuck.

The first thing we work on is determining who they are before they decide what it us they want to be.

To do that, I take them through a very specific three step process.

First, we work on recognizing and owning their unique strengths and values.  How would they describe themselves?  What would their co-workers say about them?  What do they care about at their core?  I ask my clients to talk about the strengths that characterize who they are and also ask them to give specific examples of how they have used these strengths in the past.  We go through assessments and exercises I’ve designed in order to come up with a personal statement of strengths that teaches people how to talk about themselves in terms of WHO they are as opposed to their skill sets.

Second, we work on motivational style.  What gets them up in the morning?  What is it that sends them out there every day with aspirations to accomplish something and be successful?  How they motivate themselves is critical in determining the type of position that is successful and satisfying.

Third, we work on a process I call career design – a very specific, personal and powerful format that answers questions about what they want their ideal work situation to be.

We look at where you want to work, how far do you want to go, how much travel do you prefer, how much money do you want to make, what kinds of benefits do you expect, what kind of vacation schedule do you prefer, how many people do you want to work with, do you want to work from home?

Reinventing or transforming your career seems overwhelming.  How do you manage someone’s anxiety about reinvention?

So many of the people who begin this process with me have a feeling that the world is controlling them and when we break it down into these three manageable areas, it switches their view so they feel as if they can manage and are in control of their situation and their aspirations.

Going through this three-step process, which is a very personal, specific and a very thoughtful introspection, also provides the basis for developing a resume and their LinkedIn profile in a way that that communicates their strengths, their motivations, their skills and the type of work that will match their values and the values and culture of an organization.

We then take a look at different companies and organizations that fit their career design.  They have already decided whether their strengths and skill sets are going to work for a large or mid-size company, a start-up or perhaps they want to follow a career path in the nonprofit world.

At this point, they have a clear vision and mission that is now aligned with their strengths, their motivation and their career design, communicated on their resumes, their cover letter, their networking pieces, and it is much easier for them to discuss their goals and expectations with prospective employers, either in informational interviews or at actual job interviews.

As a matter of fact, I’ve had several clients who were offered positions during informational interviews because they were so clear about expressing who they were, what their motivation style was, what their skill set was and what it is that they were really passionate about.

When people want to transform a part of their lives – whether it be their health, their finances, or in this case, their career – there are certain habits, beliefs and regular routines they need to begin to follow.  What are the habits of those who successfully transform and reinvent their careers?

The first thing is passion.  You have to have a passionate belief that you WANT to change.

If people come to me and say, “Anything is better than what I’m doing now,” I’m very clear that this is not enough, because they will immediately fall into the next thing that comes up.

Second, they need to own their passion as a unique, personal specific goal.

Finally, they connect their passion, strengths, skills, and motivation with specific careers.

Some of the things that people develop, in terms of habits and patterns, are the specific outcomes they design; they work on a specific item each week that leads to an outcome so that there is a very real sense of progress.

I also tell people – because it can be overwhelming – that this is a process and there needs to be a focus on each step. Trying to progress too quickly will not lead them to where they want to be; there needs to be a real sense of focus, along with quality time and effort put into each step.

Ultimately, they replace bad habits or patterns with good ones.  Over time, they begin to realize not only what was causing them to freeze when asked the question, “Tell me about yourself,” but they are comfortable, confident and passionate in expressing their skill sets, what makes them unique, what motivates them and what specific strengths they bring to the table.

The last thing I work with people on is job descriptions.  Does the job description match my career design, my motivation style, my strengths and my career design?  If not, we move on to the next job description and that’s okay.  This reinvention is about matching their goals to positions that meet their expectations and no longer trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. When we find a job description that does match, I teach them how to break it down, line by line – so that they can respond to almost all of the things in the description that they have either done or have a passion for.

What’s one of the biggest challenges for job seekers?

The biggest challenge is working with individuals to understand their strengths and their motivation and then have to express these to someone else.   It’s about developing that clarity – the confidence – about who they are.

This is difficult for a lot of reasons.

Many people feel they have lost their edge.  They’ve been beaten down at their current job.  They’ve faced overwhelming rejection looking for a job.  Regaining confidence and self-esteem is a process.  For most people, talking confidently about themselves seems unnatural – we’re told from an early age not to brag.

As I tell people: strengths are like the color of your eyes.  When I say “I have brown eyes,” no one is going to argue with me that I have brown eyes.  When I say that “I’m creative,” I’m creative!  That’s part of the strengths I have had since a very young child.  I know how to do creative things well and that’s a strength I bring to the table.  It’s not bragging – it’s the confidence of knowing this is who I am!  You may have known it your whole life but not acknowledged it, but it is still who you are!  Once you understand this, and own it, the confidence flows.

Too often, we run into this “imposter syndrome” – this voice that is sitting on our shoulders telling us “What are you thinking?  You really don’t know what you are doing.” Or we convince ourselves that someone is going to come in and say “We really don’t want you here anymore.”   It forces us to constantly feel as if we are being judged by others expectations.

Once you know that your strengths are owned by you and they are not measured by anyone else – just like you eye color – then you get to a point where you don’t compete against this voice and it is actually replaced with that red-hot confidence and courage to make a change.

For many job seekers, starting in their mid-30s, they begin to reflect on their current job or career path and pangs of regret seep in.  There’s a sense that they are stuck in a job or a career path that doesn’t reflect who they really are or what it is they really want to be doing.  Do you see that?

I work with a lot of people who struggle with this; they absolutely don’t want to be doing what they are doing. They’ve spent so much time and money on their educations, they’ve been working successfully for a number of years and progressing their careers, are making good money and in everyone else’s eyes, they’ve reached their pinnacle.  But, they absolutely hate their jobs to the point, sometimes, that it is mentally paralyzing to go into work.

Often this is the result of not having acknowledged their passion.

They might have recognized their passion in college, but they focused on careers that their parents thought they ought to be doing, or a career they thought was going to make them money, help them become financially stable, pay off their student loans, raise a family and buy a new house, a car and take a vacation every once in a while.

It’s clear that their passion doesn’t lie with what they are doing and when I talk with them about their passion, they have very different ideas about what kind of work they’d prefer to be doing.  But it is also a very scary situation for them because change is always challenging.

How do you resolve this fear?  

It’s probably the number one thing I hear from folks who are frustrated with their current jobs.  Through the career design process, we try to answer all of the questions that help people to resolve these fears.

How much money do you need to make?  What expenses do you have?  What’s the work-life balance you are seeking?  What can happen if you are out of a job for 4 months?  We ask all of those questions in the very beginning to assist the reality of their personal reinvention.  Many people simply say they can’t give up their jobs, no matter how much they hate going to work each day.

I tell them their career does not have to be an “either/or” scenario.  This can be about “and/both” so they can stay in the position they are in and start looking at the options out there following their passion.  Is it going to take some time?  Yes.  Will it take 15 years?  No.  It’s going to a few months of working on the process during the time they have available – in the evenings and on weekends for example.  I would never tell someone to quit their job tomorrow to pursue their passion unless they could afford to do so and have given serious thought to how they can realistically make this work for them.

Read more about Linda Sollars at www.creatingpurpose.com

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