I don't care how old we are, going through our first major career change is dramatic. You could be 22, 29, 35 or 40. No matter what the age making a shift in our careers brings anxiety. And a shift can be as straight forward as shifting industries but staying in a similar role. For some that is hugely dramatic.
I vividly remember the early years of my career. Yes, like many young professionals today I went through similar challenges. I too started my career in the middle of a recession. I began my career in human resources. HR has been the constant through-out my career in various forms, but early on, I bounced around to various jobs within HR around the Boston area. Employers were really beginning to change regularly and layoffs were becoming more common. About 3 years out of college I landed a great recruiting job. After about a year of that I transferred to another office, within the same company, but as an assistant to the benefits manager. Well, I just thought that was crazy. Of course I was experienced enough to actually do benefits job, not the assistant. Why was I the assistant? I hope you are getting my humor here.
The thoughts that filled my head were of confidence but very arrogant. Fortunately I had a wonderful VP who was kind enough to set me straight and gave me the option to either stay, and buckle down, or leave without any recourse. She offered to be a reference if I needed one. After a long stressful weekend of debating my options, I decided to leave and head out looking for something else. A year later I was being laid-off from a great HR job. More drama.
My time out of work, fortunately, was not too long. I did struggle to figure out where to go. The one thing I did know is I wanted to stay in human resources in some fashion. So I kept my job search with that target in mind. I picked my top companies for the two locations I wanted to check out, Boston and New York City. I did a couple of trips to NYC in my job hunt. It was fun but I decided to not venture there. I opted to stay in the Boston area.
So I had a target, human resources. I had a location, Boston. I pulled my resume together and my elevator pitch with the help of a career services consultant. This was the first time I had heard of such a thing, an elevator pitch, in regards to a job search. It was the most important skill I learned while working with him.
What else did I learn through my early career transition? First, that I needed to always be connecting with others. I never knew when I would need to move onto another job either because of my arrogance or the economy. (more humor – not so arrogant anymore – I hope). Building your network and nourishing it are keys to success in any era. When I say to build your network I don't mean just online with Facebook either. I mean, use more professional online tools such as LinkedIn and definitely get offline. One point on LinkedIn, it may be boring but you need it, so get over the "boring" and build a branded profile.
On the offline network, get out and meet people. You never know who knows someone else who has a job of your dreams open and waiting for you. Attend networking events. Attend events outside of your normal circle of friends and family. It could be an art exhibit opening or a unique community event. They are fantastic opportunities to interact with new people.
Secondly, I had to learn to be resilient and not take all of this too personally. I learned to manage my attitude. To see the glass half full. To look for opportunities. Opportunities were not going to come out of thin air. I needed to be aware of them and to look for them. Which I did.
I learned to surround myself with positive people, read good books, keep exercising, and find a good healthy hobby. So rather than being out at the pubs many nights a week eating bar food, drinking beer, and spending money I didn't have I took up getting to a gym and hanging with a different crowd. I eventually picked up golf which was wonderful when I worked in sales. I still love the game but hardly get a chance to play. I am hoping to get my boys on the golf course soon so we can play as a family.
With time I was gainfully re-employed at an human resources systems company training clients. I had my own single bedroom apartment. I loved it! It was the best job. I made new friends. I traveled. I built up my professional skills and especially learned to love giving workshops and presentations. I began to learn what my strengths were.
What are you dealing with in your career transition? What are you learning about yourself through it? Are you building your network? Do you know what you are targeting next? Do you need someone to walk alongside and guide you like I did? If so, ask for help. With the right career coach you can get to your next job with confidence and faster.
Remember, "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." Journey on.
Lisa Adams, founder of Fresh Air Careers, is a certified career management coach and job search strategist, specializing in helping young professionals navigate the waters of their first career transition.