I’m currently working with a client who began his career as a Chef. Frank (not his real name) loved working in the kitchen and making his guests happy. About five years ago, he stretched his skill set by becoming an Executive Chef. Rather than running the kitchen, he took on the role of managing business operations. In this role, Frank’s first concerns were budgets and profitability. Rather than cooking, he now coaches chefs and unit managers to make them more conscious of business goals. Frank now makes more money and feels more challenged by his work. He remains dedicated to providing his guests with the best quality of food, but now he does so as an operations leader, not the person behind the stove.
A few years ago, one of my clients was a successful mechanical engineer. Joe (not his real name) was assigned to projects across the U.S. based on his ability to redesign products and systems. Joe’s manager came to him one day and asked if he was interested in becoming a Product Manager. Like Frank, Joe had to learn new skills quickly. He began to meet with customers to learn what they needed in new products. He now had to consider what components and raw materials would cost. Joe began to create budgets and forecasts. He continued to use the technical skills he learned as an engineer, but he added a new understanding of business, including purchasing and marketing.
We often think of career changes as big moves, the police officer who becomes a sales person. In many cases, career change is an evolution. By picking up new duties and being open to new challenges, it is possible to find a new career with less stress. Look for ways to do more at your current job. Volunteer for special projects. A new career could be just around the corner.
I was working with a client today who is applying for residency positions. He will apply to positions in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. He asked me if he should apply to positions that combine both specialties. His concern was that he would have to write a third personal statement. I recommend that he take the time to do so. Anytime we can give ourselves another good option in a job search, it’s worth the time and effort.
Whenever you’re looking for a new job, ask yourself this question: What’s my plan B? Do I have a plan C? Most of my clients who are sales manager could also apply for positions as senior sales representatives. Many HR generalists have experience in one aspect of the field, such as training, that would let them apply for plan B positions. A store manager or assistant managers have knowledge of products and store operations. They could apply for positions as sales representatives who market to retail stores.
How can you improve your marketability? Volunteer at work. Ask to be put on teams and projects that will let you develop new skill sets. If you’re unemployed, seek training or certification in areas that will give you new options. For example, an accountant with a background in tax preparation might look more to auditing or develop skills needed to be a controller. Build on your existing skill set, but do so in a way that will let you apply to different kinds of jobs. Always have a plan B.
I just received a call from a client who has taken an executive position with an international corporation. Her job search took more than a year, which might sound like a long time. However, in this client’s case, it made sense. She was looking for a specific type of position in one industry. Such opportunities do not open often. My client was successful because she was patient and focused in pursuing the kind of work she wanted to do
This story is a model for a good job search. Don’t wait to be laid off to start looking for work. My client was employed throughout her search. Having a job gave her the financial security to be selective about the job she was taking. She could take the time needed to network and wait for the right opportunity. We can all follow this model by being proactive in managing our careers. Know what you want to do as a professional and keep pursuing that goal.