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Finding a New Career in the New Year

Finding a New Career in the New Year

New Year’s resolutions often fall by the wayside come January 2nd, but if you’ve decided it’s time for a new career in 2014, we’d encourage you to stick with it a few days (or months or years) longer. If you’ve been feeling stagnated, frustrated, bored, or simply like you’ve risen as far as you want to (or can) go, a new career might be just what you need to regain your passion, creativity and joy — all very good things for your personal life as well.

That said, a successful career shift isn’t done overnight, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve really taken the time and effort to discover what it is you want and need before you make the leap. Doing so does mean more work upfront, but it’s bound to pay off as you find yourself more fulfilled and creatively challenged. Here are a few great ways to get started.

1. Go Through Pros and Cons

Before you make any big changes, it’s important to pinpoint what it is that you don’t like about your current role and what you might want to change. This is crucial, because, presumably, you picked your current career path for a reason, so it’s important to know whether or not your dissatisfaction lies in a deep dislike of what you do on a daily basis or if it has to do with something more circumstantial, like a bad boss, no life-work balance or the instability of the industry. The last thing you want is to make this huge life change, only to realize you’re back to feeling just like you do now.

Start with a basic pros and cons list for your current role. If you’ve got a dream career path in mind, make one for that as well, and even one for your transitional period, so you can really see what’s on the horizon and determine whether or not a change is worth it.

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2. Take a Career Aptitude Test

If you’re like most people, you probably have some sense of what you’re good at and like doing, but your affinities and abilities are either too broad or you simply don’t know to what kind of careers they might be relevant. You may also have hobbies or more “side capabilities” (i.e. organizational skills, decision making, etc.) that could actually take center stage in the right context. If you see yourself in this description, you may want to start with a career aptitude test.

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    Click image to open interactive version (via Rasmussen College).

    This will give you a baseline for your research, so you can see just where your skills might map and what you can expect salary-wise should you head that way — especially important as you get down to the more practical matter of determining how much of an investment you can make in this change in order for it quite literally to pay off.

    3. Connect on Social Media and Start Networking

    LinkedIn is a great place to start your career search for many reasons. First, use the platform simply to see what former classmates and colleagues are doing, as they might be up to something you find inspiring. Then, start connecting or rekindling relationships with both on LinkedIn and beyond with a simple reach out email. If they seem willing, take contacts out to coffee for an informational interview so you can learn all about their field, their job and what they do on a daily basis.

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    As you start to narrow your targets, scour MeetUp, LinkedIn and Facebook groups and professional groups to learn about and attend networking events. Keep your approach casual as you simply learn about what’s out there, find more people to take out to coffee, and always follow-up with a nice thank-you.

    4. Start Taking Courses

    Sometimes, changing your career means heading back to school for a four-year degree, while other times, you’ll just need a certificate course. Even if not required, community college classes can look great on your resume if you haven’t worked in your new chosen field before, and they’ll give you a great introduction to the work so you can determine whether or not it’s something you’d like to do.

    5. Work With Your Role Models

    You’d be surprised how many people in your network will be open to job shadowing. Whether you go for a day or a week, this can be a great way to see what a job looks like in real time. Alternatively, if there is a particular leading figure in your field, you might reach out to them to let them know you love what they do and offer your skills as an assistant at a low rate. While this can easily slip into an exploitative situation, if you’re careful this can be a great way to get your foot in the door with someone powerful in your new industry and to learn firsthand from the person whose career you want to emulate. It’s also still a relatively rare tactic, and if your reach-out email is well crafted, you’d be surprised how many people will take you up on the offer.

    6. Explore and Network With Volunteering

    When we think of volunteering our time with a nonprofit, we naturally focus on the charitable nature of the work. But nonprofits, which are always in need of skilled people, are also a great way to network with other talented people and to give your skills and capabilities a test run in a lower pressure situation. For example, this is something I’ve personally seen a lot of new copywriters do to build up their resumes and demonstrate what they can do in a real setting amongst some of the most motivated and connected people in their communities.

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    Volunteering also brings you into contact with a wide range of people, some of whom might show you an entirely different way of working that you may never have encountered had you simply carried on in your current role. This can be a great way to broaden your horizons about what’s possible for your career.

    7. Be Strategic About Framing Your Story

    Both as you network and definitely as you start to apply to jobs, it’s important that you think carefully about how you frame your past career experiences. While you may feel that you’re still in exploratory mode, the best approach is to tell your story almost like it’s an adventure that’s bringing you to this culminating point. That doesn’t mean lying about your past; it means tying everything together with tight threads, rather than saying something like, “First I tried this but didn’t like it, so now I’m trying this.”

    Not sure what this means? Let’s say you’re currently a lab tech who used to be a waitress and now wants to be a web designer. In cover letters and pitches, you might discuss how you love the detail-oriented nature of your lab work, but you miss the human-to-human interactions you had as a waitress and the time you had then to work on your art, which, naturally, has lead you to an artistic role that has serving clients at its core (web design). See what I mean? Take a look at the character traits that will serve you well in your desired role, see if you can find examples of you using similar traits in the past, and frame them accordingly.

    8. Be Prepared to Make a Few Adjustments

    So you’ve begun to transition into your new ideal career, but it doesn’t feel as fantastic as you thought it would. Hang in there. There are learning curves for everything, and even if you love the work, it’s still incredibly draining and stressful to swap one ingrained pattern for another, even if you hated the original. Hopefully at this point you’ve set a goal in mind, which should help spur you past all of those less than ideal, lower-level hurdles to get you going where you want to go. Remember, even if you began at the greatest heights in your old career, starting anew means really starting from the bottom. But don’t worry; if you’ve taken the time to really figure out what you want and you’re willing to work hard, you’ll most likely get there much faster than if you were right out of college and only half-heartedly pursuing your goal.

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    A Few Job Hunting Resources

    Your local professional or alumni association. Both are great ways to connect with people with whom you have a natural affinity and who might have connections and educational resources to help get you on your way. They also often have job boards.
    Wage websites. Websites like Glassdoor give you a great glimpse into what people earn where and how they feel about their jobs. Career One Stop provides a similar and even more extensive service. Sites like Career Bliss focus more on the overall happiness expressed within a career, with the clear goal of getting you situated in a job that makes you grin.
    Interview help sites. Sites like Big Interview provide an extensive amount of coaching for the big day.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing your career can feel intimidating, but with a little work, it’s well within your grasp. How would you change your career if you had the chance? Let us know in the comments below.

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    Last Updated on July 16, 2019

    7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

    7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

    Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

    In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

    There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

    1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

    The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

    Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

    Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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    2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

    When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

    The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

    It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

    By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

    3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

    At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

    Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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    Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

    You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

    Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

    4. Don’t Take Sides

    In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

    In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

    By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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    5. Don’t Get Personal

    In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

    People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

    To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

    Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

    6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

    The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

    Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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    Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

    7. Think Win-Win

    As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

    In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

    Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

    Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

    People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

    Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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