Patience Pays off in Career Change

Patience is a virtue.  This might be especially true for career change.  And even more true the older you get.
A client contacted me almost 2 years ago at age 50+.  She’d been in the same office job for 25 years and needed to make a change due to burnout and depression from staying in a stagnant position for so long. Her self-confidence was shot!
I started by assessing her needs, priorities, and preferences.  She was not willing at her age to go back to school for further education, so it was a question of identifying and defining her strengths, skills, and interests to match attainable jobs. 
A long and winding road
Although she had a passion for working with pets, her lack of credentials in that field would consign her to low skill, low pay jobs.  She seriously considered that option to preserve her health and sanity and even applied at a few places.  In the end, she wasn’t willing to take such a significant pay cut.
So, we identified jobs in both the public and private sector that would recognize and reward her for the administrative skills used in her office job.  I modified her resume accordingly.  I taught her how to complete online government applications.  After several false starts, she got the hang of it.  After 6 months or so, she started getting call-backs for interviews related to HR Assistant, Collections Officer, Client Support, Client Services, Payroll Officer, and similar jobs.
Interview anxiety
Learning to interview was another hurdle to cross.  She had not been to a job interview in 25 years! Just the thought of one filled her with worry and anxiety and, for various reasons, she cancelled the first few interviews.
Over the next year, she kept getting invitations because her skill set had real value in the job market.  I pointed this out to her repeatedly while continuing to coach and guide her through the interview process, especially with respect to answering situational questions and telling  compelling stories that gave a picture of her in action solving problems relevant to an employer’s job description.
Slowly but surely her confidence increased.  She made it through a few interviews without her nerves getting the best of her.  This past summer, she was invited to a hiring process as a Screening Officer with a government agency, which involved many challenging steps that I successfully guided her through. She also had to provide references from her employer, a prospect that triggered another round of concern, but we navigated through that obstacle.
Happy ending
Six months after the interview, she was offered the job.  When she gave notice, her employer went to great lengths to retain her.  But she stuck to her guns and started her new career in January this year: “I can’t tell you how happy I am to try something new. Your assistance has been invaluable! I couldn’t have done it without your help!!!!”
She started this career change journey with little hope but felt she had nothing to lose because her job was literally “killing” her body, mind, and spirit.  She was overwhelmed by the prospect of such a significant change.
But she did it!  What courage to start, what patience to persevere, what resilience to overcome each obstacle!

JobJoy Smile – Patience Puns

My wife said she’s lost her patience with me.

I told her I’d help her find it.

People who buy turf for their yards don’t have the patience to grow their own

They want instant grassification.

After months of patience and persistence I finally have a nice body.

It fits perfectly in my trunk.

Why do you need patience at the gym?

Because there is a lot of weighting.

Going to a seminar on patience

Can’t wait!

I had my patience tested today

It came back negative

The Trouble with Career Transitions

In the past year, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of mature workers being terminated by major employers, usually senior managers in their mid-40s to 50s.

Most are unable to get re-employed quickly at a similar level with another company in a similar sector.  Instead, they are forced to consider some kind of career change.  It’s a lot of trouble to go through.

But there is no going back to the way things were for these mature workers.  All workers will simply have to get better at making career transitions as the pace of technological change accelerates over the next decade. 

Actions to take

What actions, if any, help individuals make a career change?  First and foremost is answering the questions: where and what?  What other work are you suited for?  Which organizations will recognize, reward, and motivate you?   And what should you do there in terms of specific jobs or duties or responsibilities?

In other words, what is your job target?  It’s pretty hard to hit a target unless you can see it.  And this is where most people get bogged down because their career identity is so wrapped up in their most recent job or the path that they’ve followed with a specific company for 15 or more years.  If they can’t find similar work elsewhere, they simply don’t know what to do.

However, most people do not answer these basic questions of where and what before starting a career change.  Instead, studies show that they jump into networking, acquiring new knowledge and skills, trying things out, researching options, and self-reflection.

The trouble is…

Some of these activities are good, even necessary, but they often lead to a lot of wasted time and energy.  Networking is not very productive if you can’t tell others what you are looking for.  Acquiring new knowledge and skills is not very useful if they don’t align with your strengths and motivations to leverage them into a rewarding career.  Trying things out might be fun but are they part of a strategy or tactic that leads to new employment?  Researching options might be interesting but there are over 90,000 job titles operating in North America today, so which 1, 10, or 20 match your strengths and ambitions?  And self-reflection can be self-defeating until it is tied to a purpose and a plan.

Less trouble

I’ve been helping individuals make career changes for over 30 years.  My speciality is answering the questions Where and What for my clients.  In my experience, it’s a lot less trouble if you start at the beginning with a target—one that expands opportunities and motivates you to take action. 

Build career confidence in 2 easy steps

Just this past week, a client in Vancouver, who was laid off after 16 years with the same company, said to me, “I’ll be honest with you, I’ve lost my confidence, and don’t know if anyone will ever hire me again.”

I work with many individuals who are laid off or leave a job after 10-20 years with the same company.  In many cases, they don’t know what to do or whether someone else will hire them—because they’re consumed with self-doubt.

There are many signs of self-doubt and they can differ from person to person but I’ve noticed that there is a hesitancy to take credit in many cases.

They have difficulty to acknowledge on-the-job personal achievements.  Instead, they attribute their career achievements to the company, or their boss, or their colleagues, or other external factors. 

Focus on details

With this client in Vancouver, I asked her, what is the most recent project or assignment that you worked on?  What is the biggest project you’ve completed?  What accomplishment are you most proud of?  As I listened to her stories, I focused on her personal contribution, effort, or skill.

I then drilled deeper into her accomplishments.  Tell me what you did specifically as an individual or as part of a team in that project?  How did you do it?  What was the outcome for your employer, i.e. how did you help them make money, save money, improve productivity, attain efficiencies, meet difficult deadlines, work with new products or technologies?

Write it down!

She hadn’t thought about these things at all, so I wrote down my questions and emailed them to her.  Slowly but surely over the next several weeks, she responded with answers.  A direct line of questioning about specific accomplishments reveals a much fuller, richer, detailed story.

She told me it was one of the most helpful exercises that she’d ever done.  By separating the emotions affiliated with losing her job and focusing on facts and details related to achievements, she could view her employment history objectively, clearly, accurately.  And, by doing so, her confidence was bolstered.

This is a very common realization for many of my clients: before they can communicate their value to a new employer, they must be able to see if for themselves. 

Next steps

Then it becomes a matter of me packaging and positioning their experience with a compelling story that gets the attention of potential employers.

There are many vehicles for telling that story, including a resume, LI profile, an interview presentation, and more. 

But, whatever the vehicle, my clients learn to drive their message home with confidence. 

Square peg in round hole

You’ve heard the expression “fitting a square peg into a round hole does not work”.

And yet, this is precisely the situation that many individuals feel about their jobs– their natural strengths do not match the skills needed for core job duties. Many of my clients “grind it out” day after day in order to pay their bills and bank pensionable time, even though it hurts and causes much career pain.  

For example, I’ve worked with some clients over the past 30 years who get hired into an entry level position then show a special ability to step into an unstructured situation to solve problems with people, planning, or productivity.  They have a natural talent for sorting through many complex details to develop a step-by-step solution exactly suited to the people and the situation.   

The outcome of their solution is often the establishment of very efficient and effective structures, systems or processes that improve productivity.  Their accomplishment makes a big splash in the organization and they often get promoted to maintain the new structure or system that they developed. But this new role bores them to tears because maintaining a structured situation requires a different set of skills and motivations than problem-solving in unstructured situation.

In short, they are often the victims of their own success.  The new structure does not produce the same kind of problems as the previous unstructured situation and their natural talents don’t get triggered again.

They might go around looking for new problems to solve–they are simply doing what comes naturally to them–but end up stepping on other people’s toes, crossing boundaries, or unwittingly causing friction with co-workers.

They feel like a square peg in a round hole.  They sometimes blame their employer or themselves for not being able to advance in their career…and they continue to feel that way until they understand their natural strengths and their unique motivational pattern.

My job is to identify and define those key success factors and match them up with the kinds of jobs that need their strengths and the organizations that will reward them for it. 

For example, some of my clients with the talents and motivations described above have gone on to new roles, such as Workflow Analysts, Strategic Consultants, Business Operations Analysts, Project Managers, Change Managers, or similar in large dysfunctional organizations or medium sized ones experiencing rapid growth and all the problems that go with it. 

JobJoy Smile – Work puns

– Employer: We need someone responsible for the job.
Job Applicant: Sir your search ends here! In my previous job whenever something went wrong, everybody said I was responsible.

– A human resource person was quizzing a new employee on the company’s safety manual. “And what steps do you take in case of a fire?” she asked. The new employee replied, “Quick ones.”

– Boss: How is it that you are always sick on weekdays?  Employee: It’s my weekend immune system.

Pivoting successfully in your career journey: here’s an example

I love to get updates from my clients.  A person’s career is literally a story.  It’s about their progress through their working life.

As a career professional, I am part of that story, usually for a short period of time, but I truly value that experience. Sometimes, the update is good, sometimes not so good, depending on what is happening in their journey.

Although we tend to think of career as a steady line that swings upward through progressive phases of advancement, it is often a squiggly line that dips and turns and twists, like much of life. 

Here’s a good update that illustrates what I’m talking about.  I worked with a young adult 15 years ago when he was trying to make his first big career decision.  You can read that part of his story here.

In short, we identified his natural talents and knack for working in a physical world–one that is organized around physical infrastructure that needs to be designed, built, maintained, repaired, restored, and often replaced. 

My assessment was followed by my suggestion that he enter an applied science program and he settled on a 3-year civil construction technology program at a local college.

After graduating, he started his own construction company, as well as a family!  He grew confident with his abilities in a very competitive industry.

Construction is also a volatile industry with its own cycle of ups and downs.  But Gui learned to pivot.  When business would fall off, he would find a job in his field.

He wrote me recently to say: “After 6 years of working for companies–including 3 years as project manager at an Ottawa general contractor;  same thing on the Quebec side for 2.5 years; and, 3 months for a steel fab company as an estimator/installer–I have decided to return to my business and it is booming.”

Business changes, life changes, but building a career around our natural strengths, our deepest values, and our highest motivations can give us the confidence and tools to pivot successfully.  That is job joy!

Are you good at what you love?

Much career advice falls along the lines of “follow your passion.” Like much general advice, the reality is always more complex and nuanced.
Many people have a love for animals, or a sport, or music…but not necessarily a talent that is required to make a living at it. 

For example, I’ve worked with dozens of individuals who have a passion for animals but hate the idea of veterinary work because they don’t want to deal with sick animals or euthanize them.  And, since being a vet or a veterinary technician are the only jobs that they believe to match with a passion for animals, they do not pursue a career in that field.
Same goes with athletes who aspire to a professional sports career; they might have a passion for the sport but simply don’t have the talent or opportunity to achieve a level where they can earn a living at it.  Same goes for people who love music.  So, most people give up on finding a job related to their passion.
Of course there are dozens of jobs involving animals that do not require vet skills, or sports jobs that do not require athletic skills, or music jobs that do not require singing or instrument playing skills.  In fact, that is the case for most jobs in those fields.  The core talent that we usually correlate with any high-profile job is not the only talents needed in a particular field.
For example, any professional sports franchise features players on the field, ice, or court but there are dozens of jobs behind the scenes making it possible for those athletes to perform, including individuals working on the manufacturing, distribution, and operations sides of the business, such as scouts, trainers, therapists, agents, physiologists, psychologists, rehab specialists, fitness consultants, facility managers, marketing and promotions specialists, sales professionals, accountants, lawyers, and many more. Sports is just another business selling a product. 

There is more than one way to follow your passion

Many individuals with a love for sports may not have the talent to play professionally but they may have a talent and set of skills very well suited to one of the many other jobs involved in sports.  If that talent can be identified then nurtured through education, training, or other experiences, they could find themselves working in the field they love.

Find out what your natural talents are, what you’re good at.  Yes, learning other skills is necessary and takes time and work…but a career is a lot easier and enjoyable to develop when it is organized around your natural talents.
Apply your talents to what you love.

BAM! another cataclysmic change

Have you tried a free demo of Chat GPT?

Go ahead, ask it to do something for you, anything, even something as random as ‘Write a poem for a 25-year-old daughter who is a teacher doing a Master’s and going to PEI for a vacation this week.’  BAM! literally 2 seconds later I got a coherent rhyming poem of six stanzas with four sentences each!

Try typing in one of your core job duties (e.g. if you’re a teacher, ask it to create a lesson plan for a course you teach) …and you’ll see why many people are seeing this technology as a replacement for many jobs or parts of many jobs. 

Most of us got up this morning, went to work, get our paycheque every two weeks, and live our lives in a predictable and lockstep manner through school, work, marriage, family, retirement.  

Then BAM! something comes along—e.g. the financial sub-prime crisis of 2008, the pandemic of 2020—some event or technology, that percolates below the surface of everyday life only to erupt into cataclysmic change sending millions of people out of work.

Change is inevitable

What is abundantly clear, I think, is our inability to control and predict the future in an accurate and reliable manner. No change in your job is not an option. Your work circumstances will change! And you must change with them.

This means we, as individuals and as a community, need to learn about the nature of change. JobJoy is in the change business. Let us help you prepare for what is inevitable—career change—maybe not now, not this year…but it will happen. Career change is now a critical component of lifelong learning.

It is important to understand your past and how it has shaped your present in order to better prepare for your unpredictable future. As you know, I am a personal story analyst, one that puts much emphasis on identifying and defining your motivational pattern. When you understand your key success factors and how you work best, it is easier for you to adapt to the inevitability of change in your working circumstances.

You will lose your job, or have to change jobs, or move to another employer, or learn to work with different kinds of people, or replace a full-time income with a portfolio career.

Understanding who and what you are in terms of your right work will help you adapt to new conditions, to new technologies, to new workplace requirements. Being agile and productive is the key to career success!

Career Change – the practical side

When choosing or changing a career, it is best to align your core job duties with your natural strengths… so that what you do day in and day out energizes rather than drains you.

This is the core principle of my career practice because it leads to many career benefits—a topic I have explored and explained on many occasions in this blog.

Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge other factors.  When advising clients, we often weigh their priorities and preferences.

Sometimes, we even use a chart that gives a number score to each factor, which helps them with their decision.

Money – what you need in the short term, what you want in the long term
Health & Dental benefits – especially important as we get older (or sicker)
Pension – a forced savings plan that is provides some security in an uncertain future
Vacation – what you need in the short term, what you want in the long term
Other benefits – e.g. stock options, tuition reimbursement, car allowance
Work/life balance – when hybrid work and flexibility for childcare is a high priority
Company culture – good relationship with your boss and colleagues
Stability – depends on your responsibilities and obligations, even your personality
Career advancement – opportunity to grow professionally
Timing – some factors we can’t control and we must react to circumstances

Simply listing each of these factors in terms of priority (e.g. 1=high, 2=moderate, 3=low) can help you separate reason from feelings when considering a career choice or change.

If you need help with your career decision-making, contact me to discuss.

Shame and Job Change

Shame.  That’s what a recent client told me he felt about his current situation.  His employer was not satisfied with his performance on the job.  They gave him an ultimatum: submit to a performance appraisal with strict KPIs or face termination.

My client had been hired by this company for a corporate finance role but after undergoing some restructuring a few years ago, they changed the terms and conditions of his employment by assigning him as Senior Product Manager, even though he had no experience for such a role.

His employer provided no training, so my client did the best he could to bring himself up to speed by learning relevant skills and knowledge on his own.  But, according to his employer, that was not good enough.

My client wants to go back to his previous work in corporate finance but do so with another company.   He feels shame that he couldn’t master the Senior Product Manager role.   His confidence has been undermined by this negative experience.  He asked me to help him navigate this difficult situation and find suitable employment.

Legal help

How to make an exit from his current employer?  There are pros and cons to being terminated vs resigning–in terms of risks and benefits related to unemployment insurance, severance, reputation, and so on.

I am not an employment lawyer so I recommended my client engage one to help him sort through the repercussions of an exit.

Help from friends

In terms of finding suitable employment, we focused on the aspects of his corporate finance jobs that were consistently enjoyable and particularly satisfying.  We identified former colleagues and contacts who appreciated his work in the past.

However, he still felt cobbled by feelings of shame due to his “failing” and didn’t want to disclose the reasons that he was looking for work.  As a test run, we developed a script that he could use when conversing with family and friends about his situation.  We revised it according to their feedback and his comfort level.

When he was ready, he reached out to a few contacts and was very surprised and happy how receptive they were to re-connect with him, which bolstered his confidence.  One of them was ready to hire him on the spot but couldn’t do so due to budget constraints.

However, this contact referred him to a large employment agency that specialized in corporate finance roles.  After some research, my client signed an agreement with that agency and was soon working in his field. His long-term goal is to move from a contract position to a permanent job with one of the clients he serves.

Overcoming highly charged emotions, like shame, requires time and attention…and a little help from our friends and career coach.

When your job makes you sick

The founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford, once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

What we think, what we believe, reveals our deepest values.  When somebody tells me they really want to change careers but don’t think they can, what they often mean is that they can’t afford to… because they believe that changing careers means trading their current income for something much less.

Fair enough, I get it, money makes the world go round, so their current income is more important to them than anything else…until it isn’t.

For example, the one situation where money becomes much less important is when a person’s health is jeopardized by their job, i.e. when they become too sick, physically or mentally, to keep doing a job, especially if the job itself is making them sick.

After 30 years as a career counsellor, I have seen this scenario play out hundreds of times.  Many of my clients were forced to change careers due to severe back pain, neck and shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, cancer, heart conditions, depression, crippling anxiety, addiction, and other common conditions.

Those with health benefits often go on long term disability which often only delays the inevitable eventuality of having to find other work.  But serious pain usually forces many of these unlucky individuals into a career change. 

Either way, hard choices are involved because lifestyles will change one way or another; maybe for better, maybe for worse.

Henry Ford filed for bankruptcy twice before he was able to succeed with his Ford Motor Company. Clearly, thinking positively is not enough to guarantee success. 

Ford had to make a plan, take effective actions, make corrections when things didn’t work out, recruit help from others when necessary, and keep going with a clear goal in mind.  But, surely, thinking that he could do it must have helped him through some difficulties!

Making a career change means making changes in your life.  That’s a simple fact.

Getting sick only forces you to make them. 

If you’re healthy now, use your time wisely to create the changes you want!  

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