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Break Out of Your Comfort Zone and Accelerate Your Job Transition

Photo courtesy of BK on flickr creative commons (http://bit.ly/1CJ1zq1).

Photo courtesy of BK on flickr creative commons (http://bit.ly/1CJ1zq1).

You’ve decided to make a job transition and you want to do so as painlessly as possible. Getting out of your comfort zone is a big first step, and is the fastest way to land a new job. Remaining in your comfort zone will only prolong your efforts to find a new employer. If you’re part of the 70% of Americans unhappy at their job, your dissatisfaction will only fester. If you’re unemployed, being out of a job for more than six months can be detrimental to your long-term employment prospects. Leaving your comfort zone means trying something new everyday. Being adventurous, building new skills, and thinking outside of the box is a great way to kick your routine job search habits to the curb. It may be comfortable to seek out your favorite job boards, or to fill out impersonal online applications on employer websites. However, in my years of working with clients as a career coach, I’ve learned that fewer bolder actions can produce greater results and momentum than the many usual actions of job seekers.

Today, I challenge you to try a variety of job search activities. I’ve broken them down into numbered levels, with the difficulty ranging from easy, medium to hard.

Level 1:

Prepare for your next networking, meeting, or interview with an icebreaker: In this age of constantly changing technology there is no end to the news and information available. Before your next meeting event, look for tidbits of light news that fascinates you, and that would appeal to all religions and races. The news can be as simple as a fluff piece you read on one of your social network news feeds, an RSS feed, or even something on a local news station. This icebreaker will help you immediately engage others in conversation, and more importantly, help build rapport. For example: Did you hear about the astronaut who’s going to spend a year in space?

Invest in yourself and consider the long-term payoff: When you’re in a job transition, the finite reach of your finances are more salient than ever. You may want or need to cut back on expenses, including your investments. What you are willing to invest in yourself; however, is a direct reflection to others of how you value yourself. If you are not willing to invest in yourself, others will feel the same way. Consider yourself as an investment to your future employer. Spending money to invest in your professional capital is extremely important. Yes, of course I believe that investing in a professional résumé and a professional LinkedIn profile is important. But even more so, consider the immense payoff of paying for an event, even if that also includes paying a babysitter, where you meet your future employer who pays you your future salary. It is important to go out, live, and enjoy life during your transition. Just remember to nurture and leverage the relationships that result from your adventures.

Level 2:

Read at least one industry-related book per quarter and share the quotes through your social media status updates: Reading industry-related books on a regular basis is an excellent way to keep abreast of your industry, and to become an authoritative figure in your field. It is the difference between someone who’s passionate about their career, and someone who simply views their career as another job. By sharing quotes through your social media status updates you’ll demonstrate how knowledgeable you are to others. You’ll be able to recall the quotes better in conversation and further support your position as an industry insider. As a bonus, you may even inspire someone in your network.

Use your status updates to ask questions at least once a week: If you have pertinent questions about a particular employer, open positions, helpful ways to expand your network, or anything else related to job seeking, ask them! People love to give advice and share their opinion, leverage that to your advantage. The advice or answers you receive could be eye-opening, or may be fantastic food for thought.

Level 3:

Send five acquaintances a CUSTOMIZED invitation to join your LinkedIn network: The five acquaintances are people you already know, but are not connected to. This means you have to go to their profile and click on connect. In addition to your personalized invitation to connect, include an invitation to catch up them with in person or on the phone over the next few weeks. This is important because it helps you build upon a professional relationship. Networking in person is still meaningful, and impressions matter. The next time there’s an opening at your acquaintance’s company, he or she may provide a referral for you. You can also take your invitation initiative a step further. Go beyond thinking of your network as just current and former colleagues. Search LinkedIn for:

  • Neighbors
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Classmates
  • Colleagues that you KNOW or KNEW WELL
  • Your past supervisors
  • Health care providers
  • Parents of your child’s friends
  • Service Providers (plumber, landscaper, exterminator, etc.)

Soon you’ll have 100 new contacts, and you can do five new invitations every day, or even every week.

Conquer your phone phobia: It is important to pick up the phone, reach out and dial someone. Make at least one phone call each day with the goal of scheduling a networking meeting. This isn’t the same as asking for a job. Many people suffer from phone phobia, including skilled sales people and recruiters. If you have a case of phone phobia the best way to overcome it is to get on the horn and make some meaningful noise. Start small and reward your accomplishments by doing something you love. It could be as simple as marathoning Breaking Bad on Netflix, running for an extra mile during your exercise routine, or playing a few levels of Candy Crush Saga on your phone. The point is to positively reinforce the act of calling someone so it becomes easier the next time you do it.

Stepping out of your job transiting comfort zone can be a daunting task on the surface. By taking a few simple and bold steps each day, you can build your confidence as you search for your next job opportunity, and more importantly, it will result in increasing your job momentum. If these activities work for you, and produce the desired results, by all means, do them again. The point is, you’ll reach a point of greater comfort and skill in your job transition. Doing some of the more difficult activities will become second nature, and once they are, you’ll be able use your new skills to accelerate your career and income from this point forward. Mel Robbins explains in her TEDx Talk “How to stop screwing yourself over,”  the importance of activation energy and why you need to get out of your comfort zone. In Mel’s own words: taking that first step requires you to FORCE yourself to do it, no one can do it for you.

Foo Fighters – Big Me

Foo Fighters’ official music video for ‘Big Me’. Click to listen to Foo Fighters on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/FooFSpotify?IQid=FooFBM As featured on Greatest Hits.

Executives: Downgrading your career? Consider…

Will your former executive title keep you from landing jobs with less responsibility?

 

Shelf Road Climbing by AMagill on Flickr

Shelf Road Climbing by AMagill on Flickr

In my winter newsletter one of the myths that I asked you to leave in 2013 was that you can accelerate your job transition by pursuing positions with requirements beneath your qualifications. (Subscribe below to receive our newsletter). The truth is…

  

…you can likely prolong your transition and create challenges that need not exist.

 

For some executives, however the pressure, travel, and hours of an executive position are no longer viable for their well-being. Genuinely, they would like to take a step back and just be a cog in the machine and maintain some value to a company, or for monetary reasons they must continue to work. In either case, they are not be ready to hang their hat and be put out to pasture, which does seem like a morbid way of looking at retirement. There are certainly better ways to look at retirement. However, people derive a lot of their self-worth from their job. It can be very difficult to define yourself after the prospect of any future potential career growth is eliminated. You might have good reasons to take the position that is beneath your qualifications, but you will face the same challenges in landing these jobs as the individuals who are pursuing jobs beneath their qualifications because I think it’s the faster way to get hired. Either of these types of candidates are huge potential risks for the employer.

 

Yes, age discrimination does happen, and many people assume that it has to do mostly with health care costs or the risk of short or long-term disability or a company doesn’t want to pay top dollar for experience when they can hire someone young and cheap.  Often, there is a lot more to it than that. Besides the fact that great companies want to give new employees positions that enable them to grow, the morale of a company can be depleted when you have a senior professional reporting to a more junior professional. You may expect that you will be okay with this, but too often senior folks do find themselves at odds with a supervisor they perceive as making rookie mistakes. Let’s face it; your years of experience certainly taught you things that this junior person has yet to learn. How do you NOT voice your opinion and can you possibly accept the wrong decision of your supervisor? This is another stressor in and of itself.

 

From a risk perspective, if an employer has been down that road before and experienced the repercussions of reverse generational reporting firsthand, they will be hard-pressed to be convinced that the reward is worth the risk, though it is possible. To do this, however, your brand and every encounter that you have has to consistently ooze humility. We all know that actions speak louder than words, so what is more humble than volunteering? Volunteering to help out a young company, not strategically, but with the administrative, customer service and execution details that sometimes get overlooked when a company is small and has few resources, is way to prove that you can simply do rather than lead, if in fact you can.

If, however, you have spent the majority of your career honing your leadership skills, it can be difficult to stifle. In fact, it can be so against the grain of your being that it, too, can cause more stress than it alleviates. You may want to consider lending your leadership or business acumen through an SBA, venture capital or startup incubation program instead where you are not accountable for results, but, rather, can enjoy being the impetus for a young company’s success. This, too, has a caveat that many consultants and coaches have to broach – when the client doesn’t follow through. You may be so accustomed to making things happen that it can be difficult to be compassionate to a young leader who has not yet found a way to change old habits, put in the effort, and deliver results. In fact, it can be frustrating.

 

A mistake people often make when they want to downgrade their careers is underestimating the amount of stress associated with a job. People often turn to retail or customer service positions, which really can require a lot of conflict resolution.  Stress is inherent in conflict. Sometimes they land in companies with high attrition, where stress is part of the culture. Another mistake is forgetting how under-appreciated these jobs can be. When you are the top, you are visible and your accomplishments are lauded. At the bottom, you can be practically invisible, and that can be a hard difference to reconcile.

 

At this time I really should introduce you to a new way of looking at stress as helpful. Kelly McGonigal, a Ted speaker and psychologist, has made a confession in a recent TED talk. She admitted that she might have been causing more harm than good by making stress the enemy. As it turns out, the belief that stress is harmful is more harmful than stress itself. She shares a way to look at stress that can save or prolong your life. This actually could mean that you can continue to work in the same capacity of your professional experience and talents, but with a more helpful, healthful perspective. It also suggests that extending compassion and comfort to others will make you healthier. So, perhaps if you were hesitant to end your career because of the self-worth you derived from your work, you can find new ways to be of service to others.

 

If you really need or want retire your brain but not your whole self, data entry, assembly line and inventory jobs still exist. It’s best for your well-being to be around things you love and enjoy. Look for companies aligned with your hobbies and interests in your favorite local trade magazine or niche publication. Check out what meetups exist to mingle among people who share your interests and can point you to companies associated with them. Of course, you can search trusty Google and enter the name of your town + the interest. Those sponsored ads are good for something!  Also, there are some niche recruiting firms that specialize in baby boomer placement. One such local (Philly) organization is The Carney Group. And, now more than ever before, there are legitimate remote, work-at-home positions where you can make your own hours.

 

Nothing you decide you want is wrong. That being said, we sometimes decide we want something without fully evaluating the reality of it. Hopefully with this insight you can make a fully educated decision that leads to greater fulfillment and quality of life, whether you chose to make this decision now or conditions outside of your control necessitated it.

 

How to Get 3 Job Offers in 2 Weeks

 

Day Twenty-eight- Pain by Nathan O'nions on Flickr

Day Twenty-eight- Pain by Nathan O’nions on Flickr

My client, who had been out of work for two years, four if you count the years before a contract position, received three job offers in two weeks. Two are paying jobs and two are in an industry he has been hoping to break into. He asked me, “What’s going on?” It’s called momentum. When it’s on your side, you have power and choice. It’s never very far away, and sometimes, especially if you have the front end work done, in one day you can create the same momentum.

How long do you think it would take you to chop down a tree if you had a dull ax? How hard would it be, and how could you be sure that you would cut the tree precisely enough to avoid it falling where you don’t want to fall? At TedxPhoenixville last month, I saw Peter Muir. He’s a coach. I was expecting him to come out and talk about usual coaching topics. He came out with a chainsaw and a safety suit, and I thought, “where is this going?” The topic was “Learning a skill that could kill you.” The skill was felling a tree. You may watch the video, but to summarize, his point was –

 

Do your homework to avoid disaster and achieve success.

 

My client was able to elicit an offer because he did his homework. He spent time perusing news related to his passion and discovered an opportunity. Then he learned who was influencing decisions and what personal and professional interests they had. He stood out, his passion was evident, and his desire to make a valuable contribution was declared.

Another lesson that I took away from his presentation that may not of even been intentional, but was evident from my client’s ability to land three jobs in two weeks, was –

 

Commit to taking action, and follow through.

 

Just following up with a simple e-mail to someone he did a project for uncovered new work for my client. We can’t assume that just because we delivered top notch work for someone in the past that they are going to keep us top of mind when a new challenge presents itself, but we may present ourselves as a solution by putting ourselves right in front of the person at the right time.

Whether you chop down that tree or not, it may come down anyway, and do you want to be in control of where it lands, or do you want to wait to see if disaster happens or if, at a minimum, you escape with your life?