Happy New Year! As January comes to a close, I am even more ready to kickstart the goals and dreams I have for the year into gear. What about you? When most others have given up on their New Year’s resolutions, I am digging in. You, too, can dig in.
At this time last year, I was drained, stuck and wholeheartedly in need of a professional change. I was in a job that I had outgrown but was still hanging on. I could not sit back any longer and hope for a resolution. Instead, I needed to act. So the end of January became the start of something new for me. I quit my full-time job in higher education to pursue business ownership.
I did not go it alone. I had personal and professional mentors, friends and family members empowering me in, through and beyond my decision to change careers, taking it all one step at a time.
Considering a career change yourself? Are you unhappy at work?
You, too, can take one step at a time and get unstuck. So this year, I resolve to help you take one small action today, tomorrow or even in the next hour that will move you forward and toward a more satisfying professional experience.
3 Actions in 1 Hour to Kickstart a Mid-Career Shift
Connect with a friend, family member or someone new to do one (or more) of the following:
- Unpack what is going on in your workplace, get a neutral opinion and ideas regarding next steps to take
- Information and tips for exploring a new industry/field, perhaps one that they know well or know that others in their network know well.
- Learn more about someone’s career that you admire. Taking some time to step back and dream or borrow from the best practices of another field can help shape the impact you have on your company’s bottom line or for your own career goals.
Update your Resume
- There are basic resume do’s and don’ts. Take a look at this list and implement one change over your lunch break. If you are considering a truly fresh look, take advantage of my Quick Fix Resume Review offer of $47.
- Never wrote a summary of qualifications before? Have over 10 years’ experience? This is also a great resource for you to review.
Revisit your Budget
- Financial concerns were high on many of mid-career professionals’ list that I interviewed earlier this winter when considering a career change. Here are 7 simple and free budgeting tools you can start using today. You might also try your credit card’s spend analyzer tool for a bird’s eye view assessment of your spending. it is important prior to a change that you assess your financial situation so you can comfortably (and realistically) meet you career dreams.
- Visit Salary.com for information about specific position’s salaries in your industries of interest and in your target geographic locations so you can understand your earning potential both immediately and in the future.
- Weigh the pros and cons of following a “passion” career versus a more traditional or stable career. Make a pros and cons list and then take it one step further by assigning a weight to each item or rank order in terms of importance.
Any shift or change is scary but you do not have to wait to get started nor be alone in the process. Have questions? Email me! I’m happy to chat and here to help.
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Six months ago, I started a new adventure into full-time business ownership. The first two, I spent thoughtfully contemplating who I am, who I am not and what I want for this next stage in my career. For as confident as I was about the decision to leave my full-time position in higher education and career development, I was afraid of the change that needed to be made. So how did I get here?
I knew I had taken a chance on myself. I recalled that gut feeling inside of me that wouldn’t quiet down; the one I could no longer ignore. So instead of reporting every day at a specific time to an office full of colleagues, I now spend my days with my parents and Pyrador rescue, Oliver, working on my deck or in various rooms in the house to secure and prepare speaking engagements for local companies and non-profit organizations, partner with men and women on navigating their career choices and taking on projects with large companies to serve the professional growth needs of their clients.
About a month ago, I visited a non-profit organization called the Perfect Fit for Working Women, a program of the ALLENTOWN YMCA & YWCA that supports low-income women entering the workforce by providing professional clothing for job interviews and their first week of work. The two women running the program mentioned that they were going to speak to the Women Can networking group, a diversity and inclusion initiative at Olympus, which is a medical devices and surgical products, scientific solutions, and cameras and audio products company, in the area.
I simply asked if I could go to listen to the manager tell her and the organization’s story at the event.
Fast forward to November 15…I arrived at Olympus, the building was fresh, white, and open with plenty of windows and natural light. I was stopped at the front desk to be checked in and escorted back to the event room. As I walked through the halls, employees were smiling, some were grabbing lunch at the bustling cafeteria, while others were playing ping pong or sitting in the large lounge space connecting with coworkers. It felt wonderful to be back in a space where action was happening; where it wasn’t just me thinking about my next move or if I was “doing this whole business thing right.” I noticed individual reactions to my presence.
At first, I thought it was the big visitors’ badge on my suit jacket but then I realized…I’m wearing a suit and for the first time in months!
I forgot how a suit made me feel or how much I had denied the power that it gave me from within. Since March, I have mostly been wearing yoga pants and other such athletic wear just in my home office. I noticed how differently I was treated by the employees moving out of my way in the hall to let me pass or how they allowed me to go first if we met at crossroads in the building. Not only that, but I was attending this event as a guest of the women from the Perfect Fit so the event organizers even treated me as a…confident woman in a suit.
I truly had forgotten about the polished businesswoman in me. The one others reminded me existed when I decided to make this change to business ownership and the one that I now know will come out to “play” when she is called upon as a speaker, trainer, panelist or partner at companies in the future. The one who will freely share her experience and emotional reactions to such moments for these are the ones that shape our identities, affirm the changes we make in life and remind us to stick up for those gut feelings we have about what we need most.
What’s more is that the accumulation of these experiences led me to believe that we must first give ourselves permission to change from within to grow beyond what we know we are capable of accomplishing. In order to find the “perfect fit” in just one facet of our lives, a deep dive into another may be required. Similarly, the Women Can networking group believes in the power of connecting internally, across divisions to explore and grow professionally.
I needed to uproot some of the comforts of my personal life to address my professional dissatisfaction. This shifted the dynamics of my personal life, allowing me to focus on the gains I could make professionally.
Isn’t it poignant that the exact organization to which I reached out to as a potential volunteer, whose mission is to provide women with the clothes and personal support that will set them up for professional success, also delivered me the opportunity to personally feel the emotional effect that clothing, and others’ reactions to it, can have on your confidence, professional growth and reflective practices?
So I ask you now, in what ways are you pursuing or denying yourself a “perfect fit”?
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I often walk and take pictures (IG: #walkphotography); however, this past Monday I also picked up a business card when walking my dog, Oliver. We took our normal route and Oliver was very happy trotting along as I enjoyed one of the Claim the Stage, public speaking podcasts by Angela Lussier when Oliver starting wagging his tail and showing interest in speaking to a neighbor who was mowing his lawn.
I usually try to keep him moving along but as we passed him, Oliver turned back showing his enthusiasm for seeing him so the man stopped mowing the lawn to come over to see him.
We started to chat about dogs (of course), where I lived in the development, and then he asked me if I went to a college close by. He recognized me as my sister because she went to the college at which he has been teaching as an adjunct in the accounting department. Small world! Through the conversation, I came to find out that he runs a tax accounting business on the side and, what do you know, I am on the hunt for a business accountant! So I took the opportunity to ask him questions about his business, my business’ needs in terms of taxes and he gave me his card. Additionally, he asked about my sister and told me to tell her that he said hello.
So why do I share this encounter with you? You never know when or where a helpful conversation will unfold. You can connect with someone about something so neutral and, if you are open to what that person has to offer, you could forge a connection. Sometimes this connection pays off in the immediate future (possibly find an accountant you’ve been looking for) and other times in the distant future (my sister could reconnect with him and discover other career options within the accounting profession through his experience and network).
Nevertheless, the joy of networking is in its serendipity. Embrace the people you run into on the subway, at a coffee shop, in your own neighborhood and see how being open to possibilities will bring!
What actions will I have taken post business card retrieval?
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- Sent my sister a picture of his business card so she can be in touch with her former professor. Clearly she made a good impression on him in that class and when I spoke to her about my chance encounter with him, she recalled really enjoying his forensic accounting class.
- Emailed him within 24 (ideal) to 48 hours (acceptable) of meeting him (i.e. no later than Wednesday), thanking him for his time and sharing that it was a pleasure to meet him and chat about everything from dogs to business.
- Visited his website and learned more about his background on LinkedIn. Why not, right? It’s a great resource and is not only a way to fact-check but also to build on this in-person connection. Chances are, I will see him again as he walks his dog in the park behind my house and regardless of whether or not we do business together, I’d like to keep him in my network.
Five years ago, I moved to the Western Massachusetts community (aka the Pioneer Valley) to fulfill a new role in the Career Development Center at Mount Holyoke College. I did not know anyone. Was I nervous about this fact? Sure. Did I let it stop me, no. Why? because I was up for an adventure. I wanted to live in a different state, expand my knowledge of myself and the demographics of the U.S. and figured I could take it year-by-year. It was an experiment.
Fast forward to today…and I am back in a “new” community. Why “new” in quotes? Well, even though I graduated from high school in the Lehigh Valley where I now reside, spent time after college working in the area and attended graduate school nearby, so much has changed here and so have I.
I know I can succeed building both a professional and personal community here because I did it in Massachusetts so, as I embark on a new adventure here, I wanted to share the strategies I’ve employed with you so you, too, can build a new community or dig deeper into the one in which you’ve landed.
1. Give yourself time to adjust. Being new to a place can be overwhelming. In Massachusetts, I focused first on finding a place to live (Craigslist was clutch there), second on my job (the reason I moved there), and third on learning about the community. I wanted to understand its personality, learn where young people hung out so I could make friends, and see where I might be able to make an impact as a volunteer and professional. I didn’t hit my stride in all of these areas until October, which was almost 4 months after I arrived. When I arrived in Pennsylvania, I hung out with the friends I already knew in the area because I needed time and space to bounced back my transition home. This was right for me in May when I returned and now that it is September, I am actively pursuing opportunities to engage in the community. This tiered approach worked for me, it can also work for you. Feel free to experiment with the formula.
2. Volunteer. Young professionals’ groups in your area and your alma mater(s) can be uplifting. The events they holds put you in front of like-minded professionals, locals with community history and perspective and opportunities to plan events, lead initiatives and grow professionally in ways that your full-time position may not. I’ve been serving on the Alumni Association Board of Franklin and Marshall College since the fall 2013 and led the Northampton Area Young Professionals’ Group between January 2012-July 2015. I continue with both strategic and boots on the group volunteer work in the Lehigh Valley as a community member and professional.
3. Subscribe to local organization emails. Consider your interests. In Massachusetts, I followed regional business and non-profit organizations, local entrepreneurs, and lifestyle brands. I do the same in the Lehigh Valley such as InStyle, Discover Lehigh Valley, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, and my favorite restaurants because they often have events that allow me to more fully experience the people and the treasures of the area.
4. Explore your community alone. Although it is not ideal, it can be freeing. Pursue a hobby as I have, taking pictures around the Valley (IG: #walkphotography) and allowing the day to take you where it might. I discovered nuances of the area that I had never seen before and met new people as a result. Go to meet ups, festivals, dinners at the bar by yourself. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and be applauded for your courage. That in itself is encouraging!
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Earlier this week, a friend and I decided to check out a local networking event in Allentown. I love the restaurant and it was a gorgeous evening so I knew we’d be able to spend time outdoors. We grabbed a drink and stood in the crowd catching up. Out of no where, a woman comes around my right side and introduces herself.
Impressed by her gumption, we both started chatting with her. She asked what we do for a living and where we live in the Valley. We returned the favor and asked her where she worked and lived and she began to describe how she was working full-time in an industry that was not ideal for her. We asked her what she was seeking and fully supported her interests by offering to connect her to a few people we know in the area. We exchanged business cards, she thanked us and went on her way. Seems like a typical networking encounter, correct?
My friend and I turned to each other, acknowledged the whirlwind that that was and befuddled regarding the fact that she did not even want to continue to learn more about us. My friend said that if she had run into a career coach like myself, she would have tried to chat with me more and take advantage of me being right there, free of charge. I wouldn’t have blamed her for doing so, in fact, I felt the same way…why hadn’t she stuck around to get to know us?
My belief is that when you are desperate to move on from a position or career and someone gives you the advice to get as many business cards as you can at networking events, you lose out on the opportunity to truly connect with someone, get to know them and learn about the ways you can help each other.
We stood around for a while discussing what she could have done better, again, admiring her straight-shooter approach but knowing full well that perhaps her more successful strategy should have been reciprocal in nature, not transactional. Avoid the “bad taste in others mouths” impression and stick around for a conversation. Building relationships genuinely and over time will pay off in the end in dividends that you oftentimes cannot even compute at the time. Below are some tips for turning a quick networking transaction into a relationship:
1. Truly listen to what the other person is saying. There are gems of advice and sage pieces of wisdom in everyone’s professional story. That same night, we met a gentleman who has been running a successful investment property company while simultaneously making a 300% mark-up/profit selling stationary and funeral announcements to funeral home directors. He learned this trade and skill selling this product through a different company and then choosing to work for himself, taking his clients with him from that company.
2. Offer a favor in return. Last month, I attended a Chamber affiliated young professionals’ group networking event and met an easy-to-speak with financial planner. We chatted about the area as I told him I recently returned and was looking to meet other professionals in the area. He offered to meet me for coffee so we could see how we could help each other. It seemed like each of us was looking for mentor – me for the area and him to promote his professional development and advance the career profile of the professionals in the Valley. That conversation made me feel energized, like a part of something and potentially the start of a great professional relationship.
3. Sit at the bar. When the event started to wind down, my friend and I realized we were pretty hungry. We decided to grab a seat at the bar and order dinner. There were two seats but one gentleman was sitting in between them so we kindly asked him to move over and invited him to join our conversation. He turned out to be a very nice guy who knew all of the bartenders and was a regular at this restaurant. We immediately had an in, lucky us! Plus, many people visit the bar to order drinks, which gave us both a way to chat with more people and we didn’t even have to go anywhere. If you happen to not be near the flow of “drink-ordering” traffic, you always have the bartender(s) to network with and they meet tons of people every day.
For more advice, follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn @MeghanGodorov.
Looking to change your career? Or a considering new opportunities? Sign up for my newsletter today on my homepage and receive a free job analysis worksheet that will help you advocate for a raise or career change.
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Clients ask me for help with this question almost every day. Many struggle to identify the characteristics that make them unique, tell potential employers why they are interviewing for their company and deliver information about themselves that is both the right amount authentic and boastful.
Feeling prepared to answer this question can be achieved by doing the following three things:
1. Listen to your heart
Ask yourself, what is your mission or purpose for pursuing this position? Talk about it out loud to friend, trusted mentor or career coach. Nine times out of ten, they hear your passion, enthusiasm and true intent for pursuing your field or position of interest and reflect that back to you. Take what they heard and find a connection between your motivation and the company or position’s mission, goals and priorities. For example, one person asked if she could talk about the reasons why she chose her college because the values of the company matched the qualities of the campus environment, those of individual expression, collaboration and mentorship. This is exactly the kind of connections companies want you to make: thoughtful and connected to your authentic self.
A great tool to help you consider your purpose is Imperative’s purpose pattern assessment.
2. What have you done to support your mission?
Using the above client example, she now has a thesis statement upon which to base her (under 2 minute) pitch to the employer. Referring back to her resume, she can choose 2-3 examples from her experience (paid or unpaid) that illustrate her values and purpose for applying to this position. Briefly highlighting the ways you acted on your mission in essence prove your affiliation with that goal and let the employer know that you are a good fit. Remember: You do not have to tell them everything you think they need to know right away. Instead, give them nuggets of information about how your experiences tie into your mission and overall goals so that you can refer back to them when they ask behavioral question like, “Tell me about a time when…?” “Share a strength and weakness, etc.”
My goal, always, is to invoke emotions and connectedness to the employer in my first impression and that often requires this kind of reflection and tie in of your purpose to the mission of the organization or company.
3. Why/how does the company or organization fit in with your mission/purpose?
The last (essentially closing) statement you want to make will be about how the organization will allow you to continue to advance your purpose. This can be someone future-oriented which will help to preface a question they are most likely going to ask you such as, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” You are setting the stage for them to understand you briefly in the past, mostly in the present and partially in the future as those states of being relate to their company and the open position.
So let’s put it all together with an example:
Interviewer: So, Meghan, let’s get started. Please tell me about yourself.
Interviewee: Great. For over the past 5 years, my work has had three focuses: entrepreneurship, higher education and community development. Navigating careers and anchoring futures for young and mid-career professionals is how I spend most of my time. (1) At Mount Holyoke College and in my business, I advocate for women’s professional success through individualized advising, online skills webinars and and tailored programs. Additionally, I am an active member of the Alumni Association Board for Franklin & Marshall College and one of the coaches for this year’s class of a local leadership development program, Leadership Pioneer Valley (2). I’d like to continue to have strategic impact, be part of a creative and innovative institution and support women’s professional and personal leadership development (3).
Meghan is an advocate, blogger, speaker and educator for women who want to build a career that lasts. She coaches groups and individuals on how to navigate their professional goals, negotiate transitions, and engage in both local and national leadership opportunities. She is also the Associate Director for Alumnae and Community Engagement at Mount Holyoke College where she supports alumnae and students in building a community around career through on-campus and virtual programming and individual advising.
Her advice has appeared in the Huffington Post, several higher education blogs for job seekers, NerdScholar, CardHub, Good.co and LinkedIn. For monthly tips and advice, sign up for her newsletter at http://www.meghangodorov.com and follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
© Meghan Godorov, 2015
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