A Recipe for Career Re-Invention!
by Dilip Saraf
Since I have done four career re-inventions in my own career (through four industries) I promote myself as a re-invention coach. In this, my fifth career, I have helped many clients go in new directions by showing them how to re-invent themselves leveraging their previous stellar accomplishments, packaging them in a new "language," and developing a plan that steers their career in a new direction. Although in most cases such plans are successful, in others they require pivoting and taking additional steps to get to the destination the client is seeking.
With the many published reports of impending lay-offs, especially in the tech sector (Intel, IBM, Yahoo!, HP, and many others) many are anxious about how to market themselves in this rapidly-changing labor market in their vertical. This shift in the labor market is not just limited to high-tech companies. Other industries are also facing pressures to reduce their labor costs as the productivity is steadily rising with automation, service-oriented platforms, and other economic shifts (Uber, Airbnb).
This article is about what I have learned through my own career re-inventions and from those of my many clients. Although this is not a complete list, it addresses most of the key ingredients for a potentially successful career re-invention:
- Develop a good sense of the trends in your own company and any precursors to lay-offs. In large companies (1,000 or more employees) there are ample signs of what is to come. So, be vigilant about your company's - and product's - market standing and trends, revenues, profitability, and how the competition is emerging. Even if you are an individual contributor you must take interest in how your company is performing by being more curious about such things.
- As soon as you sense that there is a possibility of lay-offs and cost cutting, do not wait for that to be announced. Get yourself ready for a change. When the actual lay-offs start it is almost too late to have enough time required for a re-invention. Remember this saying: If you think change is hard, try becoming irrelevant(Tom Peters).
- Depending on how radical your career re-invention is going to be, a transition to a new role can take as much as 12-18 months, depending on your level and your expectations of salary, title, and other parameters. So, it is much better to manage this runway on YOUR own time than on your company's time; most companies give few weeks to a few months to its employees in severance pay. If you wait this out then you are almost forced to take another lateral job, deferring your re-invention. When the lay-offs are rampant such an option may not even be viable on your terms.
- Investigate how your core skill translates to some industry where it can be applied in the context of their core needs. Also, investigate which industry sectors are on a growth path (look at the job boards). It is much easier to translate your core skills in that direction if you understand how to translate your accomplishments from your current industry to the one you want to migrate. Recently, one of my clients working on big data and visualization in a high-tech start-up made a successful transition into biotech, where he was able to use his big-data and visualization expertise coupling it with his leadership skills to land a job in a new field (genomics and bio informatics).
- Once you have converged on the sector of interest learn some basics in that space and the language in which they exchange their ideas. This is critical in fashioning a new resume with the right language so that your accomplishments from a different sector appeal to the hiring managers and recruiters enough to call you for an interview. Also, provide your leadership narrative in story formats in your resume to make it more appealing to the reader.
- Start connecting with people in the new industry that you want to migrate to and invite them to your LinkedIn network. Attend conferences, events, and professional Groups (LinkedIn alone has nearly a million such Groups) and start making yourself visible in these forums. Become a member of the professional association and put that membership affiliation on your resume. For example, if you want to become a Product Manager (from a Software Architect), join the Silicon Valley Product Management Association (if you are in the Silicon Valley) SVPMA and start attending its regular events and socialize with its members. Take on a volunteer role to provide some leadership to the organization and put that on your resume as well.
- Start blogging on a topic that is your core competency. Use the language and examples from the industry vertical where you plan to migrate so that those who are already players in that space will read your blog. Keep your blogging frequency at a regular pace so that you are seen as a player in that space. Comment on blogs authored by others in that space to increase your visibility. Commenting takes much less effort that authoring a new blog each time.
- Remake your LinkedIn Profile with the right Headline and Summary. Instead of "Now Seeking Opportunities in Biotech" as a Headline (if you are migrating from high-tech), use a more creative string of words to attract viewership and to increase your search ranking.
- Once you have a good network in the vertical in which you plan to migrate start having informational interviews with those with whom you feel well connected. Tell them that you are re-inventing yourself and you need their mentoring to make this possible. Most people will come through when you show your desire to migrate to their space.
- Start having interviews with companies with open jobs and learn how to ace them. Your first few interviews may be in need of more finesse, but by learning how to ace them you will develop enough confidence to go after the companies where the action is and where your interests lie. During these interviews do not get too concerned about your next title and salary as long as you are able to package your value proposition in alignment with what the job requires. In your first job you may have to make some adjustments to how you land your first job in a new industry and how you get paid for that position; be open and flexible.
Career re-invention is a process that requires a plan, diligent execution, and time. If you follow the process outlined above you are on your way to your next career re-invention. The above proven recipe will serve one person for a lifetime. Zero calories, fat, and cholesterol!