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  • Annette Corbett

Changing career lanes

The 8 Point Plan to Pivot

We are told we can be anything, do anything. Our social media feeds are often full to the brim with inspirational quotes and messages of positivity.

A visit to LinkedIn suggests that “being” and “doing” is in full swing by people that appear to be happy - no, ecstatic - in their chosen careers (look out for those LinkedIn posters who regularly use adjectives like “brilliant”, “fantastic”, “inspiring” to describe anything work related, including the coffee and biscuits).

On the flipside, recognising that work is just crap for a lot of people, Insta account Official Work Memes produces content that feels infinitely more relatable, and with over 1m followers, you have to wonder who’s keeping it real.

So what can we do about those crappy work situations? If you follow my contracting blog you’ll know I became an advocate for contracting through the desire to have greater flexibility, develop my skills and earn more money.

Professional fulfilment though is an entirely different matter.

While I’ve cracked my ‘how’ of work (by contracting), I’ve struggled with the ‘what’ (my professional holy grail).

If you’ve outgrown your role, want to work in a way more aligned with your purpose or just want to change things up, this blog is for you.

The 8 Point Plan

Rebranding yourself has many component parts. If you look at the theme of change management, Kotter’s Change Model can be adapted to chart the journey of professional reinvention.

Create a sense of urgency. By which I mean talking less about the fact you no longer like your job (or manager) and reflecting why.

What is the root cause of your angst? This may feel slightly moot but what if you discover that it’s more personality conflict than professional dissatisfaction at play?

It might also be you know right off the bat what you want to do next, you just the need the momentum.

In which case, start to talk about it. Make it real, commit to it.

Build your team. Any pivot in your career will benefit from champions - so who are yours? Who are the people that will encourage you, push you on and energise you (rather than suggest there are people worse off than you and why not just stay the course?) Surround yourself with cheerleaders and pragmatic (not negative) sounding boards.

Form a vision. What does change look like for you? How will it alter your life? How will you know when you’ve achieved it? What are the flex points and non-negotiables of that vision. Think of it as a contract with yourself.

Communicate the vision. Reach out to industry professionals and recruitment consultants for advice on how to transition in that chosen career. Are there any transferable skills you’ve spotted? Would accreditations add credibility to your resume? Is there scope to work pro bono or voluntarily to gain some practical experience?

Remove barriers to change. These could be mental, physical or familial. Your monkey mind telling you you’re over reaching and going to fail. A lack of positive (or any) feedback from roles you might have applied for. Or well-intentioned messaging around sticking to the status quo, because, why rock the boat?

Focus on short-term wins. Any online learning or accreditation completion which takes you a step closer will build your confidence and make the change feel more tangible. Start to develop connections on LinkedIn who work in your desired roles; their posts will provide an insight into the projects they’re working on or challenges they face that you won’t get from reading textbooks or industry articles. Keep a foot, or even just a toe, in this new world. Every single day.

Maintain momentum. Transitioning careers is a huge time investment and you’ll inevitably question whether your efforts are going to pay off (in that way we just love neatly packaged guarantees). And there lies the temptation to take your foot off the gas. Initially for a few days, which turn into weeks and then months.

Ensure you make room for down time, but always have a plan (diarised) for when you’ll tackle your next goal and the goal after that.

Manifest change. At this point you might have landed your dream job, or ideal terms for an existing job. Maybe you’ve taken a half step in that direction. But, hopefully, the end is in sight.

Changing lanes, even parallel lanes, requires dogged persistence. And because job titles are nouns, they create bias in the recruitment process, obscure the potential of transferable skills you may have to offer.

I’ve been accredited in change management for two years and I’ve practised change as part of my “day job” ever since. Whatever my role on paper, it almost always involves asking people to unlearn a process that is effortless to them and adapt to a new way of working that is going to require their time, patience and essentially create more work in the short-term. I’ve earned my change stripes with bells on.

But reality of the job market is that hiring managers of recruiters don’t have the luxury of time to peel back the layers of who you and, more importantly, who you want to be.

Recruitment is a transactional, impersonal process (based on my experience) which is why you must be ready to work outside the box to show those hiring for a role that you have the right stuff.

Be personal, not paper based

Before hitting “apply” ask if you can have an informal chat to discuss a key aspect of the role, to clarify your suitability (with caveats).

A job description posted by the hiring organisation will usually state who you’ll be working for; so find them on LinkedIn and arrange an introduction. But, if the role is being managed by an agency, make contact with the hiring recruitment consultant (and not direct to the organisation).

Next week I start my first, “proper” change management contract. It has taken two years - and a hefty chunk of Kotter’s (modified) model - for someone to give me that opportunity..

See you on the other side?

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