How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success

job switcher

Make a Career Change

If you’ve been itching to make a change, but don’t know where to start, or feel like you’re stuck in a career path that no longer makes sense, you’re reading the right article at the right time.

Dawn Graham, PhD is a Wharton Lecturer and EMBA Career Director, coach, author, Forbes Contributor, and Sirius XM Radio Host. Her new book, Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success, is a resource for anyone looking to change career directions in a purposeful way.

 

Switchers Fact: Most Americans spend around five years engaged in some type of job activity.

 

You have a unique vantage point both due to your leading SiriusXM Radio show and your role as Director of Career Management for the Executive MBA Program at Wharton. What trends are you seeing across professional job searchers today?

People want a job that inspires them! Compensation will always be important. However, professionals are willing to make some sacrifices to find work that is meaningful or flexible, or that puts them on the path to a career that is more satisfying.  Many mid-career professionals landed in a job after college and climbed the ladder, only to realize that the path they chose isn’t fulfilling. Others have discovered careers that may not have existed a decade ago and still others have experienced life changes, such as having a family, which have led them to seek something more flexible.

 

“Lifetime regrets are more painful than delayed gratification.” -Dawn Graham

 

What is the “new normal” in America for most people in terms of changing jobs?

The great news for career switchers is that the market is becoming more accepting of trying new paths. The rise of the gig economy, portfolio careers, and entrepreneurial pursuits have opened the door to non-traditional career paths. The average tenure in a company is about 4.2 years, so long gone are the days of the 30-year retirement gift. In fact, while yearly job hopping is still frowned upon by employers, so is staying at a company for too long, especially if you’ve not shown significant progression or diversity in your assignments. After 10 years, hiring managers in new companies start to wonder if you’re adaptable enough to function effectively in a different culture, so it’s more important than ever today to pay attention to taking charge of your career.

 

Research: up to 80 percent of employee turnover is due to poor hiring.

 

How difficult is it to change careers today?

5 Tips to Increase Your Freelancing Future

gig is up

Thriving in the Gig Economy

Speaker and marketing expert, Olga Mizrahi has a new book, The Gig Is Up: Thrive in the Gig Economy, Where Old Jobs Are Obsolete and Freelancing Is the Future. She looks at what it takes to win as a freelancer in a world of increasing choice.

In the book, she shared five tips that help you not to get trapped in the digital marketplace. As I read these tips, I realized that they aren’t just applicable to those freelancing. These five tips are important for us all.

Here are five important ways to be ready to compete:

 

Keep your resume, portfolio, business cards, website, and portfolio up-to-date.

Just because you’re not looking for a jobby job doesn’t mean you can let your PR slack. Make sure to keep your resume on the cutting edge, put your most recent work in your portfolio, order business cards that reflect what you currently do, and add everything new you do to your professional website. Make sure that your online presence contains: a thorough overview about what you do and why you’re the best at it; your current resume; a list of services and pricing; testimonials and reviews; a past client roster with logos (if appropriate); an introductory video; and a contact page that lets potential customers reach you a number of different ways. When you actually show up on someone’s radar, you’d better make sure they’re seeing you at your best.

 

Digital Tip: When you show up on someone’s radar, make sure they see you at your best.

 

Memorize your elevator pitch.

The elevator pitch is what you say to Richard Branson (or whatever billionaire is most interesting to you) when he shakes your hand and casually mentions he’s looking for a superstar. What exactly do you do and why are you the best at it? Learn how to say it in under two minutes. If it’s good, a potential contact will ask you to elaborate. If they’re not interested, then hopefully, your pitch will be memorable enough to pass your name along to the next billionaire.

 

Career Tip: Be ready with a superb elevator speech at all times.

 

Practice juggling clients by juggling apps.

If you’re good at repairs, why not keep active profiles on Handy and TaskRabbit? Not only will you be meeting a diverse clientele from different platforms, you’ll also be able to pick up insight about how much people will pay for particular jobs when you strike out on your own.

1 Sure Way to Kill Your Job Interview

Watch Your Words

He looked like the perfect hire on paper.

Relevant experience? Check.

Good education? Check.

Awards and accolades? Check.

References? Check.

Two interviewers in, he was impressing in a positive way. I was the third interviewer and asked him about his past employer.

That’s when everything changed.

His face immediately turned red. He took a deep breath. His jaw clamped shut and you could see the muscles in his face tense.

I suppose he could have recovered, but it only got worse.

He started to unleash his anger about how he was treated, who did what, why he left. There was an untold story and this was his chance to tell it.

Wrong answer.

 

“Silence is a true friend who never betrays.” -Confucius

 

Focus on the Positive

It almost never pays to malign your former employer whether on an interview or even within your social network.

Were you wronged? Let’s face it: no one cares.

And, when all is said and done, who is hurt more? You are. You become known as someone who is negative, someone who is bitter. It’s far better to say nothing.

 

“Saying nothing . . . sometimes says the most.” -Emily Dickinson

 

In my career, I have had the good fortune of working for some amazing companies. I learned from each one.

Incredible experiences. All positive. New skills. Lifelong friends.

I could choose to focus on the negative, too. But I choose not to.

I choose to celebrate what I learned along the way. And honestly, I really don’t have anything negative to say. My mind simply cannot grasp how anyone wouldn’t have a positive experience.

Choose to be positive. Describe your employer in positive terms. Explain what you learned.

You don’t have to be fake. You don’t have to give false praise. Be truthful, but focus on the positive.

Even the bad boss will have some positive attribute.

 

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” –Zig Ziglar

 

3 Reactions to Your Complaints

How to Conduct A Job Interview Without Getting Sued

This is a guest post by Johanna Harris. Johanna has been a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor and in-house labor counsel for two multinational corporations. She is currently the CEO of Hire Fire and Retire LLC. Her new book is USE PROTECTION: An Employee’s Guide to Advancement in the Workplace.

As a manager, one of your most important responsibilities is interviewing an applicant for an open job position. The key is to be probing and thorough and, at the same time, avoid any questions that could be interpreted as illegal or improper.

Not sure how to ask the question?

Sometimes managers ask illegal questions because they’re not sure how to acquire important information that they are in fact legally entitled to know. A manager may legitimately want to know whether an applicant can master all of the procedures required of the job. Unsure how to get at these qualifications, he asks the applicant how old he is – an illegal question. Or a manager may legitimately want to know whether an applicant is available to entertain clients in the evening. Similarly unsure how to address this issue, he asks her whether she has young children – again, an illegal question.

Four main areas to probe

During a job interview, there are four main areas you want to probe.

  1. Does the applicant have the skills that match the needs of the new job?
  2. Can the applicant be available at the times and places you need him?
  3. Does the applicant possess the core attributes that would make any person a valuable employee?
  4. Does the applicant fit within the culture of your organization?

Skills

To ask effective, legally permissible questions about a prospective employee’s skills, you need to do some homework. That means learning in detail the duties of the job, as well as the level of skill required to perform those duties. It also means prioritizing job responsibilities, as some duties may be more important than others. The formal job description is a good place to start, but it certainly is not the end. Talk to employees who are successful in the same position. Consult with users of the services provided by the new job. Check out industry descriptions of the job, too

Once you know exactly what the job requires, you can craft pointed questions to the applicant that relate directly to the job requirements. That includes her previous work or projects. “How does your experience in the design of user interfaces for retail store management carry over to the healthcare field?” “How does your experience in selling heavy equipment to agribusiness carry over to marketing pharmaceuticals?” There is nothing illegal about giving the applicant an assignment – to be completed either at the interview or at home – that shows whether he indeed has the specific skills required of the new job.

While your focus is on the specific responsibilities of the job, you can still ask more general skill-related questions that help you get a feel for the applicant’s attitudes toward work and interactions with peers. “Have you improved at your current job?” “What skills or experience do you still lack?” “How do you approach your work?”

Availability

An employer has the right to know whether the applicant can be available at the times and places necessary to complete the job. Your task as manager is first to determine exactly what kinds of availability the job requires and then to ask about them up front. “Can you work 15 hours of overtime each week?” “Can you be available to entertain clients approximately twice each month?” “Can you travel out of the city for monthly sales conferences?” “Can you fly to California in March of every year for the annual sales summit?” These pointed questions put the applicant on notice. If he cannot meet these availability standards, he is at risk of being fired. Putting these requirements up front can also give him a sense of comfort that he knows exactly what will be expected of him.

Mobility may be an important prerequisite for advancement in your company. If so, then you should explain that up front, too. You are entitled to inquire, “Are you prepared to transfer from our branch office to the national headquarters?” Even if you believe that applicants with children are less mobile, you cannot ask him a question such as, “So, what arrangements have you made for child care?”

How to Ace the Interview and Win the Job

Paul Freiberger knows the job search process from all angles. He worked as a cook, a janitor, a night porter, and a garment worker.  He’s been a language teacher, a newspaper reporter and an author.  He’s an inventor and a corporate communications professional.  With that background Paul decided to focus on career coaching, outplacement, and resume writing.

He’s just written a new book about interviewing, and it’s a practical guide to the job interviewing process.  It’s especially helpful for both new graduates starting in a challenging job market and for almost anyone in the midst of looking for a job.

I recently had the chance to ask Paul a few questions about his new book, When Can You Start?  How to Ace the Interview and Win the Job.

 

Tips for the Interview

Paul, I’ve written (okay, maybe it was a bit of a rant) about resumes before.  You are an expert on resumes, but also on the interview.

WCYS CoverEveryone knows an interview is about qualifications.  But, it’s more than that.  One of the questions on an interviewer’s mind is never asked, but it’s always lurking in the background.  You call it out:  “Will we enjoy working with you?”  How do you help make yourself likeable?

Call on your First Date 101 skills. Be open. Smile. Don’t do all the talking and show your curiosity with some good questions.  

What’s an informational interview?

These are fact-gathering meetings with experienced individuals in a field designed to help you understand an industry. These are learning and networking opportunities.

What’s changed about phone interviews today?

Their frequency. Phone screens have become a commonplace interview and if you don’t know how to handle them, you may get eliminated before you get an in-person interview.

How do you use LinkedIn to improve your chances?