Most of us have many phases to our careers, from the typical entry level jobs through mid-career to retirement. In the 20th Century, this seemed to run in a predictable series of stages, and often involved working for the same employer, in the same industry or profession, for decades. Not any more.
Now, it is becoming increasingly rare for someone to have a smoothly-continuous career with no hiccups or periods of unemployment. Layoffs happen. Employers restructure or are gobbled up by someone else who moves the jobs to another location or shuts down divisions or functions.
Times Have Changed!
In the 21st Century, careers often don’t have smooth and predictable trajectories:
- Whole industries disappear, like film-based cameras and Polaroid ”instant” cameras.
- Other industries transform into something new, like digital cellphone cameras and online news organizations.
- Completely new industries appear, like search engine optimization and anti-spam/anti-malware software providers.
- Established professions disappear, like offset printers and switchboard operators.
- New professions appear, like social media marketing specialists and cellphone app developers.
- The “Baby Boomer” generation, now in their 50′s and 60′s, have clearly postponed their retirement until “later” when it is, hopefully, more affordable, slowing down the career trajectories of the younger workers behind them.
So, one industry/profession disappears while another one grows. An expected labor shortage (because of all the Boomers retiring) turns into labor over-supply when the economy tanks. And everything seems to have “morphed” at least a bit. These changes seem to happen over night because of the technology, but, while development can be very fast, it’s seldom over night.
The Next Phase of Your Career
The next phase of your career may involve a career change, due to circumstances beyond your control. Or it may simply be changing employers or changing jobs within the same organization.
The best defense is a good offense, so consider some steps you could take to prepare for the next phase:
1. Figure out what you want next.
You can’t get “there” unless you know where “there” is. This is key because it provides you with the focus that will help you succeed in your next job search.
If you need help, find a career counselor, perhaps from the college you attended in your past, or perhaps a local professional.
Whenever I’ve been faced with an involuntary career change, I always got the latest version of What Color Is Your Parachute? by my friend and mentor Dick Bolles. It only takes a day or two to read it and to do all the exercises, and you will know much more about yourself when you are done. It makes choosing that next career a much more informed decision. Dick updates this classic book every year, and What Color Is Your Parachute? 2012 is the 40th edition. It’s in every bookstore and library.
2. Start preparing for your next role.
Take classes. Read books. Volunteer in roles that will help you gain experience in this role, either inside the organization where you currently work or for a non-profit organization that will be grateful for your assistance.
Or, if you are unemployed, you might look for a part-time or temporary job in the new field or in a closely-related field. Taking classes and volunteering are excellent “gap-fillers” for your resume, too.
Employed or unemployed, gain as much experience and insight into your new role as you can. You will be building both your resume and your network.
3. Research potential employers.
This is where Dick’s classic concept of “informational interviews” can be very helpful. Using a social network like LinkedIn or a “real” network like your family, friends, and former co-workers, find people who are doing the job you want next. Contact them, and ask for 10 or 20 minutes of their time to discuss the job and the employers in this field:
- What do they love and hate about the job?
- What are the different kinds of employers who need people doing this work?
- Who are the best employers and why?
- Who are the worst employers and why?
- What is the best way to approach the best employers?
- Is there a professional or industry association where you can connect with these – and more – potential employers?
- Is there a school/degree/certificate/license preferred by the best employers?
- What are these best employers looking for in a new employee in this role?
- Who can you talk with next?
Don’t bring a resume. Do definitely send a thank you, and, perhaps, extend an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Return the favor if possible, or help someone else move forward along their career path when you have the opportunity.
4. Build your professional profile, and focus on managing your online reputation.
Recruiters love LinkedIn! It is a great network for job seekers and also a great network for professionals focused on doing their best in the jobs. For help, read the articles on Job-Hunt about LinkedIn for Job Search, Personal Branding, and Personal Marketing.
Other social networks can also help you build and maintain your professional reputation – read the Top 7 Social Media Networks for Job Search. Practice Defensive Googling, set up Google Alerts to help you with your Defensive Googling, and learn online reputation management modes and methods.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have such an excellent professional reputation that your next job found you rather than the other way around?
Spend time and effort in looking ahead to see what you might want to do next, and you can better manage a smooth transition to that next phase in your career. Don’t wait for a layoff or other event to force you into making, perhaps, a too-hasty move to something that may not be right for you. Be prepared by starting now.
© Copyright, 2012, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.