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Making a Successful Career Transition

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

by Brad Karsh, President, JobBound

It’s never an easy decision to change jobs. But when that magic moment comes, when you’ve read “Who Moved My Cheese,” and when you decide that today is the day, what exactly do you do?

This is a problem plaguing many job seekers. In fact, part of the reason you haven’t made the move is probably because you don’t really know how to get started. Here is the inside scoop on exactly how to take the next step.

1. Put your house in order
Resume, cover letter, interviewing skills. You’ll need to have all of them brushed up and in top-notch shape. I know that resume has been sitting dormant since you graduated college eight years ago, but trust me, the recruiting director no longer cares that you raised $370 for the “Cannes Car Wash ‘99” with the Advertising Club.

Don’t assume that your title or company will speak for themselves either. Just because you’re the Account Supervisor on Unilever at Ogilvy New York doesn’t mean you’ll get any job you apply for. There are an abundance of well qualified candidates out there. The more buttoned up you are with your preparation, the better your chances.

Update the resume. You can do it yourself or work with a professional resume writing company. Just make sure it’s in great shape accurately reflecting your accomplishments. The same goes for interviewing. You probably think that you are great at interviewing, but you may be shocked at the mistakes you make following a mock interview. Perhaps you’re an excellent speaker, but that doesn’t mean you do well in an interview. Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect.

2. Reassess your career
When you decide to look for a new job it’s typically for one of two reasons.

  1. You don’t like your current job
  2. You lost your job

Our first inclination is to get another job doing the same exact thing, as quickly as possible. We think like a robot:

Lost job as account director on car account at large multi-national ad agency. Must get new job as account director on car account at large multi-national ad agency.

Take some time to think. Do you like your career? Do you like the field you work in? What might make you happier? The earlier you do this in your career the better. One lament I hear from more experienced job seekers is that they feel trapped.

That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Now that you’re changing jobs, reassess your priorities and make sure you’re not just blindly jumping into the next job. You can start your own company, go to work in a different city, or get training for another industry. Obviously, there are some constraints on what you can do, but take some time to really think about that next move.

3. Get out there
You have more tools than you think when it comes time to see what jobs are available. Take our exciting quiz to determine if you know the best way to land work. Please select which is the most effective way to score your next job:

  1. Check out online job postings
  2. Network
  3. Work with an executive recruiter
  4. Scour individual company websites
  5. All of the above.

Yes folks, the answer is e. If you are serious about landing that next job, you want to go after it with vigor. Like anything else in life, the more effort you put into the something the more you get out of it. Each method has its advantages:

  • Online job postings are how most companies list their open jobs
  • Networking can get you access to hiring managers and recruiting directors with a recommendation from someone on the inside
  • Executive recruiters often are hiring for jobs that are not posted online
  • Company websites allow you to stay abreast of up-to-date job listings

However, each approach can have its disadvantages as well. Going home one night and applying to 20 jobs online – and then wondering why you haven’t heard from anyone – is not the best way to look for a job. Similarly, putting all of your eggs into the executive recruiter basket can be a risky proposition. It sounds cliché, but the wider you cast your net, the more likely you are to catch a fish (or in our discussion, land a job).

4. Act with professionalism in all you do
The way you conduct your job search is a reflection on you. I’ve heard (and seen) far too many instances of resumes sitting on the copy machine, Yahoo! HotJobs left up on your computer screen when you head out to lunch, or multiple instances of your Grandmother dying unexpectedly on Wednesday from 1:00 – 2:30. Not only does this give you a bad reputation, but it can also cost you your current job.

Similarly, don’t be too quick to get into bed with your new company. Don’t betray company or client confidences, don’t bad mouth your former company, and don’t give less than the industry-standard two weeks notice if you do quit.

Why should you care about any of these for a company you are leaving? From my perspective as a recruiting director, I always thought if you do that to your former company, you’d do it to my company as well down the road. Plus it’s a small world out there. People talk and people move jobs quite a bit. You don’t want to burn bridges or be known around the industry as unethical.

Getting a new job can be an intimidating process. But if you go about it with a plan on how to do it the right way, it can be incredibly rewarding.

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