By Eric Brown
I am in job transition. It’s been 5 years since I was last looking for a job.
Job transition can be nerve racking for some while opportunistic for others. I tend to fall into the latter camp. Being in transition has been an opportune time to reconnect with many in my network. I am saddened I had let some of it fall into neglect while focused on my previous work. A person can only do so much and I had reprioritized several things over the last couple years that were nonnegotiable–my family-time being a big one. As a friend of mine has said, “you can find another job but not another family.”
What have I been doing these last couple months? I like to break it into the 4-R’s: Reorient, Review, Refine, and Reconnect. If you are in job transition or know someone who is, I hope you will find this post helpful and share it with your friends and network.
This is often the most challenging and emotional piece of job transition. Reorienting for me means taking stock of my life–past experience, present reality, and future dreams. Ask yourself the following questions as you think about pursuing a new job or career:
What stage of life am I in?
This can impact the kinds of opportunities you may pursue. If you are in a season of life where travel is necessary and you don’t have a family or small children, it is easier to narrow your focus of potential jobs.
What are my gifts and talents?
Do your gifts and talents fit the career path you are on? If not, have you been intentional about the positions you’ve held or are you moving from one paycheck to another? It may be time to step back and see what you really enjoy doing and are naturally good at.
What skills and experiences do I have?
Have the skills and experiences you’ve acquired had a pattern you can can identify? Do they reconcile with your gifts and talents? This will begin to point you toward future career choices and do not be surprised if you need to change careers.
Where am I in need of additional training or guidance?
We all have feelings of inadequacy. Don’t let that stop you. As you begin to identify your desired role, think about what you need to learn or sharpen as you move forward. Look for people you admire that have the skills or traits you feel inadequate in and ask them for guidance, feedback, and assistance.
What am I passionate about?
List out the things you dream about doing. List out the things that get you energized at work. Think through the things that inspire you and are fun and creative. Similarly, think about the things you strongly dislike. You may already know but if not, you should begin to see what you’re passionate about.
Now that you have put all these lists together or have a mental inventory, filter all this information through your passions. See if they complement what you love doing. If not, be willing to prune.
These questions demand time. Do not sit down and gloss over them. We can easily skip across the surface of our psyche and not do a deep dive. Be gut-wrenchingly honest and open as you answer these questions and then write down your answers. Have someone you trust and who knows you well review your answers and tell you if you’re on target and if anything is missing. Next review your lists and see if there are any patterns or trends.
After spending time in introspection it is time to review what you have learned about yourself. For me, being close to home for this season of family life has been very important, so travel is an option but my preference is to keep it limited. Also, should need arise, relocating is an option but only within driving distance of my aging parents.
As for my gifts, I saw that I was able to intuitively grasp problems and issues quickly and identify steps needed to solve them. I also have years of creative experience and skills in technology and digital strategy. Leveraging these for business and customer goals is both challenging and fun.
What do I love to do? I am passionate about creating tools and resources that people can use to better themselves and their lives. To me, there is nothing more rewarding than passing on what I have learned or created so someone else can have a better life.
The next question was to determine how all these goals, experiences, talents, and passions fit together and what kinds of opportunities did they point toward?
Based on all the information I had and numerous conversations with people that know me well, I decided to narrow my focus from all the myriad experiences in web technology I’ve had to user experience (UX) and usability. For me this work sums up my previous experience, my current skills (not to mention job trends), and my future desire to impact people. Plus, this work will impact the future success of any company I work for. Yet, having experience with applying UX principles can vary depending on the past projects you have worked on and the companies you have worked for.
I realized I needed additional training and certification in the field, so I signed up for a series of courses from Human Factors International. After four intense classes and studying for the final comprehensive exam, I am pleased to say I passed and am now a Certified Usability Analyst (CUA). With this certificate and the worldwide credibility that is recognized I can command a compensation that fits with my current stage of life. Not bad for a months worth of work.
The final and ongoing step is to reconnect with my network of friends and colleagues. This is more critical than you may know. Today’s job market is flooded with good credentials and hard working go-getters. As resumés come across the desks of hiring managers it is not so much on what you have done and can do, as much as who you know. Sending a piece of paper or PDF to a company is not the same as getting in front of people face-to-face. The only way you can do this is to maintain a strong, healthy, and growing network.
As I mentioned earlier, I had let my network suffer because of the demands of work and life. Reconnecting takes time and effort. As a friend said, “it takes full time work to find full time work” and was he right. Don’t neglect your network.
The amazing byproduct for me has been the willingness of many in my network to genuinely want to help. The outpouring of support, encouragement, and new connections have blessed me more than words can say.
As of this writing I have several consulting opportunities and I am pursuing a dozen full time opportunities. I attribute this to the 4R’s. I hope you will apply them in your next job transition. If you do, let me know here so I can cheer you onward!