My wife and I had a special guest at our house recently. Our good friends dropped off their 5-year-old son, Nash with us for the weekend. Over the course of the visit, I found myself asking Nash: “hey buddy, what do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a timeless question that countless adults asked me when I was a kid, so it felt like a natural question to ask him.
However, this question of what we want to be when we grow up is not limited to youth. In fact, I have spoken with dozens of professionals in and out of the industry over the past few years – especially in the past year due to the pandemic – struggling with this question.
These professionals all desperately want to make a change in their career, but don’t really know what they want to do or how to start the process. They feel displaced and maybe a bit nervous to be in this predicament. The thought of “starting over” with a new career path can also feel daunting, require a pay cut, stepping out of the comfort zone. I can certainly sympathize with them, as I went through this stage in my career a few years ago.
As we embark on a new year ahead, the thought of a career change is top of mind for many professionals. Those who have contacted me often have some plans they are considering, but aren’t quite sure which path to take or what steps they can take to ensure success. The following are some suggestions I can offer to help you navigate this process and continue down the road to future success professionally.
Tip #1: Determine the Best Path to Take
When I decided I wanted to make a change in my career, I literally felt like I was staring at a blank chalkboard and had zero idea of what I wanted to do for the next chapter in my career. A mentor of mine gave me some incredibly valuable advice. He asked me “what do you like to do and what are you good at doing?” Those simple words distilled the process down for me, and got my brain pointed in the right direction.
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To help organize my thoughts I created a simply Excel document that I like to call “The Opportunity Matrix”. I wrote out several items that I thought I was good at, enjoyed doing, or had value to me on the horizontal axis. If you are unsure about what skills to highlight, consider taking a professional skills assessment online. Some examples for me might be sales, marketing, working with dealers, international business.
You could also add elements of compensation: salary, benefits, and other financial elements. On the vertical axis, I wrote a list of anything I was considering. Some examples might be as follows: a CE Sales role with a manufacturer, start (another) integration company, consulting, join the circus, or any other role that may come to mind.
Once the horizontal and vertical axis elements were populated, I then added a numerical value from 0-10 at each intersection; adding weight to the relative item for each role. At the far right, a total would be calculated for each role based on the factors I had entered. This process was remarkably revealing for me. The roles that I originally thought would be the most rewarding for me (not financially, but the overall score), were actually some of the lowest scores.
The opportunity matrix ultimately led me to start my current business: BIG. It has been an incredible journey and extremely rewarding for me. If you would like a copy of the Opportunity Matrix, please email me and I would be happy to send you a free copy.
Tip #2: Prepare for the Next BIG Opportunity
The process of updating a resume, a LinkedIn profile, or creating a professional bio, website, brochure and other materials can be a grueling process. However, it can also be invaluable to restoring or increasing confidence in your skills and abilities. As you go through the process of developing professional branding materials, you are forced to reflect on past achievements, certifications earned, and collect an inventory of signature strengths to highlight.
As you create your resume or professional bio, keep in mind that people don’t care as much about where you worked, compared to what you did! For example, list the role you had first, then the company. Focus on highlighting accomplishments in that role, rather than duties. I have reviewed hundreds of resumes over the course of my career and I could count on one hand the number of them that truly stood out from the crowd.
Also, do your research and read online tips for creating a compelling resume or professional bio and online presence. If creating these materials is not a key strength for you, then invest the money to hire a professional to perform the work for you. Think of the return on investment for the money spent to create a world-class professional brand for yourself and the impact it may have on future compensation for many years ahead.
Tip #3: Spread the Word & Work on Establishing Credibility
Network with friends and colleagues when the time is right. In most cases the opportunities will not chase you down, you need to find them for yourself. The best way is to lean on the network you have created personally and professionally.
If you are seeking new employment, reach out to some professionals or past employers for a Letter of Recommendation that you can use for potential opportunities. I have included portions of a LOR as quotes within a professional bio. It is also important to have a list of approved references available and include a quote from the reference regarding your skills, abilities, or past accomplishments.
If you are launching a new business, especially in consulting, ask yourself why a company or person should hire you as a consultant and be prepared to deliver credible examples of the value you can deliver to the prospect.
There will never be a good time to take the leap and explore a new opportunity. When I started my first business, I had three small kids, and a single income in the family, but the fear of failure drove me to create massive success with my team. The success we achieved did not happen by accident, it took a lot of hard work and dedication by my team and me.
The same can be said about a career. The investment you make in your career planning and professional branding can have a massive impact on your future success and there is no better day to start making that investment than today.
Best wishes for BIG success to you in the year ahead!