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The Great “Catch-22” Facing Job Seekers Pursuing a Career Transition

Today’s job seekers looking to transition into a new field face the greatest of all Catch-22s imaginable… how can one obtain the experience needed to successfully transition into a new field, when people in that industry won’t hire you without prior experience in the industry?
While the challenge facing career transitioners may seem insurmountable, it is NOT. Conducting an effective career transition into a new vocation is a manageable task, ASSUMING you approach it with the right plan. The first thing one must do is conduct a complete self-assessment to identify your strongest skills that are TRANSFERRABLE.

Transferable skills are the talents that you have acquired in past jobs that can help an employer AND can be utilized in a number of industries, environments, or jobs. Experiences like volunteer work, hobbies, sports, previous jobs, college coursework, or even your experience living through significant life events provide such transferrable skills.

Ask yourself what your core competencies are. These are the skills that you are strongest at. Some examples of core competencies might include: customer service, retail sales, direct marketing, project management, foreign languages, bookkeeping, fundraising, etc.
Any skill is transferable; the trick is showing employers how these skills of yours apply to the job you are pursuing in this new industry and how your competencies are useful to them in one or more of the following three ways: 1) help them to increase revenues; 2) reduce profits; or 3) improve their operational efficiencies.

Another way to transition into an industry you do not possess experience in, is to approach your job search as if you are selling a product called “YOU.” Using this approach will enable you to understand your product “features and benefits” and learn how to market these selling points of your background to employers. Some of your features and benefits include: your education, continuing education coursework, training programs, certifications, language proficiency, cultural diversity, the time you spent working, living and/or studying abroad, awards and recognition you received, your special leadership qualities, and experience managing others, your community engagement earned through your volunteer work, etc.

Research the industries you are interested in breaking into from top to bottom. There is a wealth of information on most companies especially if they are publicly traded. Some excellent resources for company background information include: Hoovers, the Securities and Exchange Commission Edgar database of annual and quarterly financial statement filings (, the public records database, (for industrial and manufacturing firms), Dun & Bradstreet, The Motley Fool, etc.

Of all the strategies available to those seeking a career transition, none is more powerful potentially rewarding as the informational interview. The informational interview is a way to meet people who are either doing what you want to do in a specific job in that new industry, people you know through your network who work in the industry, or someone that manages a Department that you might want to work in within an organization in this new industry.

During your informational interview, you want to learn how they got their start in that industry, what they love most about their jobs, what industry associations do they belong to, what publications to they read, what events do they attend, what special training or classes they have taken etc. It is important to note that the informational interview is NOT an interview. You are not asking for a job. However, you can and should ask if they know one or two people they can suggest for you t o talk to.

It is NOT impossible to break into a field that you do not have experience in. Like any truly rewarding venture, it takes a strategic plan, hard work and perseverance, and a willingness to embrace strategies you might not be comfortable doing.

Make 2010 a Success: Return Those Phone Calls!

Want to start 2010 on the right foot? How about returning those phone calls that you ignored or put off? You probably cut back drastically or avoided many business discussions last year, as you took a “wait and see” approach. Now is the perfect time to pull your head out of the sand and re-engage with those potential partners, suppliers, clients and vendors.

Make a prioritized list ranked from high to low of potential return on these people that reached out to you. Begin calling people back. You will be amazed at all the business opportunities that you have missing. You probably missed out on many special offers, discounts, lease renewals, restructuring terms on agreements, office space rental, and much more.

You road to success in 2010 should be all about making a comeback. Nothing prevents your own progress more than burying you head in the sand and hoping that external forces make your current business climate more favorable. Seize the moment…go into every potential discussion as a new opportunity to generate new revenues, reduce costs, of build strategic partnerships.

The longer you wait, the more likely the chance that the people who called you trying to pursue opportunities have moved on. Perhaps they contacted your direct competitors, as well. What if your competitors take advantage of those new opportunities instead of you?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Don’t sit on the sidelines hoping for Divine Intervention in the form of stimulus funding or that one RAINMAKER deal to materialize. Get on the phone, start talking to people. You were successful before by pursuing every opportunity, so…

Make it happen again in 2010!

What If All Your Job Search Strategies Are Wrong?

Are you looking for a job, conducting a career transition, or re-entering the workforce?

If so, the odds are heavily stacked against you in achieving success. This is due to the tremendously high level of competition that currently exists for scarce work. Even worse, you are likely relying on outdated strategies that are by their nature doomed for failure. Today’s job market is unlike anything we have ever witnessed before.

Why? We are living through today 40 years of failed, business, political, and academic policies. The leaders of our industries have failed us. Not only have venerable, old established global institutions like Bear Stearns, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae have struggled for their existence, but entire industries are collapsing as we transitioned from a post-Industrial to service and technology-based economy. Industries like advertising, printing, manufacturing, retail, automobile manufacturing, banking, financial services…all are going through significant transformation.

How can you bulletproof your career and conduct successful job searches in today’s 21st century, global contract workplace? These times DEMAND that you use unconventional, non-traditional strategies.

Your goal should be to visualize your dream job. Identify all the attributes of what constitutes ideal work for you – then write that all down. Identify the six to eight organizations in the 3-4 industries that you are interested in, whose cultures match your values and belief system. Within these 18-32 organizations, you want to find the individual that you would be reporting to in this ideal job that doesn’t exist.

You will approach them directly with a sales pitch for how you are the ideal solution to resolve their challenges in this job that they don’t know they need to fill in their Team since it doesn’t exist. Your pitch should focus on how you will accomplish the following: 1) make them more money; 2) reduce their costs, or 3) improve their operations. You are the solution to what keeps them up at night.

The resume and cover letter are dead. That one minute elevator pitch is also irrelevant in today’s challenging job market climate. In their place, you need to sell yourself as a unique solution in 3-5 seconds, by developing your own unique personal brand.

Forget job postings. If they are posted, chances are hundreds if not thousands of job seekers have already applied to them. Instead, you want to pursue informational interviews. Find the people in those 3-4 industries you want to work in that do what you want to be doing or work in places you want to work, and ask them to meet with you for 30 minutes. The goal is to find out what do they enjoy most/least about their jobs, what is a typical day like, how did they find their job, what trade associations do they belong to. You need to build a career networking pipeline of highly qualified leads. You should have a personal networking plan, a document that details how you will get yourself in front of those people that you want to sell yourself to.

As you work on building a network, you need to thoroughly research yourself. Conduct a personal assessment online. You need to know how to sell yourself like a product, inside and out. What are your “product” features and benefits, in terms of experience, education, training, skills, language proficiency, etc.

Most importantly, you must stop relying on others to manage your search. Recruiters are fairly useless, and it is important to circumvent the gatekeeper (HR person) by going directly to the person you would be reporting to, in tat job that doesn’t exist that you are going to sell yourself as the best solution. These are the unconventional, non-traditional approaches that must be leveraged for job search success in today’s turbulent times.

Your body language speaks volumes, even when you don’t.

You send out messages all the time and communicate with others without even speaking! The non-verbal cues you make convey all sorts of information to others about you. For example, avoiding eye contact conveys extreme shyness, and/or a complete lack of trust in others.
Folding your arms is a defensive posture (unless you’re cold) which alerts others that you may be angry, or just don’t trust them.

Keeping your hands in your pockets and playing with change indicates miserliness (being cheap.) Twirling hair in your fingers absent-mindedly sends a message that you lack professionalism or get bored easily. All of these non-verbal cues send out messages to others and can sabotage your attempt to make a positive first impression.

For example, repeated face touching (esp. your nose) indicates deception. Repeatedly checking your watch indicates extreme boredom and rudeness! Good posture is a sign of confidence and leaning in towards others as they speak conveys interest. Following are informative web sites you can reference, for advice on how to control your body language and convey the most professional demeanor:

Why Colleges and Businesses Don’t Work Together.

You would think that if any two organizations were made for one another, it would be academic institutions and businesses. They have completely symmetrical goals after all. Colleges/Universities prepare their students to graduate as well-rounded people who are ready to dive into the workforce and achieve outstanding results immediately. Businesses are always looking for talented, well trained pools of qualified candidates to join their organization and make an immediate, pronounced positive impact on their organization’s success.

So why don’t these two organizations work more effectively together…especially in these turbulent times?

Granted some colleges have a fairly well developed network of contacts in business & industry that utilize their students on internship or co-operative education basis. Some schools can even claim that employers are hiring their students on a full-time basis in these trying times. But the relationship is built upon an underdeveloped, sporadic and non-continuous basis. Both fail miserably at developing any kind of a strategic partnership.

Most colleges seek organizations in their immediate market area, to serve as a pipeline for placing their students. Few schools bother to take the time or make the effort required to nurture a relationships with key businesses as a truly valued partner. Schools fail to become strategic partners of business and industry, when they fail to provide a significant level of service to the key businesses and organizations (trade associations, chambers of commerce, economic development corporations, business solutions centers, etc.) They often do not invest he time and effort required to learn a business’s key products/services, the accounts that business manages, their business challenges, competitors, management team, etc.

A key issue in the approach that schools take in soliciting businesses is the nature in which they engage businesses in such a “decentralized” fashion. A university has many disparate departments all with differing goals and motivations that are soliciting businesses. The efforts made by these departments to reach out to business are often poorly coordinated and compete with each other.

A college may have its co-operative education department, alumni relations, career development center, business school, fundraising department, entrepreneurial center, and even different engineering departments solicit a business SEPERATELY. Rarely does the college or University target key businesses at the highest level. In fact, they hardly ever are aware how much at odds these departments are and the damaging mixed messages that this approach sends to the businesses they are attempting to partner with.

Even worse, colleges are myopically focused on applying poor metrics to determine their success in serving business & industry. They point to the graduation rates of their students in the aggregate as a measure of their success. Many academic institutions still subscribe to the outdated and erroneous belief that it is not their job to assist students in finding employment.

They hold to the outdated notion that their mandate is merely to deliver a “well-rounded” education for their students. Colleges and universities would be well served to perform a critical self-assessment as to their placement levels of students upon graduation in key timeframes within each field/major and concentration area of study.

Businesses also fail to leverage the relationship with academic institutions at the highest levels of strategic partnerships. They seek out college students as a source for cheap labor. They often fail to consider that schools can serve their long-term recruiting and staffing needs by providing excellent talent as a trial ground for making hiring decisions. They often provide poorly developed job descriptions, and bring in college students for highly glorified clerical work.

They see college students as a great source for labor to accomplish repetitive, administrative, and tactical work, but often fail to utilize student talent to help their grow their businesses. They fail to utilize the growing presence of entrepreneurial think tanks and business start up centers that many colleges and universities are now building, to serve small land mid-sized businesses in their launch efforts.

To overcome this tremendous lost opportunity, colleges should develop cross functional teams comprised of members from all the departments listed above. These cross-functional teams must be empowered to solicit long-term strategic relationship with businesses and trade associations. Businesses should view colleges and Universities as a tremendous resource for their strategic planning and new business development efforts. Open up their business plans, and engage the college across multiple levels to gain the maximum benefit of the relationship. They should have a strategic recruiting plan with a wide range of local area academic institutions that they strive to build strategic working relationships with.

How to "Unstick" Your Business in Turbulent Times

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, chances are you are struggling right now with ways to move your business forward. Clients have probably stopped buying your products and services, or drastically cut back on the business they were sending your way. You might be struggling to find new clients. You’re probably pulling out all the stops, to come up with creative ways to get your employees re-engaged and keep them motivated that things will turn around some time soon. Most likely, you yourself have doubts if things will turn around, in time to keep your business afloat.

Fear not! There are proactive steps you can take to move your business forward.

Take a cold, hard look at your client list. Identify those clients that are your most profitable. Build a “Best Customer Profile.” Be sure to write it down. That will become your target for identifying highly qualified SIMILAR contacts at organizations for you to aggressively target. Be as specific as possible to build a complete picture of your most profitable client.

While you’re at it, think about these clients that are your most profitable. Chances are, they are your most loyal customers. They always refer new business your way, speak well about the service you provide, and have provided you with testimonials. They are your “Apostles.” Now’s the perfect time to go on an apostle appreciation tour. Take these clients out to lunch. Let them know that in these trying times, you are here for them. DON’T ask for referrals. It’s a way for you to thank them for their support, and NOT a shakedown.

Next up…change your approach! When you do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome, it’s called “INSANITY.” Re-evaluate ALL of our systems, processes, and procedures. If the answer to why you are doing something a certain way is “that’s how we’ve always done it” then it’s probably time to tear that down and find a new approach. There are no SACRED cows…everything is fair game.

Create a networking plan. When you created a profile of your most profitable client you should have captured information on where these types of individuals met in professional Associations, clubs, organizations. You must identify these events and make a point of attending as many as you can.

Write! Write! Write! Become a subject matter expert on any and all topics that are near and dear to the hearts of your apostles and ideal customer profiles. Start by authoring blogs, articles, white papers, anything you can do to get your name in front of your ideal client profiles. While you’re at it…SHAKE THINGS UP! If you spend a lot of time in your office, GET OUT! Schedule as many meetings out of the (home) office as you possibly can. While you’re out, spoil yourself. Buy yourself something nice. Go to an afternoon matinee. Do something you wouldn’t normally do, just to say thank you to YOU!

Revisit your partner strategy. Which people that you know in your professional network have complementary products and services that fit nicely with your offerings. If you already have partners and there is no synergy then cut those relationships loose. While we on the subject of products and services.

Now is a great time to rethink your product and service offerings. Is there something you can offer that you aren’t? Ask your apostles on your appreciation tour.

Take an END-OF-YEAR look back NOW. Don’t wait for the holidays. You’ll be drowning in eggnog, Depression, and holiday distractions. Volunteer what little spare time you have to charitable organizations, not-for-profits, your local church, synagogue, homeless shelter, senior citizen center. Go back to school! Take a class, learn a new skill, or attend a Webinar. You should always find time to develop new skills.

Re-engage your industry trade Association, local Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Toastmasters…whatever! Get involved on a Committee to plan for their end-of-year gala.
Now is NOT the time to stick your head in the ground and hope the tornado blows past. Stay focused, re-evaluate your business, keep active but working aggressively. Channel your efforts towards re-discovering your clients and the reasons you started your business.