Career Switchers: Stop Waiting To Be Chosen

Promote Yourself!Photo by Chris Adamus on Unsplash

Being in a job search can be anxiety-provoking, especially if you’re making a significant career change. Waiting for responses that never come, getting rejected before having the opportunity to present your case to a hiring manager, and feeling excited that you’ve found the perfect job only to lose out to a traditional candidate will make any career switcher want to give up.

Don’t – you’ve got this. And here’s the secret: You don’t have to wait to be chosen to start your career switch.

But it’s understandable why you might think you have to follow a process. The human brain seeks structure – a clear path with sequential guideposts that guarantee we arrive at our destination. And we’ve become a culture reliant on 24/7 access to GPS, so we’ve forgotten that we have the ability to reach our destination via a map of our own making.

This is causing frustration for job seekers who are pursuing unconventional job changes, while following conventional job search steps, such as applying online and waiting for a company to respond. These processes are losing momentum as new professional working structures grow in popularity.

In fact, traditional career paths are fading, giving way to portfolio careers, hybrid roles, gigs and virtual arrangements. Career ladders are toppling in favor of professionals seeking meaningful work instead of climbing to the top of one field. Even companies are stumped on how to hire for the future, recognizing that rapid market changes mean the need for an agile workforce.

This disruption is great news for professionals who want to switch careers, since transferable skills, adaptability and a self-starting mindset are highly desired by today’s growing organizations. However, it also means you must take the reins and forge ahead without a clearly visible path to success. If you’re ready, here’s how:

  • Start before you’re ready. In this ever-changing marketplace, chances are you’ll never feel 100% prepared. If your next step is unclear, the best way to find clarity is to move forward. Your view of the situation, and potential solutions, will be clearer when you’re in the middle of it rather than when you’re on the outside looking in. Build your website, hang your shingle, set up that client meeting, take action – it won’t be perfect but you’ll be one step closer to your destination.
  • Follow your fear. The body is very wise if you take the time to listen. And fear (not the life-threatening kind) is usually a signal of where your next growth edge is lurking. Pay attention to those activities that feel scary – they’re usually your next stretch goal waiting to be tackled. Pitch your product, say “yes” to the project, reach out to the executive – you might muck it up, but your other option is to do nothing and remain stagnant.
  • Embrace setbacks. When things go smoothly, there is little opportunity for learning. Challenges and mistakes are your built-in lessons, and if you’re not making them, you’re likely not stretching yourself enough. Course correct, get feedback and reach out to another executive and then another – practice is the best way to improve and although your mind will trick you into thinking otherwise, opportunities are infinite, so go ahead and make your mistakes.
  • Stop comparing. We often look to the pros when learning, which means we also compare ourselves to the experts while we are progressing. Resist comparing your start to someone else’s peak as it will only shake your confidence. Track your data, take photos of your before and after, and keep your early prototypes – when you compare your current state to your beginning state, you’ll see progress worth celebrating.
  • Engage your network. Nothing great is ever accomplished independently, even if those around us only serve as sounding boards or cheerleaders. It’s tempting to avoid feeling vulnerable or to worry how others will react, but being closed off limits opportunities and inhibits progress. Ask for referrals, engage your friends as testers, and build a personal board of directors – when you involve others, you expand your view and solidify your commitment to your goal, which serves as inspiration when things get tough.
  • Persevere. Progress usually looks more like a roller coaster than a train, looping a few times before reaching its destination. When you decide to make a career switch on your own terms, there will be highs and lows, and moments of clarity followed by clouds of doubt. Expect this, and it will feel like a part of the ride versus a dead-end. Set a small daily goal, celebrate minor wins, look back at your progress periodically – building credibility and competence in a new field takes time, but before you know it, you’ll be known as a “go-to” resource among your network.

Stop waiting for someone else to deem you worthy of the work that you were meant to do. You have everything you need right now to create your own path to success.

Happy hunting!

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