Marc Miller interviews Dawn Graham, author of Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers — and Seize Success.

Appearing on Career Pivot Podcast

Key Takeaways:
[1:33] Marc welcomes you to Episode 92 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast.
[1:45] If you’re enjoying this podcast, Marc invites you to share this podcast with like-minded souls.

[1:50] Please subscribe on, iTunes, Google Play, Podbean, Overcast, TuneIn, Spotify, or Stitcher. Share it on social media, write an honest iTunes review, or tell your neighbors and colleagues so Marc can help more people.

[2:09] Next week, Marc will start the next career pivot evaluation series with “Can Sarah Repurpose Her Career?” Sarah (not her real name) is employed, a closet creative, and a structured anarchist. Her personality is quite interesting. Marc has seen all aspects of her personality in other clients, but not in this combination.

[2:34] This week, Marc will interview Dawn Graham, author of Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers — and Seize Success. Marc reads Dr. Graham’s bio.

[3:20] Marc welcomes Dr. Dawn Graham to the podcast. Members of Marc’s online community had recommended her book to Marc and he invited her to the podcast. A lot of what Marc read in the book is pretty closely aligned to his own thoughts.

[3:40] Dawn wrote the book because the traditional career ladder has gone away. No longer do people start out in a career and retire from that career. It’s an exciting time. Dawn covers some of the reasons people find themselves ready to switch.

[4:19] No one has a background in the new hybrid jobs, so transferable skills are critical, such as strategic thinking, working with customers, building relationships, and being innovative.

[4:46] The timing has never been so ripe to move into these different opportunities. The challenge is that the hiring process has not caught up with the new jobs. AI Algorithms to match skill sets to jobs are biased toward traditional candidates. They look for the right titles or years of experience in a very specific area.

[5:24] Job seekers are more excited than ever to do different things, but the market is not in a position to see the career switchers because they’re not getting through the applicant tracking systems or other online technology.

[5:40] The book, Switchers, helps people bypass the technology and get in front of the decision makers. Marc always tells people their next job is going to come from a relationship, not a tracking system.

[6:05] In a tracking system, you are an unknown, competing with people who are known, either through a referral or as an internal candidate or a boomerang employee. Most people (70% or 80%) get their job through networking. The conversations of daily life, or knowing someone, can introduce you to information about your perfect opening.

[6:59] Marc recently posted about the five things you will never know about the hiring process at your target company.

[7:30] There are lots of obstacles between the online job searcher and the decision maker at the target company that the applicant does not even realize. When a job posting comes out, you don’t even know if the company has a pre-identified internal candidate but are just following procedures or if it’s an obsolete posting or a scam.

[8:22] Provided the job posting is real, an applicant system will kick you out if your resume is not formatted in the way it’s used to reading. You may be thinking you’re a perfect match but your application has not gone to the hiring manager.

[8:47] Between the time you applied and the application got to the hiring manager, someone internal may have referred another candidate who has leapfrogged the system and already in the second interview with the hiring manager.

[9:03] Applying online is really a risk. Marc gives a case study.

[9:44] The hiring manager is often not skilled in the hiring process. They have a full-time job in another department and are only called on to manage hiring a couple of times a year. Oftentimes, job descriptions are not written in a way that aligns with performance measures. The whole process has a lot of places where it can fall apart before you even get in the door.

[10:13] If you get a referral from someone inside the company who knows the culture, knows what’s going on in the company, puts your resume in front of somebody, and actually connects you to that person, you will likely get a phone call so you can prove yourself.

[10:38] Dawn includes psychological principles in the book important for understanding the process. A lot of the hiring process is about psychology. It’s important to know what’s happening in the mind of the hirer. They will make the decision emotionally and then justify it with data. You want to understand that so you can build a strategy.

[11:49] Hiring managers are concerned about losses. Loss aversion is common to all humans. You are angrier about a loss than happy about a gain. As a switcher, the hiring manager sees you as a risk. You haven’t done this job before. So you have to come up with a strategy to put their mind at ease.

[12:34] The job search process is a game of elimination, not of selection. There are hundreds of applicants. Hiring managers look for red flags, including being a switcher, a job hopper, or going to an unfavored school. It can be silly things. They want easy outs to narrow down the pile. You can put together a strategy to end up in the final round.

[13:36] For applicants over 50, one of the key things is getting over the fact that they’re older. Hiring managers are looking for easy outs, even if they don’t know they’re being biased. No job descriptions ask for 30+ years of experience. Do not give that number away early. Don’t show the year of your degree. List experience back only 20 years.

[14:51] With your age-free materials, work on getting a referral. A lot of bias can be overcome with a strong referral. A referral is somebody trusted by the hiring manager to put applicants before them that fit with the culture and fits the approach the team takes and gives them an endorsement. Now the hiring manager has to prove them wrong.

[15:43] The safest candidate you can hire is an internal hire. The second safest candidate is an external candidate with an employee referral. Marc thinks that the safe candidates make up 80% to 90% of all hiring, so, go get the referral.

[16:00] Dawn talks about how to build a network. As an introvert, Dawn has constantly worked on expanding her network. One easy step is to make sure your spouse, children, neighbor, and people where you attend services all know, in a sentence or two, very clearly the value you add in the professional world.

[17:05] If the people who care about you most and support you are able to do this, they can be your ambassadors to share your information with others and bring opportunities to your attention. They can’t do this if they can’t explain to others what you do. Make sure the people closest to you know clearly what you do.

[17:36] Marc and Dawn discuss strong ties and weak ties. One overlooked weak tie is your children’s friends’ parents. They may have a completely different network. When Marc went to teach high school, his most powerful connector was his chiropractor.

[18:05] Your chiropractor, dentist, hairdresser, etc., see a lot of people from a lot of areas. They could tell you of opportunities or even introduce you to somebody who could open the door to new opportunities. Don’t discount any connection.

[18:52] Don’t overlook dormant contacts you may have lost touch with. Old neighbors, old co-workers, old roommates — there are so many places where we’ve crossed paths with people that we can reconnect with, even on social media. Rebuilding a trusted relationship tends to be pretty quick.

[19:44] Marc gives a case study of an introverted sales guy in the packaged food industry. Marc told him to reach out to everyone he had worked with in the last 20 years. He got a job as an account manager from somebody he had worked with 15 years earlier.

[20:55] Dawn comments on why people are hesitant to reach out. They know it makes sense, and they don’t have challenges speaking to people, but when they look for employment, they feel vulnerable asking for help. They can ask for a restaurant referral but are nervous to ask about a job referral.
[21:46] Be curious. Don’t start talking about a job. Ask how they are doing and what they are up to after these years. Talk about mutual friends. Re-establish your connection. When you meet, then you can talk about your situation and they will want to do what they can to help you. Ask for advice, insights, and recommendations (AIR).

[22:37] Whether are not you are promoting your brand, people brand you by how they observe you and your behaviors. Be conscious of the perceptions people have of you. Understand your audience in a job search and how your accomplishments and strengths can start to solve their problems. Make that your brand.

[24:14] Your brand needs to be in light of what your audience is looking for. There are also intangibles, such as likability. It is critical to your brand.

[24:30] If you’re a likable person, you can get away with a lot more inside your organization than if you’re not. Venture capitalists are going to be more likely to invest in your new business if you’re likable than if you’re not. People are looking for likability as part of your brand. Put your phone away in a conversation. Take time to ask questions.

[25:08] Following through on your commitments is critical as well.

[25:24] There is a chapter in the book about fairness. Dawn talks about it. A lot of people who are unsuccessful in switching careers have been chasing fairness instead of reality. Don’t take unfairness personally. Learn the rules and play within them. Create a strategy to get around bias. Don’t get stuck in the applicant tracking system.

[27:06] When you get hired as a switcher, somebody with the traditional background is going to say that’s not fair. It’s not a level playing field so you have to learn to get around the situations that can bog you down to get the advantage.

[27:41] Marc notes that older workers are scared of rejection, or they don’t want to brag so they don’t put themselves out there as they must. He refers to Alexander Buschek’s journey to rebrand himself into a digital transformation thought leader in Episode 72. Marc told Alexander over and over again to be bold.

[28:22] Each time Alexander took a little step forward, he got positive feedback. Marc kept pushing him. Now he speaks all over Europe at conferences. He is the digital transformation guy.

[28:50] Chances are, if you’re worried that you’re bragging, you’re probably not. If you are going to be humble, remember that the guy behind you will not, so you will lose out. There are ways to advocate for yourself that don’t feel as though you’re bragging. Dawn recommends talking about how you were rewarded or recruited, in terms of others.

[29:45] It may be tempting to speak in terms of “we” and “our team.” That tends to masks your contribution. People know you were on a team but talk about the things you did. Use “glide” questions by stating an accomplishment and asking how that might work relevant to what the company is doing.

[30:57] Dawn gives her connection info. Marc thanks Dawn for being on the podcast.

[31:49] Dawn has a very similar view on changing careers as Marc has. Marc suggests you pick up her book and give it a read.

[33:07] Check back next week, when Marc will start the next career pivot evaluation series with “Can Sarah Repurpose Her Career?”

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