How to Make Connections in an Industry (When You're Certain You Have None)

The following is a guest post by our intern, Darby Hennessey, a native Portlander and journalism student at the University of Mississippi. 

Launching a job search in a new industry -- one in which you have few contacts --  can feel a lot like being the new kid at school: nobody knows who you are, striking up friendships feels awkward (at best) and, on top of it all, there’s a giant pile of homework to contend with.

It all adds up to a lot of ‘yuck’

But if you really want to break into that sector, you've pretty much got two choices: 

  1. Buck up and find a way to forge new connections, or
  2. Give up

I vote for buck up, every time. 

Building and nurturing industry contacts is extremely helpful – both during your search and once you’ve landed your next gig. Whether it’s via LinkedIn, through a coworker, or a friend-of-a-friend, having someone (or someones) to communicate with, learn from. or enlist for support is critical when you're looking to pivot your career.

So how do you tackle this assignment when you’re switching industries and your list of insider acquaintances and confidants adds up to a big fat zero?  

First and foremost, do not panic. And don't throw up your hands and assume it's hopeless.

Instead, consider leveraging these tools as means to forge valuable connections with people in an industry of interest (or, even your current industry if you've done little to branch out in recent year):

Twitter

Twitter's not just for millennials and celebrities. It’s also an incredibly helpful, interactive site for active job seekers, and all professionals (especially when you're working to build thought leadership.)  

What, specifically, can you do on Twitter?

First, find and follow the leaders in your industry. But don’t stop there. Make sure you retweet their best posts, reply with thoughtful questions, or perhaps even send them a quick direct message to establish contact.

A word of Twitter caution: there is a fine line between “attentive and interested Twitter follower” and “overzealous weirdo.” Don’t be the creeper. Stay on the safe side of the line, sharing your enthusiasm and making your interests clear without ‘over-Twittering.’  

Conferences and Trade Shows

It seems there’s a conference for every industry. (Including ones for ventriloquists, Abraham Lincoln lookalikes and the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas. We checked.)

Bottom line? There’s an amazingly high chance the field you're targeting has at least one annual conference. It probably has several. If you play it right, these events can provide fantastic opportunities for attendees to meet new people -- people who are influencers in the very field you're targeting. 

Your goal at these events? Go to as many sessions or workshops as you can, ask thoughtful questions, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself as a newbie to the industry. This status may actually work to your advantage, as professionals are usually happy to help out “the new guy” with pointers and introductions. 

LinkedIn (of course)

Assuming you already have a solid LinkedIn profile (and, if not, we can help you remedy that situation), tap into this resource big time when you're working to build out contacts in a new industry.

Join groups related to your areas of career interest. Let your current network know of your interest in changing jobs (if you are in a position to do so). Remember, your existing contacts are a great place to start in order to build new ones. It’s like low-hanging fruit. Tap into the resources you have and build out from there. You’ll likely discover you have current friends and contacts who can put you in touch with others who may be useful in guiding you into your next role. 

Networking Letters

Most often, your friends, family members and professional contacts will be more than willing to support you as you work to meet people in a new industry, and transition your career. But they can't possibly do this if they have no idea what kind of help you need, or what types of people you'd like to meet.

This is where the networking letter comes in -- a friendly, concise letter sent out to your friends and professional contacts that spells out exactly what you want to do (often, even our close friends don’t really know what we do at work all day). In a networking letter, you can share what you want to do, what skills you want to put to use and -- if you know them -- some sample job titles that would align with what you're seeking.

In short, give people a concrete picture of what you're aiming for. And then follow it up with a direct, polite request for an introduction to anyone that they feel might be helpful to you in your search.

(And, of course, end this letter with an offer to return the favor if you may!)

Professional Associations

Just like a club but for adult professionals, a professional association is the perfect place to meet like-minded individuals in your field of interest (or, again, maybe your current field). They also typically provide plenty of opportunities to get involved in a group setting. (Read: Less scary or daunting than a one-on-one setting).

Not only is this a great way to make contacts, it also gives you access to a bunch of local people, which can be super helpful if you hope or plan to stay in our current area. Sure, your brother-in-law in Kansas who works in the field you're trying to break into is a great person to chat with, but local people may be your ticket into a specific organization in your own hometown.

Meetup.com

Urban dwellers, you’re at an advantage here. At Meetup.com, you can find groups (of every flavor) meeting socially, or to discuss specific professional topics. These events tend to be easygoing in nature, which can be really helpful for anyone who may feel intimidated by the full-on professional events (e.g. conferences or association meetings).

Look for Meetups tied in some way to your specific industry or interests, and make an effort to attend and participate. Participating is crucial: you want to appear (right out of the gates) as someone who is passionate, enthusiastic and engaged in whatever field you're eyeing. This will make contacts more likely to remember you after the event, and (with luck) go out of their way to help you break into the field.

The Bottom Line

Wherever you are at professionally, and wherever you are attempting to go, the bottom line is this -- Fortune favors the bold. And, yes. It's often not what you know, it's who you know. This is not a platitude in many cases.

Given this, it will truly benefit you to go about establishing new connections in a relatively fearless, extroverted manner (even if you're a textbook introvert). Find a way that works for you, of course. But find a way. Job search is not the time to be shy and hold back with your networking. 

The good news? For every person who ignores you, you'll likely have at least three who don't. And one of those three? May be the linchpin to your future success.

So what do you have to lose?

 

Photo: Flickr.com Creative Commons (FelixTriller)

The (Only) 3 People You Should Ask to Review Your Resume

The following is a guest post by our summer intern, Darby Hennessey, a native Portlander and journalism student at the University of Mississippi. 

So, you did it: you finished your wonderful, eloquent, detailed-yet-concise resume draft that, surely, will be instrumental in your landing that next amazing job. 

There’s just one thing yet to do, to make sure your resume is truly as awesome as it can be: proofread and edit that baby.

Easy enough, right?

Just send a copy of your resume to everyone in your contact list, from mom to your old coworker from four years ago, asking for feedback.

Slow down there, champ. Chances are, you’re probably sending it to way too many people, which means that in a couple days, you’ll be deluged with corrections and advice, some of which may be contradictory or uninformed. The more pairs of eyes you have looking at your resume -- and the more people giving advice all at once -- the more confused or overwhelmed you’re likely going to become.

Does that mean you shouldn’t ask for input? Absolutely not. Getting people you know and trust to review your masterpiece will help take some bias out of your edits and may evoke ideas you hadn’t even considered. And, of course, there’s the issue of getting your resume through the scanning software (also known as an applicant tracking system). This is a skill in itself. You'll want to get feedback from someone who knows how they work, and can help you set up your resume in a way that plays nice with the ATS, so that you get a shot with the human decision makers.

So definitely get some input from others. Just limit the number of people you ask.

Instead of asking everyone and their brother for feedback, focus on these three people:

1. Someone who is a grammar wiz

Maybe it’s your copy editor sister-in-law, or maybe it’s  that one friend who corrects your grammar all. the. time (texts and social media posts included). Find someone who knows you well and can also weed out any accidental typos or stray commas. This way, you get the personal level feedback, while also getting those nitty-gritty technical edits out of the way.

Killing two birds with one stone. Double whammy. Whatever you want to call it, this person is a must. 

However, this reviewer (probably) can’t help you with edits that will help ensure your resume passes (successfully) through the applicant tracking system when you apply online. Unless he or she has experience or knowledge about the system, you won't likely find much counsel from your grammar wiz friend about this aspect of the process. 

2.  A recruiter or HR person

These are the reviewers who will likely know what’s what in terms of the resume scanning software, and can give very helpful input specific to what to put on your resume (or what not to include). They’re going to know how to evaluate the structure and format of your new resume, advise on its odds of passing through the applicant tracking software, and help you fix the "red flag" areas.

This is crucial. Getting past this software is paramount for every job seeker using online application processes as part of their job search. Most often -- especially with mid- to large-sized firms -- your resume won't get into the hands of an actual human until it passes successfully through the resume scanning software. 

Don’t be one of those applicants. Beat the system, and have a recruiter or HR friend help you edit your resume to passing glory. 

These people also often know what the hiring manager wants to hear and how hiring decisions are made, so they may also be able to give you guidance on how to captivate your target audience. They may even know the hiring manager to whom you’re sending your application to, and can help you target the resume to that specific individual or team.

And finally…

3. A hiring manager or executive leader

Often, this is they only type of person job seekers turn to for resume feedback or advice, and this can be a mistake. A hiring manager, executive, or other higher-up leader in an company or industry will, of course, be able to tell you what he or she is looking for in an applicant or what they like to see on a resume. A hiring manager can also likely share specifics on what makes a resume a standout and how you can make sure yours is one of them.

On the flip side -- and this is something a lot of people probably never consider -- hiring managers and executives often don't really know much about how the resume scanning software works. These players when they finally do see the resumes coming through, only see them after they pass through said software, which means you’re not likely to get helpful advice from them on how to get through the system in the first place. In fact, they may even encourage you to make edits that will make your resume less applicant tracking system-friendly. And that won't be a good thing.

So, you can see why it's important to have more than one person review and share feedback on your masterpiece. But be strategic about it, and specific.

Applying for jobs is already stressful, so you don’t need 10 different emails coming in telling you how to fix your resume. It’s overwhelming. It’s unnecessary.

And it could leave you more confused than at ease with your final product.

Pick your people wisely. Thank them profusely. And then?

Follow your gut on which edits to incorporate in that dazzling final product.

 

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Pete O'Shea)

7 Ways to Get Out of a Job / Career You Hate (When You're Feeling Totally Stuck)

It's Sunday night.

The weekend, by nearly every measure, has been lovely. A hike in the nature park. BBQ with friends. Leisurely time in the backyard hammock. Hell, even the kids have magically cooperated with one another for nearly three days straight. 

Life is good, right?

Yes, but... the thought of Monday is starting to creep in.

It's only 13 hours away. Worse, you're only hours away from that dreaded moment in which you flip open your laptop to see what emails await you; that ritualistic, soul-sucking "re-entry" into the week ahead.

Your chest tightens like a fist. You snap at the kids for the smallest thing. You find yourself wondering how (in the hell) you got to this spot -- in a job that's not right, a career that doesn't suit you, and / or with an income upon which your family entirely relies on.

There goes that carefree hammock feeling.

Is this you?

Have you built up a nice little empire (or mini-empire) in a job or industry you hate? Do you walk in every Monday to people you don't enjoy, a boss who undervalues you, or a workload that's more suited to four humans than one?

Or, maybe you're bored. So. Freaking. Bored. 

Whatever the cause, you're feeling stuck. You need out, but how do you do it? How do you figure your way out of a job you despise (or, at the least, have outgrown) when you don't really know what that next job looks like, or how you're going to continue to afford that BBQ, hammock or the kids (who, again, got along magically all weekend) if you shift gears?

Here are 7 important ways to make that shift, even if you're feeling really stuck in your situation:

1. Define the Ideal

Let's cut right to the chase. You're never going to get out of a job that throws you into a mini- anxiety attack every Sunday night if you spend precisely zero time thinking about what you want to be doing instead.

If you flat-out decide that you're stuck, then guess what? Plain and simple, you're stuck.

(Don't do this.)

Instead, start thinking about the stuff you really enjoy doing, in your current job, prior roles, or even in volunteer assignments or school projects. What tasks energize you? What do you both enjoy and do well?

Great. Write these down. 

Next, think about the stuff you truly don't enjoy doing, even if it's something you're good at. Write that stuff down, too.

OK, now comes the fun part -- Go over to one of the major job boards (or, a niche job board in an industry of interest) like Indeed.com or LinkedIn.com, and conduct a few searches using search terms that align with the skills you want to put to use. Play around with different variables and see what turns up.

What are the jobs that come up called? In what industries do they center? Are there any specific companies that seem particularly interesting?

You can find several clues related to what your "next great job" might look and feel like (and be called) by spending a couple of hours attempting to define (at least in ballpark terms) what "ideal" looks like.

2. Get Real About What It'll Take

Once you gain at least a bit of clarity on jobs that may fulfill you more than your current one, it's time to realistically assess the situation. How doable is this transition, given where you're at today, and where this would take you?

Do you have career capital built up and / or transferable skills that make this a realistic leap? Do you have the educational qualifications, or certifications these roles require? If yes, you may be in a great position to build a transition strategy that takes you from the side of the pond you're on today, all the way over to the other side, where that new career awaits.

If no, then maybe you need to think through an interim step or, as I call it, a lily pad jump that takes you halfway across the pond, with a concrete in place to build up the career capital you need to go the distance in coming months or years. A "getting me closer" job isn't a sign of failure at all; often, it's a critical strategic move that points you in the direction in which you'd love to head.

For instance, say you are a project manager in the manufacturing field who really wants to be a marketing person for a healthcare company. The lily pad move may be one that takes you into project management for a healthcare company, with a plan in place to next shift into marketing. Or, perhaps, it's a marketing role within manufacturing, with intentions to ultimately shift into healthcare marketing. See what I mean?

The bottom line with this step is that you need to balance the "Wouldn't a job in ___________ be awesome?" against the "What, exactly, is involved in making this happen?"

3. Construct a Road Map

If you have come to realize that an "all-the-way-across-the-pond" or a lily pad jump seems plausible and excites you, now it's time to construct a road map. Ever try and get somewhere important, in an unfamiliar city, without GPS a map or any clear directions? How'd that work out for you?

It's going to work about about the same if you attempt to get unstuck in our career without any sort of game plan. Before you bust out all great-balls-of-fire on a career pivot, it's imperative that you map out some clear plans on how you're going to get from today to your first day on the job, in that new job or career.

Who do you need to know? What companies do you need to research? Are there any classes or credentials that you 'll need before becoming a serious contender? When can you take these? How soon can you realistically reach your goal?

And, super important -- what action items do you need to assign yourself (every single week) so that you're moving forward and not just sitting around thinking about this forever?

You know what's going to happen if you have no road map? Probably very little. And do you know what's going to happen if very little happens? 

More Sunday dread.

Make a plan. It doesn't have to be a tattoo. In fact, it shouldn't be. I should be a malleable, living and breathing document that guides you along the way.

4. Consider Your Finances

This is, by far, one of the biggest concerns professionals tend to have when trying to get out of a job that they've outgrown, or off a career trajectory that no longer suits them. How do you get out without losing your house, your car,  your lifestyle?

Gooood question. You certainly may be able to achieve this, but a major transition also could require you to "step back" on the ladder as you grow into a new vocation. Given this, you should consider what your "drop dead minimum" monthly or annual income needs to be and figure out if it's feasible to either find a new job that matches this, or add some moonlighting income into the mix as you learn and grow. You should also spend time thinking about areas you might be able to cut back economically through this transition, which kind of stinks but if you truly want to make this move, you'll need to think through the economics before you're caught by surprise.

5. Embark

Here's where you stop the talking and start the walking. Do you really, truly want out of a job you no longer enjoy? Then take on the radical responsibility to make this thing happen. No one is going to make it happen for you. Set your plans in motion.

Construct a weekly or daily schedule that will enable you to wake up everyday and know what, exactly, you need to accomplish in the name of bettering your situation or life. And then follow through. Do those things.

Do those things when it's inconvenient. Do them when it's a little bit scary. Do them when you're tired or overwhelmed. Do them when there's a ton of great stuff in your Facebook feed and you'd really just rather spend an hour over there.

Remember this -- Most people who find their way into "dream jobs" aren't there because they're lucky jerks. They're there because they made solid commitments to themselves to make big things happen, and then they activated.

6. Reassess at the 30-, 60-, 90-Day Mark

My grandmother used to tell me -- over and over again -- "Jennifer, Rome wasn't build in a day. You need to have patience sometimes." This was a very tough message for me, given that I was (am) always an incredibly action-focused (ahem, impatient) human being. Once I get an idea, I typically just charge right forward. This is a good trait in a lot of ways, but it's not always going to serve you well through a major career or job change.

You're going to need time to investigate, explore, meet people, ask questions, build up a new network, and grow into this new world. That said, you will likely need to strike a healthy balance between "slam-on-the-gas-let's-go!" and "I'm-not-getting-there-fast-enough-I-give-up." 

You can find this more readily by scheduling 30-, 60-, and 90-day assessments for yourself. Literally -- book time right into your calendar at the front end of this, to sit down and think about where you're at in the transition. What have you learned? How is it feeling? Do you need to make small or large adjustments to your strategy and plans given what you've discovered so far?

You're going to meet people and learn things as you progress. Your life will change and evolve. These things may shift or enhance your plans along the way. This isn't just OK -- it's a vital part of the process. The more attentive you are to these things through a job or career transition, the better the odds that you'll land it a spot that truly suits you.

It's like when a doctor says, "Listen to your body." This time, it's "Listen to your career transition."

7. Build in BBQ and Hammock Time

Last, but most assuredly not least, when you make the decision to get yourself out of a job you hate (or really dislike, or have outgrown), you absolutely don't have to spend month upon month feeling like you're being dragged across fiery coals. Yes, of course, some of this is going to require true effort and sacrifice. You may have days in which you wonder if it's even worth your effort. 

However, it should not be excruciating. You need to preserve your sanity and your energy through the procress, so that you can stay focused and keep the momentum going, even when it feels daunting, arduous or maybe even a little out of reach.

Build in rest time.

You need as least semi-regular time to hike in that nature park, BBQ with friends and lounge around in your backyard hammock. Don't shortchange yourself on this in the name of making things happen faster, sooner, or with more firepower.

Why not? Because if you burn out before you get out, none of this will be worth your efforts. Please trust me on this.

Your career is worth a noble effort. You deserve a job in which you feel fulfilled, and like you're making a genuine contribution to this world.

And, for the love of it all, you deserve relaxing Sundays.

Need more help?

Check out our Ridiculously Awesome Career Pivot Kit. We'll walk you step-by-step through the process of constructing and executing a game plan to get you from today to your first day at a more fulfilling job.

 

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (JobsforFelonsHub.com)

 

How to Stop Operating in Machine Mode ( & Why You Must)

If you're anything like me, any time life starts feeling out of control ... any time the proverbial shit is about to hit the fan ... any time you feel like your very survival is at stake ... you do the only thing you know how to do:

Flip into machine mode.

You know exactly the mode I'm talking about. You're hypervigilant. Head down. Moving all the time. Hammering it morning until night. Stopping at nothing to regain control, right the ship, shore up the crisis, keep your head above the water.

Job seekers are quite often operating in machine mode, especially those facing (or experiencing) layoff or stuck in a miserable job or running out of money. And while stress can, if channeled properly, inspire one to move mountains, it can also wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. 

And when that's going down, guess what? You're probably not going to be all that effective in overcoming your challenges, finding that new job or resolving a formidable situation -- no matter how hard you're gunning it.

Even worse? Operating in machine mode for a marked period of time can lead to considerably bigger problems, including depression, adrenal fatigue, impaired memory, insomnia and substance abuse. And if you carry on like a piece of factory equipment for too long, you also risk forgetting what "normal" ever felt like.

Because machine mode becomes your normal.

(How gross is that?)

Are you in machine mode now? Is it feeling really bad?

True confession: Until quite recently, I'd been operating in machine mode, for many months. Business has been moving at a lightning fast clip for many months. Keeping up was requiring nearly every minute of my focus and time, nearly every day of every week. In the midst of that, my spouse experienced a potentially life-threatening health issue that prompted some immediate, necessary changes within our family. Add to this three kids, all of whom have plenty of activities and needs, and a dog who has decided that eating our household belongings when we're not looking is totally her new thing.

The only thing I could think to do against this backdrop I called "my life" was put my head down and keep powering through. Day after day after day after day.

Until I couldn't anymore.

Until I had my own (relatively minor) health scare, and realized the level of exhaustion I was operating at is simply not sustainable. Until I realized that the intense, stressful pace was becoming my normal, and that I was forgetting what a relaxed normal ever felt like.

And so I took some immediate actions. Because I had to.

Do you need help easing out of machine mode?

If so, and especially if you're a person with a natural level of intensity (ahem, me), here are four places you may want to start:

1. Stop the noise

Few things will impede your ability to clear your head and ease out of machine mode more than noise -- outer and inner. We live in a noisy, demanding, constantly moving world. In order to catch your breath and reclaim the you in this equation, you've got to make it stop, or at least come to a whisper for a while. Silence your phone, turn off the TV, stop the YouTube videos, step away from your email (seriously, no one will die), take a walk in the woods. Do everything in your power to command some silence for yourself, every day.

2. Pay attention to your breath

This isn't me professing sparkles and woo woo here. I'm as pragmatic as they come about just about everything in life. But I discovered an incredibly doable way to disrupt the runaway train when I feel myself in machine mode - and that's simply paying attention to my breath. You don't need to take big, deliberate inhales and exhales. You don't need to count, or huff and puff. Just focus on it. 

3. Dump everything into a notebook

This is also known as journaling, but because I've got a weird aversion to this term, I call it "dump it onto paper." By dumping the madness and fervor going on inside your head out onto paper, you immediately clear some space for other things. This can be incredibly beneficial if you're trying to solve a problem or construct a breakthrough idea, or even just relax a bit.

4. Unglue your rear from your desk chair

I used to be a marathon runner. And then I spent like six years sitting in front of my laptop, building what today is JobJenny.com. I'm proud of the company I created. I'm not proud of the damage I did to my physical and mental health by prioritizing screen time over exercise. Two months ago, I forced myself back into the fitness game, even though I insisted (in my head) that I had no time. The difference two months of regular exercise has made is astounding. I sleep better.  I look better. I feel better. My eyes don't burn with fury every day. Exercise is like meditation in motion for me and I've realized (once again) how incredibly stupid "not having time" for it has been.

I'm not fully out of the woods yet. As many of you have probably noted, we're also slowing down our JobJenny.com services this summer, in part to enable me (and the team) to stop operating in machine mode. I'm also working with a professional coach to help ensure I can keep growing this business without making "crazy busy" my normal again.

Now, don't get me wrong -- There is certainly a time and place to really hammer it. Of course there is. And taking a run at your goals isn't just commendable, it's a must. 

But if you're running yourself into the ground, and making little progress in the meantime?

Don't keep going. Regroup. Recharge. Replenish.

And then go set the world on fire.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Erik Anestad)

Powering Down Because We're Powering Up

Had you told me six years ago that my "little sideline business" would evolve in the way that it has, I'd have suggested you were nuts. JobJenny.com, in its infancy, was truly intended to be a supplemental resource that ran alongside my already-established recruiting business.

JobJenny.com was to be a place where people could come and go and gain inspiration, motivation and tangible guidance to help them as they navigated job search or contemplated a career pivot.

JobJenny.com was to be a "hobby project" of sorts, to allow me more time to write and be creative, and to help individual job seekers, rather than just helping corporations.

JobJenny.com quickly became more than a hobby project. By year three, JobJenny.com became our primary revenue stream and, today, we focus almost all of our time and attention here.

I'm both tickled and enormously grateful that this little business has become what it is today. I've met hundreds of amazing, talented professionals along the way. This job has taken me across the country (and world), onto big (and sometimes indimidating) stages, and on a photo shoot in the middle of the jungle. It's been an absolute ride so far, and I'm so excited about what's on the horizon.

What is on the horizon? 

Among other things -- A book.

One of the immediate opportunities we're looking at is a potential book deal. We're also planning new courses for our recently launched JobJenny U and are in talks for a couple of additional incredibly cool partnerships.

And so ...

With all of these new opportunities in front of us, we're going to be limiting our available 1:1 services throughout July and August. Simply put, we need to allocate some of that time to these once-in-a-lifetime projects.

If you are interested in working with us this coming summer, here's how it's going to work:

1. On every Services order page (from June 1 - July 30), you will see how many services are still available for that month, and what date we're kicking off projects.

2. If you're ready to order, please do so (and thank you!). If you have immediate questions, you may contact Karen Friesen at Karen@JobJenny.com. We anticipate that we will sell out early in the month, for both June and July.

3. If our supply is out, and you're still interested, please contact Karen Friesen. She will be glad to recommend an alternate provider that we know and trust, or put you on a wait list for future support.

4. If you'd like our step-by-step guidance ASAP, at a fraction of the price of our 1:1 services, be sure and check out our Weekend Resume Makeover course as a possible alternative as well. 

We'd love to be able to offer unlimited 1:1 support, but we have realized that now is an important time for us to power down a bit, so we can continue powering up.

I sincerely appreciate the support you all have given us as we continue to grow JobJenny.com. Thank you so much, and please let us know if you have any questions.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Keoni Cabral)