Why Having a Plan A is Critical When Switching Careers

Are you thinking about changing careers? If yes, then you need to know about Dawn Graham and her brand new book, Switchers

Dawn is the Director of Career Management for the MBA Program for Executives at The Wharton School and one of the best-known career coaches in the U.S. She's also host of SiriusXM Radio's Career Talk show (we first met there!)

I had the opportunity to chat with Dawn about Switchers last week. (It's the debut episode of a brand-new industry experts series over on YouTube.)

We talked about the importance of having a Plan A when working to change careers, and why keeping your options open can work against you through a pivot. (Amen, Dawn. I've been preaching this same message for years.)

A few other important takeaways from the conversation:

  1. It's not a fair process. (In fact, there's a full chapter called, "It's Not Fair.")

  2. You may think you need to go back to school to change careers, but it probably shouldn't be first on the list.

  3. You don't just need to "go network" when switching careers, you've got to enlist what she calls Ambassadors.

  4. You need to change your mindset through this and think like a hiring manager.

Check out the entire interview over on our new YouTube channel (Be sure and subscribe to get alerts every time we post another interview or how-to video!)

And you'll find Dawn's book right HERE (and also over on Amazon.com. )

Last thing -- If you've made a successful career change, please share what worked best for you (and what didn't work so well) in the comments section below!

How to Get Started at Job Search (When You Don't Know Where to Even Begin)

We talk with job seekers -- across virtually every business level -- all week long. A lot of our clients are those who haven't had to (or haven't chosen to) look for a new role in a very long time, or ever. Given this, it's absolutely no surprise when the first question they ask goes something like this:

"Where do I even begin with all of this?"

This very question can paralyze the best among us, especially if it's been a long time since you went through a job search.

If you're feeling this way, where do you start?

Do you fix your resume up first? Do you call a recruiter? Enlist your network? Or, do you start firing out application after application, so you can feel like you're actually DOING something?

No, maybe, yes and no.

The three most common mistakes that new job seekers make (right out of the gates) are:

  1. Frantically (and blindly) apply for a gazillion advertised positions
  2. Racing to update their resumes before they've even figured out their target role(s)
  3. Assuming they can dial up a headhunter / recruiter and let her do the heavy lifting

Let's break down why these moves can be problematic, and then talk about better ways to get started (and keep progressing) in job search.

Making "Apply Online" Your Entire Strategy

When your entire job search method involves staring at the screen of your computer or mobile device for hours on end, madly scrolling to find jobs of interest, then blindly applying to posted positions, you're going about things in an incredibly passive manner. You're also competing with roughly 503,941 other people for that same spot (give or take). 

Annnd, you very well may be leaving it in the hands of a computer (resume scanning software, or the ATS) to decide if you're enough of a match for that role to move on for human review.

In other words, you've got more than one gatekeeper involved, and one of them is a computer.

While this method of job search may seem like your lowest-hanging fruit option, if it's the only way you're going about this, you may add all kinds of time and frustration to the hunt.

What to Do Instead: 

It's far wiser to sit down (at the beginning of your job search), think through your specific goals and then consider some more active, networking-based ways to accomplish them.

For instance, maybe you're looking to land a new job in a marketing agency after having worked in project management within a corporation for a few years. Your plan of attack might include figuring out who you might introduce yourself to (or ask someone to make an introduction), so that you may get a bit more information about agency jobs. Or, maybe you'll want to research the five best marketing agencies in your area, and focus on hyper-targeting these firms.

Perhaps you decide to join a professional association for marketing people and find out when their next networking event is. Maybe you schedule a few informational interviews. You get the drift. 

And, if you do decide to also apply for jobs via online application (I'm not saying don't EVER do this, by the way), consider an extra step that could help you accelerate the process: Once you've completed the online application, go see if you have any first or second-degree connections on LinkedIn who work at that organization, and work to endear yourself directly to them. (This video will give you some specific ideas on exactly how to go about it.)

Establishing and leveraging an "in" can catapult you right over those 503,941 others in the resume pile.

Updating Your Resume (Before Deciding What You Want)

The second mistake is one that many many (so many) professionals make, usually because they assume they cannot do a thing until they have a current resume. Certainly, this is an understandable mindset. I mean, how to you start applying for jobs without a current resume, right?

Right. However, how are you going to create an impactful marketing document (which is what your resume is) if you don't yet have clarity on who you're talking to, or what they're going to need you to walk through their doors and deliver?

It's impossible. It'd be like trying to market baby formula to everyone on the planet vs. figuring out who is the most likely purchaser of baby formula and then speaking directly to those things you believe will compel these consumers to purchase your product.

You're the baby formula in this instance. Recruiters and hiring managers are the consumers. And the purchase decision you're looking for is, "Invite you in for an interview."

When you try to speak to everyone, you end up diluting the impact of your message across every channel. 

What to Do Instead:

No one is going to deduce how or why you make sense for a role. You have GOT to make this smack-in-the-forehead obvious to recruiters and hiring managers. The best way to achieve this? Understand who you're talking to, and what they're going to care the most about. And then, assuming your skills and experience align, make sure that your resume highlights the specific things this audience seems to value the most.

Again, what's going to prompt the purchase decision?

How do you figure out what they're going to care the most about? Here at JobJenny.com, we typically ask our resume clients to share 3-5 job descriptions that represent the type or types of roles they're most interested in. And then we look for patterns, or most common overlaps.

For instance, maybe three of the five job descriptions call for someone with strong problem solving skills. Well, then. We now know that (assuming it's accurate to do so) we need to introduce you as a strong problem solver. Or, maybe over and over again the jobs are looking for advanced CRM skills. Great, you have them. We make sure it's crystal clear. It's kind of like reverse engineering -- You study what these jobs call for and then you use this info to inform your decisions on what you share in the resume.

Very hard to do if you don't yet know what type(s) of job(s) you're targeting.

Assuming the Headhunter Has it Covered

Before I get going on this one, I'll clarify that I AM a recruiter, or headhunter. I've been one for 13+ years. Given this, I absolutely don't think it's a bad idea to work with recruiters when you're trying to change jobs or your career path.

The good ones can be pure gold.

What I do see sometimes, however, are people who think that recruiters are like their personal talent agents. This is not how much recruiting works. Recruiters (agency ones) are typically paid by corporate clients to fill specific open positions. And, they're only paid when they find the best match for that role (the person who gets hired).

Recruiters aren't shopping individual professionals around to bunches of different companies. Instead, they're trying to find perfect-fit people to slot into these very specific openings they've been assigned. Important differentiation.

That said, if you are thinking you can kick back once you get a couple of recruiters on it for you, you could be looking at a lengthy job search.

What to Do Instead:

The best way to work with a recruiter is to find one (or more) who have strong knowledge of your industry or specialization, and whose clients tend to hire people in positions like the one you're looking for. For instance, I'm a recruiter for the robotics industry. My clients are all companies that either make, integrate or use robots. 

If you're looking for a job in robotics, I'd be the type of recruiter to call. If you're that project manager trying to shift into a marketing agency role, you're going to be better served by googling a few options (or asking around) for recruiting agencies within the marketing / creative sector.

Once you find one, you can simply contact that agency and say, "I'm a project manager with strong marketing aptitude. It looks like your clients might have needs that align with my background. Would it make sense to chat?"

Assuming the conversation progresses (and the recruiter agrees that it makes sense to work together), you will now have an extra set of eyeballs on the lookout for you. Don't, however, mistakenly think that it's time to kick back.

Continue running all of the other job search angles you've got going.

There is no one best way to go about job search. There are, however, many ineffective and inefficient ways, including the three outlined above. You want to stay away from these and, instead, work like mad to integrate strategies and tactics that will enable you to step out there with a strong, relevant message and align yourself with people who can help you out along the way.

No one loves job search. But it's a hell of a lot more tolerable when you start seeing progress.

Don't get paralyzed. Get organized.


Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Alistair Hamilton)


How Team Sports Have Prepared Me for College, Career & Life

The following is a guest post from our Seth Seelye, JobJenny.com's 2018 summer intern and an Integrated Marketing Communications sophomore at the University of Mississippi. 

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but as a young boy, diamonds were my first love. My passion was born about 15 years ago on the baseball diamond, where I was introduced to America’s favorite pastime and the greatest sport ever created.

As a kid, baseball was the source of all my most vivid fantasies. I would lie awake at night dreaming of hitting the walk-off homerun in game 7 of the World Series or going down in the hall of fame next to Babe Ruth and Ken Griffey Jr. 

Could anything ever be sweeter?

Over the years, those fantasies motivated me to take my game to the next level. After a few seasons, I was playing travel baseball against the best players in my area – as well as boys from across the country. 

As a kid playing sports and dreaming about the big leagues, I thought my dreams would all just eventually materialize. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I really understood and appreciated the meaning of the hard work required. 

Growing up as an athlete with a passion and commitment to a sport builds key qualities that carry over into every aspect of life. As a college student who will soon join the work force, I expect the experiences and skills I’ve built as an athlete will help me hit a home run as an employee. Among the most notable strengths I've gained?

Discipline –

Realizing that you have to train hard and grind your tail off to improve every aspect of your game is hard to accept at first, but it’s a necessity. If you don’t train, you’ll fall behind the competition. It’s a basic formula and, for me, a powerful motivator.  

As my father always told me, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” It was a tough lesson to learn. It wasn’t until middle school that I realized there was no way I could compete with pitchers who are six feet tall and throwing 75 miles per hour naturally unless I trained myself to get stronger and better. The same goes in the workplace. There’s always another talented person waiting for their shot at the next great assignment or promotion.

Discipline and hard work are skills that will be evident to others and help keep you at the front of the pack.

Teamwork –

Nobody wins – or loses – a baseball game on their own. All the work, all of the coaching, hitting, running, pitching in the world means nothing if you are a player facing a field of nine all alone. A strong team means everything – they boost you up, celebrate your victories and defeats, and most importantly, make it possible to achieve every good thing. Be the person everybody wants to have on their team.

Resilience and Humility –

You won a game? Good, now be humble and look at what mistakes you made and what you can improve on. You lost? Great, remember how this feels and work even harder so it won’t happen again. Just like you need to train harder to beat a strong opponent in sports, you must work harder and smarter in your professional life if you want a that promotion or coveted opportunity. 

The parallels between sports and many real-life situations are endless. Just about every concrete lesson learned from sports can be applied to life outside of sports, and I look forward to doing so as I step out into my professional career.

With the amazing fun and lessons I’ve learned from playing sports, I know that whatever gets thrown at me in life, I can conquer it.

Photo: Provided by Seth Seelye (Yep, that's him!)

5 Moves That Can Sink Even the Most Promising Job Interview


This blog post comes to us from our own Karen Friesen, senior copywriter and customer service extraordinaire.

You got the call. You got the call!! That company you’re itching to work for loved your resume and cover letter (or so it seems). Now you’ve got 48 hours to get ready for a big interview and you are SO PSYCHED!!

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Head between the knees…annnd go! You’ve got work to do.

While all signs are strong that you’re coming in hot on this job opportunity, there are a few classic bad moves job seekers make that can sink even the most promising candidates. Here are five, and what to do instead:

1. Guessing on the Dressing

Ever notice how one company's business casual is another's Sunday's best? Do you know how people roll at the company you're walking into? You need to. You want to make it very clear right out of the gates that you're polished and put together, and someone who's going to fit in around the joint.

Rather than just guessing (and risking either under-dressing or over-dressing), try asking the person coordinating your interview for some tips on dress code. Or, worst case, do a little investigating online (social media is your best friend for this). What do their people wear at work? Observe then bump up your game a notch or two (not 15) from there. 

2. Assuming You Can Wing It

Your competition is not winging it. I'm going to put that out there right now. On these grounds alone, you shouldn't plan to simply free-wheel it. Surely, you want to go in and have a genuine, engaging and not over-rehearsed conversation, but you've got to do your homework. 

What is their history or mission? What's their core focus? Who are their competitors? What have they achieved recently? What do you know about their corporate culture? 

Also, what might you say if they bust out the, "So, tell me about yourself" or "What's your greatest weakness?" (Which, invariably, they will.)

You spent the time and energy to capture their attention. Spend the time and energy to take this baby the distance.

(And, check this out if you need help answering 5 Super Common Job Interview Questions.) 

3. Making it All About You

One thing’s for sure: at this stage in the game, the people doing the interviewing care almost exclusively about what you can walk through their doors and deliver. In other words, they care about what's in it for them. Certainly, they will care a lot about what you want (and work like hell to convince you to join them) if you're the best fit. And they'll fall over themselves to keep you happy once you've proven your value. 

But at the early interview stages, they need to know what you can deliver. What problems can you solve? How will you make their lives easier? How will you help make the boss look good? How will you help them be successful?

Walk in ready to showcase these things instead. Sit tight (for now) on the laundry list of questions related to benefits, vacation time, cell phone allowance and access to the corporate jet. 

4. Being Disconnected or Disrespectful 

The dreaded D's can surely sink you. What are some of the most common ones? Showing up late is high on this list, but also ... showing up too early. No one wants to feel the pressure of knowing you're sitting in the lobby 40 minutes before your agreed upon start time. Sure, you want to get to the building in plenty of time, but don't walk in more than 10 minutes early.

Also, don't have your cell phone on (or visible) during the meeting. Nothing says, "I'm only halfway listening" more than someone who can't bear to cut the iPhone umbilical cord for an hour. 

Another thing that'll come across as disconnected is if you're so busy waiting to blurt out answers to the questions you've practiced for hours, that you flat-out miss the opportunity to have a genuine, engaged conversation with the person across the desk.

Be aware that you're being evaluated for more than just hard evidence that you're the right fit. They're also looking for someone who has emotional intelligence, social decorum and an ability to connect with others.

5. Forgetting the (Timely) Thank You

Let's talk about the (true) tale of two candidates. They were neck and neck right up to the final interviews and the hiring team was having a heck of a time deciding who to choose.  At the end of the last interview, Candidate 1 sent each person on the interview panel a customized, immediate thank you note. Candidate 2 figured, "Eh, I've said thank you three times already. It's not necessary at this point."

Guess who got the job offer? Yep. And guess what it came down to? Yep. The thank you note.

Thank you always matters. In this case, it mattered a whole lot.

Don't be Candidate 2. The moment you leave that interview and get back to your computer, thank the interviewer for her time and express your continued interest in the opportunity. This is also a great way to fill in any gaps, provide information you may have left out when you met in person and reiterate why you are a fantastic fit for the job.

(Need help writing it? Check out How to Nail the Thank You Note After the Interview.)

And last, but certainly not least ... once you've laid out your best effort in a job interview, don't freak out if there's radio silence for a few days. (Ask before you leave the interview what their timeline is, though.) It's common.

Companies often have the best intentions when it comes to wrapping up their decision on new hires, but all sorts of stuff can slow down the process -- vacations, further thought on the job description, making sure budget is there, demanding workloads, etc. 

Keep on their radar, keep your wits about you, and know that the right one is out there.

Control what you can control (which is plenty), and don't get all coiled up over what you can't. 

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Live Zakynthos)


How to Figure Out Which Keywords to Use on Your Resume

Everyone talks a fair game about the importance of keywords (as they should -- they're important). But, how do you know which ones you're supposed to use on your resume? 

Here's a quick trick that our team uses when working on resumes for our clients.

And, if you're interested in the word cloud software I reference in the video, you can get to it right HERE