In the past two years, you couldn’t watch the news or read a business journal without viewing announcements of corporate downsizing. One of our clients survived the downsize process and now feels unappreciated in their new workload of added tasks. She has told us, “I feel like my company holds an hourglass of my time and turns it over weekly. I feel like I have no choice over the department’s priorities or even my own time as the head of the department. The company has delayed all professional development so I won’t be expanding my management or technological proficiency. I’m just killing ‘time’ by being here on their terms.”
Companies used to collaborate with employees to design and implement their career growth. In recent years, sadly, this has become the employee's singular obligation. For those employees who feel trapped in their current positions, you can exercise some control over your ‘career hourglass’.
While you are still employed, investigate some of these options:
Determine your core values, personally and professionally.
Truly understanding your beliefs will empower you to manage within this corporate structure without sacrificaing your personal core framework and operate within the company’s guidelines now. Your self-assessment work will also dispel assumptions that others may have labeled you with, before the scaling down process. You will find new freedom when you can discard their labels and follow your inner convictions.
If company funds are frozen on professional development, identify the skills you want to improve or enhance.
Investigate night community college courses, online Web programs, weekend speaker series from Chambers of Commerce, or even programs from the small business administration in your local area. Also ensure you have the time to complete these programs so that you don’t become frustrated over the time investment. When times are hectic, recognize that it's all you can do to keep up with your work responsibilities; and, development goals are the items you will relinquish first. Identifying specific goals that are achievable and relevant to the skills you need will be important.
It's hard to improve your current circumstances if your work environment is toxic.
Disengage from break room or smoke groups that practice dysfunctionality. Susan David from the Cambridge psychology department at Yale University states, “People who find themselves stuck in negative emotions start politicking with others. Negativity can be self-sustaining within a group." The more you emphasize positive psychology, the more the nay-sayers will fall away.
Establish a counseling panel for yourself.
While you are still with the present company, create an advice-giving list of individuals who can provide consultative review of your background and target goals. These individuals can provide an objective appraisal of your current assets and those abilities you may need to gain for further advancement. Think about who you may want to associate with in the HR department of your current company, a company mentor, any outside coaches, or others in the same industry who are well renowned.
However, if your compass points to the place to consider a career change, be certain you know what you will open up by changing occupations; and, what talents you can present to new industry employers. It will be a challenge to convince a potential manager that you can transfer your speaking skills from marketing to selling the latest in cell phones. That said, use your creativity by demonstrating that your people skills have been developed from designing the ‘hook’ in the previous position. It’s often the connection the new company is searching for.
Use your responses from these points to craft your transition message:
- Use the ‘weight’ of your knowledge from the companies where you've been employed. Inform your interviewers of the industry events you've participated in or the similar associations where you’ve volunteered. Charities, nonprofits, HOA committees, city councils all have certain qualities. Use the accomplishments from any of these groups to demonstrate the value you are bringing to the employment table today.
- Expertise you've developed in one profession can be pertinent in a subsequent industry. Team building, purchasing, EAP services, computer applications training are all widespread and transportable to another industry. You want the prospective employers to perceive you as someone who can hit the ground running in their avenue of commerce.
- A key to making a career transition will be to raise your visibility in the marketplace, namely, networking. If you’re not an extrovert, you will need to design your positioning message. Explain why you desire to change careers, what will be the benefits for you and the industry you want to transition into; and, the impact of the work you feel you have yet to do. Attend as many conferences or networking events that exhibit the business tools that your target industry would use and-or have leading speakers that are discussing the future of that industry.
When you want to gain control of the hourglass of your career, ask yourself:
- How will you discard old inner assessments that you can’t achieve the proposed career change? How will you release these labels of ‘too old’ or ‘too slow to learn a new industry’; and, how will you feel when you discard these narratives, relief, free, undefeatable, successful and independent?
- How can you take astounding risks with your career? Draft an astounding cover letter? Get professional help with your resume? Write a white paper to submit to an industry publication?
- What will happen if you don’t even attempt to investigate improving your skills? Will you begin to feel overwhelming resentment or resignation? Will these feelings affect your productivity in the current position?
- What is the intelligence gathering or outside resources you need to take control of your hourglass? Do you need a mentor or professional counselor to review your skills?
- How can you build a network of observers to keep a keen eye for possible opportunities for you? Where will you meet these observers?
By guest author: Bradley Ann Morgan