I have changed careers several times in my life, from teaching, to non-profit, to high-growth technology, and now to banking. Throughout all of my transitions, I searched online for advice on how women can successfully make career transitions, but found only information lacking a step by step process.
There are ample posts targeted for millennial women on how to get an entry level position, but not a lot of the content focuses on how women can transition careers when they are no longer entry level, but not yet in an executive corner office.
For women who are turning thirty-five, most of life’s deepest questions have been answered. By that point, you may have found your Mr. or Mrs. Right and have walked down the aisle or committed to a long-term partnership. You probably have or are thinking about having kids versus deciding on raising a rambunctious puppy.
If you are a woman making a career transition in your mid-twenties, the decision is likely a solo decision. At age thirty-five, it is a whole different ball game. At this stage of your life and career, you most likely will want to include your partner’s thoughts when making a career decision which is both scary and exciting.
Making a career transition for any woman will take work. Looking back on my career journey here are some tips that changed the trajectory of my career path.
Know What You Want
All the experts will tell you to seek clarity, but what exactly does clarity really mean?
Clarity starts with self-assessment.
Personally, finding the type of work I’m most passionate about and defining my optimal work habits, brought me ton of clarity. Be crystal clear on what your strengths and weaknesses are. In order to do this, approach your career as if you are a detective. Here are my suggestions:
Scan over all your prior performance reviews
Seek out former bosses and coworkers for insights
Scan and study the main projects you managed that succeeded and those that didn’t
Ladies – it’s time to take control over you career trajectory. Start from a place of clarity. Gathering intel is your first step.
Explore Interesting Job Titles
Once you have intel on your strengths you can research job titles and compare against different sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn and Indeed. Find the job title that sounds like it matches your interests. Review the description to see if you would like to do the type of work the job requires.
NOTE: Do not read the job description and automatically think I don’t have these qualifications. You’ll never create your ideal career if you disqualify yourself right off the bat. Men never disqualify themselves from roles that might be out of their reach.
Kayne Says No
To repeat, review the job description to see if you would like the work that it entails.
Incidentally, this process helped me discover that Organizational Development (OD) was the right role for me. Prior to researching that job title, I did not know that OD existed as I was coming from a small company.
Once you have a few interesting job titles, put them into an excel spreadsheet or jot them down. Half of the effort with any career transition is getting organized with the information you are gathering.
Investigate Unique Companies
Next you will want to research companies that sound interesting. Stumped on where to begin?
Take time to think about what is most important to you; reflect on your deepest core values. Try to match your core interests to companies that align with what you value most.
If you are like me and one of your deepest core values is education, find organizations that are striving to fight illiteracy. Alternatively, go and find the companies that are trying to solve interesting problems and go from there.
If you are still stumped, look at where your friends work. Do any of those companies sound interesting? If so, jot down what you like about the particular company in order to create your ideal company profile. Your goal is to create a profile of the types of companies (large, small, startup) and the types of industries (tech, banking, government) that interest you the most. From there you can start to narrow in on the ideal company
Research the Company Culture
If you find a job title that sounds like a good fit at a company that is doing interesting work and aligns with what you value, your next career transition move is to research the company culture. This is the most difficult part of any career change.
Researching culture is very difficult because it is intangible. Your best bet is to talk to as many people who are either doing the work that you want to do at that company OR reach out to former employees to ask about culture. You will never know what’s it’s really like to work at a company unless you reach out and humbly ask. Women need to help each other in this regard. If you receive a note respond with honest feedback. You do not need everyone to respond; you just need a few people to give you a sense of the climate.
Start Talking and Make Human Contact!
Any woman who has switched careers has done so with the help of networking. Networking will ensure your career transition happens my personal experience making connections, getting to know people and asking the right questions has made the biggest impact on my career.
Networking can mean different things to different people. For extroverted women, going to big networking events, chatting with a ton of new people is thrilling. For the introverted ladies, (myself included) big events can be frightening and intimidating. Luckily networking does not have to mean big crowds. You can start by asking friends out; then you to talk about your career transition. These low stakes coffee meetings with girlfriends gives you an opportunity to start sharing your story in a safe environment. Most importantly you have to get in the habit of reaching out and asking – women must make the ask. Increase your confidence by asking friends out then you can branch out to reaching out to strangers.
Keep in mind that not everyone you ask is going to say yes, in fact, you will get ignored by many people - get comfortable with feelings of rejection. Show the person you are asking why they are important to you (even if they are strangers). Humbly make the ask and be prepared for rejection.
Rejection is easier to take when you do not have all of your networking eggs in one basket. Make yourself a schedule. If you want to have 1-2 coffee meetings per week, you’ll need to reach out to 10-15 people at least! Why so many? Some people will be on vacation, some people will not be able to meet for a few weeks, some people will ignore you. The more people you reach out to the more chances you have to make the 1-2 coffee commitment.
Write emails to total strangers. In my own experience I landed my last two roles NOT through people I know, but because I sent emails to total strangers. In my subsequent posts I'll show you how to craft emails that get read!
LinkedIn is helpful but only to a degree. You can easily waste and entire day searching at job titles and job descriptions only to find that you didn’t do anything productive. You need to utilize LinkedIN as a research tool but after that you need to spend the majority of your time, researching people to out to and sending the email.
90% of your time should be connecting in some way (phone, coffee, breakfast, Skype) and 10% can be spent on LinkedIn looking for roles.
90% of your time should be connecting in some way (phone, coffee, breakfast, Skype).
If you want to make that major career breakthrough you will have to leave your laptop and meet people in real life. More than likely your next role will come from connecting with someone you don’t yet know. Initiate human contact.
If career transitions were easy, more women would be doing it. The right role at the right company with the right culture at the right salary is out there for you, but you have to do some work to get there. These tips should help you on your journey to your next career transition.
If this resonated with you leave a comment below!