Q. I’m an information systems and technology executive with 15 years of corporate experience and have been working for my current employer for the past five years. I was hired to develop a state-of-the-art technology infrastructure to support growth under the new president. In 2009, that president was let go, and the previous president has been brought back on an interim basis. Since then all projects have been put on hold. The future does not look bright for me here, and I want to make a career change. How do I get started?
A. It’s always disappointing when you’re hired for a specific role and then projects are put on hold due to executive turnover. This is a global challenge for all workers. If you’re going to continue developing your career in the corporate world, get used to it. These days reorganizations are an annual occurrence, and the sooner you get used to it the smoother your professional life will go. Long-term employment is out, and the flexible work force is in.
Adopt a flexible attitude, and think of yourself as a consultant. Take off your dedicated full-time hat and put on your consultant’s hat. Start thinking like a consultant who has been hired because of your knowledge, skills and abilities for a specific project, and always do your best. Experienced consultants know that when the project is complete they will be asked to work on additional projects because they’ve proven themselves.
I’m not trying to talk you out of a career change but I am suggesting that you re-evaluate your current situation and attitude before taking the leap. To make a change, then I recommend the following action items.
#1 – Define your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats using a professional analysis tool. This is your blueprint to success.
#2 – Define your professional goals, short term and long term.
#3 – Update your resume. If you are not skilled at writing, hire a professional resume writer.
#4 – Write your value proposition and practice communicating this message to everyone you meet.
#5 – Define your network, professional and personal. Reach out to 25 contacts a week. Pick up the phone and make the call. If you do not connect, follow up by e-mail requesting a time to talk. Personal contact is vital to developing and maintaining your network.
#6 – Ask your network for referrals. Be specific. Ask for introductions and follow up in a timely manner.
#7 – Locate the hidden job market through your network.
#8 – Develop a company watch list – a list of companies that you admire and are excited about their products, services or community involvement.
#9 – Use professional social networking tools to help you locate contacts, new and old. Add value by sharing information with your network that interests them.
#10 – Hire a career transition coach to help overcome obstacles.
Some final advice:
■Never burn a bridge. Your contacts at your current company are invaluable and could you lead to your next opportunity.
■Always behave professionally and take the high road.
■Do what you can to help others succeed.
■Remember it’s all about who you know and who they know.
■80 percent of professionals who land a position in this market do so because of their network.
Two questions to ask yourself: What do people say about you when you’re not in the room? What kind of a lasting impression do you leave on others?
I wish you a successful journey and hope you find what you’re looking for. Good luck!
Jennifer Laxton is a senior partner and executive coach with Executive Search Associates in Santa Rosa, www.esa.com. ESA is an executive search and consulting company. You can reach her at 707-217-4535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.