What to do? aka Phil’s thoughts on career change

“Really, what do you think I should do?”

That was the question from a candidate today.

It’s not often asked which is a bit surprising since I’ve been recruiting for the last 20 years and I do actually see a lot of trends and changes and hear of big companies making wide reaching decisions. Things that may help people to make well informed decision about their careers, especially when they are in a role that they hate or they can see is running out of a future.

I’ve also over the years kept in contact with many of the people that I’ve connected with. Some I placed in life changing roles. But I love catching up with all of them to discuss what’s happening next in their specific industry, how technology is improving their company’s bottom line and advancing the lives of their customers and of course, what’s coming next.

So garnishing all my experience, what advice do I have for people today seeking a better career, or that are now having career change thrust upon them?

  1. “The best way to get ahead is to get started!” I love this quote. It’s not from Drucker, Ruvthen, Harvard Business Review or even Anthony Robbins. It’s from Agatha Christie. If you have an idea of what you want to be doing, make a plan and start implementing it. It you’re 30 and think it will take too long to go back to uni and do a masters, trust me, you’ll have less time when you’re 40, have 20 kids and a mortgage and a career that you hate even more If you want to get into new technology, start with a basic course and you can add to it. If you don’t have the money to do a MBA, start with some courses at AIM and you’ll be able to use them as credit towards a degree later on. If it’s not about education, make that move into the industry you feel is better suited for you.
  2. Stepping Stones. I love this concept from Richard Bolles, author of the eternal book, What Color is your Parachute? By breaking down your move from present hated or futureless job to dream nirvana job, break down that pathway into stepping stones. Every time you take a step, think of it as moving away from what you don’t want to do and towards what you do want to do. For example, over the investment banking boom years I had many young software engineers wanting to get into trading solutions. Given that they were working in defence or some other unrelated industry, we plotted a course, utilising the skills they had to get them into an investment bank. Their first role may have been back office, but the step into front office and trading would be the next step or the step after that.
  3. Work to learn before working to earn. Another great quote that I first read from Robert Kiosaki. If you’re out of uni and think you’ll take the highest paying job available to you, well you may be making a big mistake. Similarly, if you want to join that start up and wear t-shirts and jeans to work, that’s great, but you may later regret not learning the fundamentals from great mentors that have been around a while. A place where you learn disciplines, structures and how big banks and companies think and make decisions. You’ll make friends with a broad number of people across many industries and disciplines. Come to think of it, these skills will be vital one day when you own and run your own start up! For this reason, you shouldn’t rule out working for a PWC, KPMG, Deloitte or a similar company that is going to grind the life out of you for 5 years.
    Conversely, maybe you’re working for a big consulting firm and are not living the creative life you now want. You’ll need to be bold and get out of your comfort zone. For you, maybe the flip is joining that start up company. Can you do it on little money or even as a non-paid director?
  4. Get connected and get engaged. One of the best things about social media is its ability to connect together those with common interests. If you want to start your own tech company but need funding or advice from other people who share your passion, then get engaged and join a Meetup. Seek out blogs and follow them and make comments or ask questions. Obviously there is also LinkedIn.
    Why should you get connected? Well because one day someone in your network will probably ask if anybody knows of someone looking for a job opportunity or how to solve a problem they you may have previously solved. Now that you’re on the “inside” you have the opportunity to have that conversation …
  5. Be the change you see. If you’re presently in a job or company where you think the future is dim, remember that the people you work with currently see those feelings and emotions and in the future they will remember you based on the feelings and emotions you display. It’s easy to get down and be despondent, but it doesn’t help anybody, most of all yourself.
    Maybe somebody you work with today is going through the same pain you are. Maybe they get that break that you want into the next “Google”. Wouldn’t it be nice if they saw an opportunity there and recommended you because of your attitude and smarts?I love the saying …”People forget what you said. People forget what you did. People never forget how you made them feel.”

    Come to think about it, it could be contagious. Your new found focus probably will get more people on board around you. It could even lead to a turn around in your division. That could spread more widely in the company in which you work… that could even potentially start a revolution that makes your present company the next Google and you may end up not wanting to leave!

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