" unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending..."

- Definition of crisis, per Merriam-Webster
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Gracious reader,

After working for a few years, you may encounter a surprising, interesting moment.

For me, it was when I realized that I was not saving the world.  And, I worked in a deeply hostile environment.

Not. Worth. It.  I pivoted.  It was my Late-Early career crisis:  I was 26.

When you’re fortunate, many things seem possible early in your career.  After a few years, constraints and boundaries are more visible.

Even a happy life change -- getting married, having a healthy baby -- offers new priorities and constraints.

Over the past year, I’ve had informal conversations with a good number of people who may be in a similar moment.  Many common themes have emerged. 

This time, a few thoughts on Early-Late career transitions.
Fork It Over

The job search social media post makes me cringe:  “I’m available for full time work!  HMU if you need me.”
For most of us, the shaded area on this Venn diagram is very small.  A social media ask isn't a great call to action -- especially because people may not see your post to act on it.

It's okay to send a similarly general request directly to someone who loves you, can hire you, and knows your work.  It's a good conversation starter.

Recently someone in my circle sent out a slightly more specific ask, to a much smaller group. 

I think she's awesome.  But I don't know her work well enough to explain it to someone else.  Or to know who might need her services. 

“I’m talented and can do a lot of things,” is an absolute truth of every human being.  You are filled with huge potential.   

Most organizations are hiring for a set of skills, knowledge, “fit,” and tasks to be accomplished.

In a pinch, you could use a Swiss Army knife as an eating utensil.  (Maybe in the zombie apocalypse.)  Usually, a fork or chopsticks would be better tools for the job.

An important Late-Early career insight:  the work of getting a job involves a not-small bit of sales.  

We’re all Swiss Army knives.

Your buyers want forks, not Swiss Army knives.  You must pitch your fork-ness. 

Even though you are so much more than that.
Career Re-Search

Before you start pitching, though, it’s important to understand potential buyers.  Which buyers are good fits for you?

“I want to be someplace where I can learn,” is a common Late-Early career transition theme I've heard voiced.

Another lesson of your big fat Late-Early career:  secretly, many employers don’t want to hear this. 
You’re not applying to college, or even your first job. 

They need a fork.  Not someone who needs to learn to be a fork.  Or a fork who wants to be a hammer.

Today, I work with startups.  I have worked with, and in, large companies.   They are very different organisms. 

Startups can offer learning experiences, and you’ll get to try a lot of different things.  So the saying goes.  The truth of this will vary widely from company to company.

You may be left to do the work to make sense of what you’ve learned, and put it into the context of your career.  You might even need to define and articulate the job function(s) you provided, especially when a company is naively "innovating" on management.

This is also true of freelancing. 

More established organizations have their advantages.  Part of the “bureaucracy” may contain an infrastructure that can enable employees to move along a more linear trajectory.  Things like functional career ladders and formal training programs can be useful.

Ultimately, you'll need to build a body of work that identifies you as someone who can be hired elsewhere.  You’ll need to linear-ize what's likely to be non-linear experience.  You need a portfolio that tells a story.

Research is key.  When looking to make a Late-Early career transition, it’s on you to figure out which organizations will support the kind of growth and development you desire.  

Look at the career paths of senior leaders in the organization.  And see how you might fit, and how to get through the door.

Sometimes an organization's press and the "careers" page on the website doesn't contain the whole story. 

You probably need to talk with people who work there. 
Yes, It’s All The Network

Expecting to apply for a job on a website, and get it, is magical thinking.  Even when you know people in an organization.

Most jobs get filled through networks.  This is more true as you progress in your career.

I've talked to people who think it’s cheating to reach out to a friend at the company before applying for a role.  Or who are uncomfortable "bugging" people for connections in their organization.

But your friend will actually want to help you.  Even an acquaintance will want to help their organization to fill an open job.  Reaching out before you submit an online form might get your application a second look.

This is how it works.  And yes, this can contribute to inequity in the workplace.  (We can help when we're thoughtful about how we expand our own networks.)

As you identify organizations you’d like to work in, use all of your resources to connect with people you might know there.  Before you apply online.

You may realize that it's not for you, which saves time, energy, and heart. 

You may also realize that you don’t have the right network to access the people who can help you to connect.

In this very brief video, Tereza Nemessanyi talks about building an entirely new network she needed for the work she wanted to do.  Click here to watch.
Tereza is also one of the best sales people I've seen in action:  she’s talking about conceiving and executing on a sales effort.
Human Nature

There's no book on career transitions, or internet advice, that will fuel your transition effort.

You need people.  Reach out to your mentors, friends, parents, cool aunts...

There are other humans in your community, people you might not know, whose job it is to help you.

Librarians are amazing.  There’s bound to be someone at your public library who will help you to identify local resources you can access for free.  

The library itself may offer career services.  A friend in transition took me, as her support person, to the library for a job search presentation by a retired HR executive.  He was great, and also offered free services under the auspices of his suburban town.

He also led a “career ministry” group that met in meeting rooms at local churches. 

Another friend in transition had a great experience receiving free, non-religious career counseling at a house of worship in her area.  She also met others who were in transition, which was helpful.

Colleges and Universities.  You may be surprised to learn that your university offers career services to alumni.  Or that a local community college offers support and programs for people in the community.  YMMV, and worth exploring.

Other.  If you’re extremely well resourced, you might consider hiring a career coach.

Whatever you can do, get off the internet and talk with people.
That Said...

One book on career transitions.  Over the years, I’ve recommended What Color is Your Parachute (library) (Indiebound) about a zillion times.  I’m currently reviewing the 2019 edition.  It is still a great resource, full of good questions, strategies and tactics. 

One book on sales.  If you're up for thinking like a sales person, Snap Selling (Indiebound) (library) by Jill Konrath offers lots of food for thought about how a "buyer" thinks.  Being able to put yourself into the shoes of your hiring manager and HR contacts, #priceless.
One final note.  For a fortunate few, "funemployment" is a career choice of sorts, too. 

If you can take time to re-set and research, great.  However, another Late-Early career reality:  it takes more time to find the right place to land. 

Also, career gaps on your resume have different meanings to different hiring managers.  Some won't want to hear that you've been on an extended vacation.  Position your career break with care.


Anne Libby

P.S.  Issue #32 was about your relationship with your manager.  Here's a link.
P.P.S.  Team Leaders, here's a discount code for my people management newsletter.
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