If you’re not ready to leave your current role or your circumstances don’t allow you the flexibility to undertake a side project, then explore what’s possible within the organisation you’re now in. Side projects could consist of applying for temporary projects, side ways networking and making it clear you’re interested in internal roles that will give you new skills, contacts and ways to test your brand statement. Think about a side project that can present a case to your manager for investing time and resources in you to undertake one or all of these. Each has a varying level of risk, change and time associated with it.
Exploring People You Admire
Is there a person you know that has the ‘ideal’ job, or someone you envy because they have managed to maneuver into roles that reflect what you’re looking for?
Have you wondered how they did this?
Try this activity
Start by making a list of people that you envy, align with your values or are just working in the sorts of roles you want. They can be people you don’t know, your favorite authors or someone you do know or have worked with.
Look for articles about them and impressions from others, as well as how they represent themselves through their biographies on their websites.
By undertaking online research you can get a sense of what tangible steps they took, decisions they made, or ways of thinking they had that helped them progress.
If there are a number of people in the same industry, then look for trends and patterns such as groups they were part of, community affiliations or industry associations.
What websites or blogs did they contribute to that might give you insights into the audience they were pitching to get known in and who did they associate with?
Another way of getting into their heads is to spend time and immerse yourself in reading articles, books and online reviews with specific goals in mind. Steven Johnson in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, reads with the intention of picking up information:
- About the sector and industry, particularly if it’s one you’re not familiar with yet
- To get your head around the language and jargon so that you can sound credible
- That is anecdotal to share while socialising in these new networks
- That will help you to ask better and more informed questions once you start meeting other professionals. This will help feel more confident once you start networking in these new areas and show you’ve done your homework.
Meeting People You Admire
Sweet Spot Careers emphasises the importance of tribes as a means to find your communities of interest.
“Connecting with people who share the same passions affirms you are not alone; that there are others like you and that, while many may not understand your passion, some do ... What matters … is having validation for the passion you have in common.”
This will often mean networking with new people as a means to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships that support your goals. Don’t assume you are being pushy or that networking will make you look desperate. Networks are personal webs and connections of people.
Making connections is not about getting a job, (although it can be). It’s about extending your range and creating new possibilities, learning about new roles and other fields and identifying key people of influence.
Try this activity
Create a list of people that you want to gather information from that are doing the types of roles and jobs you want to do. With the research you’ve undertaken come up with a list of questions that will help you understand what they did and how they did it.
Author Dorie Clarke in her book Reinventing You, describes six steps to nail this exercise.
Step 1 is to be clear about the help you’re asking for
Clearly you don’t want to waste their time, but asking general questions about a sector like ‘What’s it like to be in education?’ is not going to elicit the type of response you want. Be specific with your questions and transparent about your motives.
Step 2 is to respect they’re doing you a favour
So again, don’t muck people around. Be guided by what is convenient for them, keep it short and don’t go off message.
Step 3 is to ask the right questions
- What is your typical week or day like?
- What do you like most and least about your job?
- What does it take to be a success in this field or organisation?
- These are the steps I’m going to take, do you think this is on the right track?
- If you know something specific about their career journey, ask them about it and what strategy should you use now? See more ideas below about what to ask.
Step 4 is to leave with more names
Who else should you meet with and can they provide an introduction? Or in making contact can you mention you have spoken to them to help get in to the door?
Step 5 is to keep the connection alive
Your goal is to turn this meeting /interview into something more lasting and an ongoing relationship. Always follow up the meeting with a thank you note and then offer something back. It could be a connection you have, a reference you’ read or a link that can support them.
Step 6 is to master the follow up
After you’ve thanked them, also ensure you let them know what you learned from the meeting/interview, what you’ll do with this new information and how much you appreciate their insights.
What Questions Should I Ask?
Nicholas Lore, author of ‘Pathfinder, How to Choose or Change your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success’, says we should “seek to discover new questions as well as answers”.
The more you meet, talk and investigate the lives of others, the more you’ll learn and the more insightful your questions will become. As your research continues, your questions will improve as your exploration provides clarity about what you are seeking.
In the activity above (in step 3) examples were provided. Here are a few more questions for you to adapt to your circumstances:
· What do you find most satisfying and most frustrating about your job, industry, sector or field?
· What are the global or Australian trends impacting on your role, industry, sector or field?
· How much of the day do you spend on <insert> problem solving, decision making, persuading, selling, managing X, in front of a computer, in information management … OR with people, clients, peers, products…
· What personality attributes, talents, skills or experience would someone need to be able to undertake your role?
· How much of your role is made up of routine or variety?
· What challenges does your role provide?
· Is the role, industry, sector or field secure in terms of income, opportunities or future demand?
· Is there potential for growth in the role and what are the growth steps?
· How do you feel/ know you’re adding value?
· What is the work environment like?
· What books, publications, associations or events should I read/attend to learn more?
· Can you refer me to other people in your field that I could get a perspective from?
Want to read more?
There are also a number of references that you might be interested in following up as additional reading:
- Dorie Clarke, Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, Harvard Business Review Press, 2013
- Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From, Penguin Books, 2011
- Nicholas Lore, Pathfinder, How to Choose or Change your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success, Simon and Schuster, 1998
- Sweet Spot Careers: Maria Simonelli, 2014