Time for a career change?

Have you been in a role or profession for years and it no longer gives you the satisfaction it once did and is becoming boring, mundane or just irritating? Or is your profession shrinking, with fewer jobs available and more redundancies? Thinking about doing something else, but not sure what that ‘something else’ is? You are not alone. Having worked in the career coaching space for several years, this is quite a common dynamic, especially among ‘mature-age’ workers…Those of us over 40! We know we need to keep working for the foreseeable future but don’t see a lot of security or pleasure with our current situation.

So, what should you consider when changing careers? Well first and foremost, you don’t know what you don’t know. Most people who want to change careers have no idea what else is out there in the market. You could go online and search for jobs or trawl job sites like SEEK, but I guarantee you that this will drive you progressively mad with a low guarantee of success. A far better option is to get out into the market and talk to people…Yes, talk to people (remember how we used to do that in the good old days)!

Draw up a list of family, friends and acquaintances who work across a range of industries and professions as a starting point, and then start to set up discussions with these folks. It does not have to be formal…Treat them as relaxed and informal discovery sessions. In preparing for these conversations, however, it’s important to understand 3 key things about yourself:

  1. What can you do? What skills do you have that are transferable (i.e. can be done between different jobs)? For example, you may have good writing skills, work with various stakeholders, run projects and so on…It’s important that you are aware and able to convey your skills to people you meet.
  2. What do you like doing? There are aspects of all our jobs that we enjoy and those we don’t. Clearly, it’s about increasing the former and reducing the latter. For example, if you like working as part of a team rather than individually, ensure that this is on your list of ‘likes’. Similarly, if you don’t want to travel more than 20% in a job, specify that as well.
  3. What are your values? In other words, what’s important to you? If it’s work-life balance, you will want flexibility in your work hours or a short commute to and from work. If you crave financial rewards, you will want a high-paying job with a significant variable component. These values must be in place for you to consider alternative careers.

Even if you don’t know what you want to do next, having some clarity on these 3 areas will help in your discussions with others. Rather than awkwardly saying ‘I don’t know what I want to do next’, you can say something like, ‘I’m exploring new opportunities and while I’m not exactly sure what these are, this is what I can do (skills), this is what I like doing and this is what is important to me in terms of my values.’ I’m sure you agree this is a far better way to get insight into other potential careers!

Another aspect of your research is to understand what’s happening in the market. For example, what industries are growing? Think aged care (growing) versus manufacturing (not growing and possibly contracting). What skills are in demand? What ones do you have and perhaps what are those you need to develop? This can ensure you have further information to ensure any career switch is well-researched with enhanced chances of success.

As you meet with others, this will give them some context and in return, they will be able to provide further information on other careers in the market that may suit. Once you obtain more information, you are better able to then do some ‘desk research’ to see what is required to qualify and ultimately apply for available jobs.

As a career coach, I am constantly amazed to discover the jobs ‘out there’ in the market that I’ve never heard of. Did you know that finance companies employ engineers, or that major airlines employ people to design the seating configuration in different aircraft? Nor did I! I only learned about such roles by speaking with people.

In changing careers, it won’t always be as simple as having a conversation and receiving some options and direction re alternative careers. You may have to undertake some further training or education to build your skills base and therefore be able to move into a new profession.  Also, and let’s be frank here, it takes some courage to change careers and move out of our comfort zone. Starting in something new can be daunting, but ultimately, if you move into something you love doing, it’s worth it.

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight if you are considering changing careers. As the famous American soprano, Beverly Sills once said, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” Good luck!

Essential ingredients for an effective job search

I have had the good fortune to work with many hundreds of individuals who have experienced job loss and who are then engaged in job search. This has given me the opportunity to discern some of the key qualities that ensure a productive, and ultimately successful, job search.

  1. 1. Be teachable and receptive to new (or different) ideas for job search – You may know a lot about Finance or manufacturing or some other esoteric corporate arena, but when you work with a (good) career coach, they are specialists in resumes, interview skills, networking and online job search among other things. Listen to what they have to say, process it and try it. If you disagree with something, don’t dismiss it out of hand, but rather mull over it, try it and if it works (which it usually will), great! In the same context, I also find a little humility goes a long way as well.
  2. Be active – Don’t just sit in front of your computer applying for jobs online and dealing with a few recruiters. You need to do this, but the key focus of your search is to get into your network…Talk to people! Tell them what you’ve done and what you’d like to do and if you don’t know, be inquisitive about what they do in their company or industry. Create additional options beyond the obvious ones for your next role. The majority of jobs are not advertised, so if you are not networking you are not giving yourself the best chance to land another great role in a suitable period of time.
  3. Find balance – Many career coaches will say that ‘Job search is a full-time job’. I completely disagree and assume that these folks have never been unemployed and have had to find a new job. You certainly need to devote sufficient time to job search, but with the additional emotional load of being ‘between jobs‘, you need to balance this with time with friends and family and most importantly time for yourself. Indulge in something you want to do – a hobby, a sport or a pastime – which helps take your mind off the travails of job search. Be thankful for the many things you have, not what you don’t have (a job).
  4. Be prepared – Just like the old boy scout motto! This covers all your collateral like resume and LinkedIn profiles, but particularly when attending networking meetings and interviews. Having interviewed thousands of people over the years, the one key element that ensures a ‘thanks but no thanks’ after an interview is a lack of preparation. Fundamentally, know how you fit the requirements of the stated job and be prepared to illustrate with specific examples of where you’ve used those skills. I also find that ‘practice interviews’ are extremely valuable, such that you actually have to verbalise responses to typical questions, as well as give examples that illustrate your skills (versus contemplating things in your mind and jotting down notes!).
  5. Be contemporary – Ensure you are on LinkedIn and using it! Similarly with other relevant social media such at Twitter and Google +. Stay up to date with developments in your industry and profession and use technology such as tablets and smartphones to demonstrate your savviness. Don’t be stuck in 1985!
  6. Be enthusiastic – This does not mean doing cartwheels down the hallway or high-fiving the receptionist when you arrive for an interview, it simply means that when you meet people you are genuinely interested in them, their organisation and any role they may have available. As per point 4 above, it’s also about being prepared and quietly confident.
  7. Be confident – Don’t let things like age, gender, ethnicity and the like be self-imposed barriers to your job search. You will encounter people in your job search who will have a different view of the world than your own and on that basis alone they won’t call you in for an interview or place you in a job. Don’t fret about this. Just do your best, stick with it and you will eventually find a receptive audience who will value your background and the value you bring.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully, one that can assist you if you find yourself searching for a new role.

Of course, luck also plays a part, but I often say that job-seekers who demonstrate most (if not all) of the above traits create their own good luck!

Employers you need to give a damn!

Employers give a damnI recently had the experience where I applied for a few interesting casual roles to supplement my work as a career coach.  I followed my usual advice of tailoring cover letters and resumes to ‘fit’ the roles and for one role actually called the person mentioned in the advertisement three times (twice leaving a brief voicemail) and sending a LinkedIn inMail with no response. A month has gone by and I can assume that their silence and lack of response means they are not interested in my candidature (despite being a good fit for what they were after).

Outside of my own personal experience with ‘rejection by silence’ I literally hear the same thing from my clients most days of the week.  They apply for a job, call a contact or follow up with someone only to be met with the sounds of silence. My usual advice is that ‘this is part of the frustrations of job search’ and that ‘during job search you develop a thick skin’…But should it be so? Absolutely not!

I’m not between jobs but yet I was still taken aback at the lack of professionalism and basic human courtesy to respond to my applications. I had taken the time and effort to express interest in their organisations, so surely there should be some reciprocation? Rather, there was a conscious decision to ignore me and others who apparently did not meet their requirements. Even more so as someone who’s unemployed, putting myself ‘out there’ to say ‘Mr Employer, you and your role sound really interesting and I have some great skills that I believe could be of use to you.  Here are my details and I look forward to hearing back.’ Silence, nothing, nada, zippo, cue the sounds of crickets chirping in the background…‘Rejection by silence’.  What you are saying, even if not intentional, is that you don’t recognise me or my background…I am knocking on your door and you ignore me. Can I ask  that if a potential customer reached out to you, would you also ignore them? Of course not and I may well be a potential customer one day! Based on one less than satisfactory experience with you, it’s understandable that I may take my business elsewhere.

Let’s call a spade a spade…Lack of response to job applicants is a poor reflection of you and your organisation and if you don’t have a system to manage unsuccessful job applicants appropriately, you should.

I would argue that it does not take much effort to return a phone call or to generate some sort of form email, automated response or text message that is sent to unsuccessful candidates. Yes, we’ll be disappointed we missed out on your job, but at least we’ve been told where we stand and can focus on other opportunities. In fact, such a response would be a novelty and would serve you and your organisational brand well. I knocked on your door, you answered, explained politely you were not interested and I continued down the street…Thank you!

Practically I get that corporate types are busy and time poor. I was one for 27 years.  I also recognise that many of these folks simply see job applicants as ‘strangers’ or one more resume on the pile.  What I reflect on though is that many of us charged with hiring staff have been through job loss and understand the heightened emotions experienced during this time. You would think this would be leverage enough to ensure the same sins are not repeated? Apparently not. To be blithely ignored despite our best efforts to make contact with someone during job search can be soul-destroying if it happens often enough.

So, Mr and Mrs Employer, give a damn to those of us applying to your fine organisations!  Let us know when we have failed to ‘make the cut’ in a timely manner but even better, let us know you’d like to meet us for an interview. We’d be happy to chat…

Have you had this experience during job search? I’d love to hear about it.

For any help with job search, see my website at www.thecareermedic.com or contact me directly by clicking here.  You may also be interested in my book, ‘Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s’ which was recently published and is full of practical, no-nonsense job search tips for mature workers.  You can purchase the book from this link  or directly from Amazon or Booktopia among others.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s


New year’s resolutions and job search


New years resolution

“The new year stands before us like a chapter in a book waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” (Melody Beattie, Author)

What are your new year’s resolutions as we rapidly approach 2016 and farewell 2015?


The origins of new year’s resolutions goes back to Roman times, where the first month of the new year – January – is named after Janus, the two-faced god who looked backwards to the old year and forward to the new year.  It was during this time over 2,000 years ago that new year’s resolutions began. Resolutions were more of a moral flavour, such as being good to others (For more information see billpetro.com).

According to a survey done by Sydney radio station 2DayFM in recent years, the top 10 new year’s resolutions are:

  1. Spend more time with family
  2. Fall in love
  3. Help others with their dreams (which goes to show not much has changed in 2,000 years!)
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Learn something exciting
  6. Stay fit and healthy
  7. Enjoy life to the fullest
  8. Spend less and save more
  9. Become more organised
  10. Lose weight.

Most if not all of these resolutions can be impacted by a successful job search. Looking for a role with work-life balance allows us to spend more time with family and loved ones; leading and inspiring others may help others to achieve their (professional) dreams; not being able to smoke at work keeps us healthier; learning new skills and having a higher salary to save more complement each of these resolutions!  What’s more, in a recent Google survey, 18% of people met their significant other at work, so you can even enhance your chances of falling in love in 2016!

If you are between jobs or thinking about changing jobs, then the new year is a time when such thoughts are brought even more into focus.  Like Janus, we put the old year behind us and look to the new year as a fresh beginning…

If you are working, you need to think about ‘why’ you want to change.  What’s not working out in your current role or company?  All of us need to think about exactly ‘what’ it is we’d like to do.  To do this, think about the skills you have (and perhaps skills gaps that need to be filled); what you like doing (e.g. Project work, technology, managing) as well as your values and how they relate to the organisation (and manager) you’d like to work for.  For example, if lifestyle is a key value, you should look for an organisation and role that avoids excessive travel or working lots of overtime.  In short, think about what you can do, what you like doing and your values when deciding on your next role.  Of course, this takes some time and effort and like any new year’s resolution requires a first – and most important – step…It may be as simple as taking time to focus on what you’d like to do, updating your resume, reconnecting with your network or even engaging a career coach to help…

Is 2016 going to be a repeat of 2015 or a new beginning on many fronts including work?  It’s entirely up to you.  In the same survey conducted by 2DayFM, they found that 48% of Australians make new year’s resolutions, but only 6% are successful in achieving them…Not a particularly good strike rate!  To improve the odds of success – and as suggested by Beattie earlier – write down your goals (resolutions) with associated timelines (e.g. Update resume by 31 January) and put them somewhere visible so that you can keep track of progress.  At work we are driven by our KPIs and objectives, so why can’t we apply the same rigour to our own personal and professional planning?

Good luck with your resolutions for 2016!

For any help with job search, see my website at www.thecareermedic.com or contact me directly by clicking here.  You may also be interested in my book, ‘Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s’ which was recently published and is full of practical, no-nonsense job search tips for mature workers.  You can purchase the book from this link  or directly from Amazon or Booktopia among others.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

Is it wrong to enjoy the holiday season while unemployed?

I posted this article about a year ago and I think the advice is relevant again as the holiday season commences in Australia…

Sad puppyIs it wrong to enjoy the holiday season over Christmas and New Year while unemployed?  Short answer? No!

However, many of us who have gone through job loss – and subsequent search – very often feel guilty if we are not searching for jobs 24/7 even over the ‘quieter’ Christmas and New Year period.

What makes it worse is that we tend to project by saying things like ‘If I don’t have a job by Christmas it may be March or April at the very earliest before I can start work!’ This can be very distracting and demotivating and it constantly plays on our minds even when we should be having some down time and enjoying this wonderful time of year.

My advice – as someone who has been in transition (unemployed) over 2 summer vacations – is to:

  1. Take a break and stop to ‘smell the roses‘ – It is holiday season after all. The sun is shining (well, some of the time) and the kids are on school holidays (again). When you get another job – and you will get another job – you may not have the luxury of such a break again. Therefore, enjoy the time for what it is…Time off.
  2. Do some networking – The summer break runs for around 6-8 weeks and during this time, people who are working are in and out of the office but usually don’t take more than 2-3 weeks leave in one period. People take leave and come back and then others go and return. Logically, most businesses are quieter over this time and in fact some even close down for a mandatory period. This means that if people are in the office they are generally more ‘available’ for networking meetings, are also more relaxed and are likely able to give you more time as well.
  3. Keep busy – Give yourself some projects around the home or things you can do with your family such as day trips or other economical activities. When you are busy, you achieve things (and it’s always nice to tick things off the proverbial list and to feel a sense of accomplishment).

By continuing to network over the summer break, you keep busy in job search and are building a platform for the new year when others who only focus on the visible job market (on-line ads and recruiters) are downing tools, thinking that ‘no jobs are available over Christmas and the New Year.’ You will start 2016 with considerable momentum in your job search and it will ultimately pay dividends.

The guilt aspect of enjoying some time off is ameliorated because you are still busy, albeit in different ways. Having to prepare for, conduct and follow up on networking meetings keeps you busy and on your game, not to mention potentially leading to an introduction or referral that could result in that next great role…

So, by all means enjoy the break and make the most of down time with friends and family, but also be sure to meet with, talk with, engage with…network with others. Wishing you all a safe and happy festive season and new year!

For any help with job search, see my website at www.thecareermedic.com or contact me directly by clicking here.  You may also be interested in my book, ‘Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s’ which was recently published and is full of practical, no-nonsense job search tips for the over 40s.  You can purchase the book from this link  or directly from Amazon or Booktopia among others.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

Reference checks that work

The following is an excerpt from my new book, ‘Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s’ which is currently available on Amazon, Booktopia and Fishpond among others.  ‘Fired to Hired’ is an easy-to-read, no-nonsense and practical guide to job search, written by someone who understands job loss and subsequent search.

Post-interview reference checks (Chapter 19, pages 160 – 162)

Reference checks are designed to provide interviewers with additional information about the candidate in order to make a hiring decision. Most references these days are obtained over the phone; however, it’s not uncommon for organisations to conduct reference checks via email where the referee is interstate or overseas in a different, and inconvenient, time zone.

As a rule of thumb, the best referees are individuals you have worked with or known within the last five to eight years. Currency of information is critical in evaluating candidates. Referees usually come from the following categories:

  • Managers you have worked for
  • Stakeholders within the business you have worked with or supported
  • Employees who have worked for you
  • Vendors, suppliers or customers outside the company you have had dealings with (especially if your job entails significant liaison with such groups)

It’s very important to note that you should ask for your referees’ permission to use them as referees at the beginning of your job search. You can lock them in later when you need their assistance for a specific reference check, but be sure to contact your referees before the recruiter or hiring organisation contacts them. Once you have established that a referee will speak on your behalf, ask them to let you know when the reference check occurs.

Given the opportunity to act as referees, some people like to string you along a little when providing feedback, but saying something like ‘I told them what a ratbag you are and not to employ you in a million years’ is not at all helpful. Once they are over channeling their inner comedian, hopefully they will give you a quick rundown on the questions asked, and any particular intelligence or feedback they gathered from the discussion.

While rare, during my early HR days I did have a couple of instances where the referee was surprised by my call and had not been approached by the candidate to act as a referee on their behalf. Needless to say, such oversights don’t reflect well on the candidate and any inference can only be negative. When you do contact your referees, take the time to tell them about the role you have applied for. This will give them the context they need when the hiring organisation contacts them.

Ensure your referee shares some key information or points you would like them to convey. If the job you have applied for has a high requirement for effective stakeholder management, make sure your referee mentions this in the reference check and perhaps details a specific situation where you did well. There might not be a specific question on this topic, but there could be a catchall question at the end of the reference check asking if there is anything else they would like to mention about the applicant’s suitability for the role. If you have prepared your referee well, this will assure the hiring company that they have covered everything, they will volunteer further information that could be enough to get you across the line when it comes to comparing candidates and deciding who gets the job.

When organisations ask for referees, they don’t usually specify who they would like to speak to, but will generally ask for someone you’ve worked for, which means that you can offer referees on your terms. If you’ve worked for someone that you don’t feel would represent your interests in applying for another job appropriately, don’t put their name forward. Most people have experienced working for someone with a manager’s title who may not provide a ringing endorsement of their professional background. You want to put forward someone who will speak highly of you in relation to the job you are applying for, and confirm that you’re a good match for the required skills, knowledge and experience.

Thanks for reading about reference checks!  If you liked this information, there are many more tips and hints on effective job search for mature job seekers in the book.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s