I had lunch with a friend recently who is exploring new career opportunities. Nothing is wrong with her job; she’s just ready for a change, but not sure how to get started.
Here are some tips I shared with her to help during the transition.
I heard about the concept of “weak ties” for the first time twice in one day. At the Alt JD conference hosted by the NC Bar Association, speaker Ginny Allen and keynote speaker Dorie Clark talked about the importance of weak ties.
Here’s the quick science on the subject.
As part of his Ph.D. thesis research in the late 1960s, Mark Granovetter surveyed 282 workers with regards to the type of ties between the job changer and the contact person who provided the job lead. Strength of measurement of the relationship was how often the job changer and contact person saw each other during the transition period: “often” (at least once a week), “occasionally” (more than once a year but less than twice a week) or “rarely” (once a year or less). Of those who found jobs through their personal contacts, 16.7% reported seeing their contact often, 55.6% reported seeing their contact occasionally and 27.8% rarely.
The conclusion from the study is that weak ties are an important resource when transitioning jobs. The take-away is to expand your networking beyond your closest friends, tell everyone you are looking to make a change and meet as many people as possible along the way.
Study hot fields of employment. You can research online or talk with recruiters about hot industries or hiring trends. Health care and health sciences are areas on the rise and in the Triangle, pharmaceutical companies, clinical research organizations, insurance companies, hospitals and health care providers are abundant. For someone with a legal background, there are opportunities to work in legal departments, compliance and contracts.
What hot areas might you be interested in?
You may be looking for career advancement and work in a law firm or small organization where growth isn’t an option. Look for companies with headquarters in your area, or at least a very large work force. Try to determine whether you know anyone at the company – a personal contact is always best. You can then get an informational meeting set up (more about that) or at least talk about how the process works (online application process, should you reach out to someone in human resources or just work in the system as designed).
You may find a job that uses your job skills that gets you in the door as you learn a new industry and have the opportunity to move up within the larger work environment.
Remember how adults always asked you as a kid what you wanted to be when you grew up? I’m convinced that those adults were simply looking for suggestions! Just because you chose a job or career many years ago (or a few years ago) doesn’t mean that you can’t make a change. Talk to people who work in different areas in your same profession or a different profession altogether to ask them about their careers. Schedule a phone conference or treat them to coffee to determine what a typical work day looks like, what they like about what they do, how they entered the profession and ideas for you or suggestions of people to meet.
Resumes and Interviews
Keep in mind that different fields may require a different resume format or a different style of interviewing. These are questions to ask in your informational meetings. Or ask a recruiter or by do online research.
Can you afford a career coach? If cost is a concern, look for someone who is new or doesn’t have a full case load and might be willing to take a discount on fees. Research the cost of online career coaches. Finally, I know two professional friends who shared the cost of a career coach. They both attend the personal sessions and they individually do their homework and follow-up. Are group sessions an option?
Explore a variety of industry groups. Look for LinkedIn groups of interest and follow the conversation and look for job postings. Attend meetings in new areas of interest to meet people and learn the lingo. Most associations have job banks though often they are limited to members.
Dorie Clark, the author of Reinventing You was the keynote speaker at the Alt JD conference this fall. Read Dorie’s book as well as online articles and blogs that she writes on job transitioning in publications such as Forbes or the Harvard Business Review.
A young paralegal friend of mine told me about a book she is really enjoying Be a Kickass Assistant: How to Get from Grunt to a Great Career by Heather Beckel. Secrets of Six Figure Women by Barbara Stanny discusses traits that successful women share along with stories of women who have tapped into those traits to take their careers to the next level. Strengthfinders 2.0 by Tom Roth comes with an assessment of your personal strengths and how those translate into jobs. A favorite book of mine is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi about the power of networking.
Changes are scary, but exciting. Good luck as you explore new options.
The Strength of Weak Ties, American Journal of Sociology, Volume 78, Issue 6 (May, 1973), Mark S. Granovetter
Camille Stell is the Vice President of Client Services for Lawyers Mutual. With over 20 years of experience in the legal field, Camille has advised hundreds of paralegals, law students and lawyers on career development. Contact Camille at 800.662.8843 or Camille@lawyersmutualnc.com.