Career coach Julie Jansen, who’s all about reinventing your career for the better, walks the walk with her advice. The author of the newly revised I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: A Step by Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work, has herself made several fulfilling career changes over the past few decades.
Jansen, who started off as a radio and TV broadcaster, says she’s been fired, had her job eliminated and dealt with her share of “nasty bosses” and corporate cultures that were a “bad fit.” She tried recruiting and sales management before finding her niche as a career coach, author and speaker. “I was navigating to roles that were a great fit for my personality,” Jansen says.
The lessons Jansen gleaned from her own career steps helped shape the new, third edition of her book, which reflects the tectonic shift of the job hunt to digital and social platforms.
People either get hung up unrealistically on an obstacle or they get hung up on an opportunity that’s not realistic.
— Julie Jansen
1. Assess Yourself and Make a Plan
For anyone over 50 eager to change careers, either for full-time work or part-time work in retirement, Jansen suggests following this three-step process:
First, assess yourself. In her book, Jansen offers a series of quizzes and exercises to determine the source of your job dissatisfaction; identify your core values, personality preferences and skills and determine your ability to change.
To understand your values and apply them to your career search, Jansen offers a list of some 40 values from “Achievement/Accomplishment,” “Advancement” and “Autonomy” through “Status,” “Teamwork” and “Wealth,” urging readers to check off the ones that apply and rank their Top 10. The most important ones will help you decide whether to stay in your position or field or look for something new.
Next, she says, identify “opportunities” and “obstacles” towards making a job change. “People either get hung up unrealistically on an obstacle — ‘I’m too old to change, I don’t have a degree, I won’t make enough money,’ or they get hung up on an opportunity that’s not realistic,” Jansen says.
Finally, create an action plan to reach your job-change goal. The plan should be tailored to your particular situation, whether have, what she calls, “One Toe in the Retirement Pool,” are “Yearning to Be on Your Own” or you’re “Bored and Plateaued” with your career.,
For someone in the latter category, Jansen offers an 11-step plan that calls for asking yourself a series of questions, including why you’re bored, how you can re-activate interest in your job and whether you want to stay in your industry.
2. Decide Between Making a Big or Small Change
At 50+, you’re less likely to make an extreme career change — from doctor to chef, for example — than to build on your existing skill set. Most career moves are subtle, Jansen says, and can be as simple as transferring from one department of your company to another.
“If you’re in a bad marriage, the whole marriage isn’t necessarily bad. You have to focus on the things that are good,” Jansen notes. “Maybe you love your company, but want to move to a different area. I had a client who worked in finance at ESPN. He wanted to move into talent management. It took him a few years, but he was able to do it.”
3. Network for an Employers’ Job Market
If you’ve worked at the same employer for quite awhile and want out, networking with people who don’t work there is key, says Jansen. And the sooner the better.
“People are very disposable at companies,” Jansen says. “It’s an employers’ market right now. It means most employers can treat people however they want. Companies don’t have as much of a moral compass when it comes to laying people off.”
That harsh reality underscores the importance of networking, whether in the real or virtual worlds.
Jansen says: Start by creating a list of everyone you know who could possibly be of use (even your dentist). Prepare a “script” for your email or telephone networking pitches. View any event — from a baseball game to a block party — as a networking opportunity. And, whether your networking meeting is online or at an event, always ask the person if there’s anything you can do to help them, Jansen writes.
4. Prepare for Today’s Interview Process
The job interview process has become an even higher hurdle towards getting an offer these days, says Jansen. If you clear the initial online screening, expect to have multiple phone interviews and in-person interviews, take personality and psychological tests and possibly be tasked with an on-site drill, such as being given a 15-minute deadline to assemble a PowerPoint presentation.
Prepare for this reality with friends or family by having them ask you the kinds of questions that often stump interviewees, Jansen advises. Examples: “Tell me about yourself,” “What are your weaknesses or areas of development” and “Tell me about a time when you failed at something.”
Whether you wind up speaking with one interviewer or eight, Jansen says, always write individual thank-you notes. “Be sure to customize each note based on your specific conversation,” Jansen writes.
5. Make Social Media Work for You
Whether you’re a LinkedIn dynamo with 500-plus connections, a 24/7 Twitter presence and your own blog or someone who maintains a minimal digital profile, Jansen says, ensure that your virtual self reflects and promotes your real-world accomplishments.
For anyone with little or no social media profile on places like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Jansen recommends starting out by responding to other people’s blog posts; posting and answering questions on LinkedIn and tweeting “meaningful” comments on Twitter.
“You have to carefully monitor what you’re posting — visually or otherwise — because the first thing prospective employers are doing is Googling you,” Jansen says. “If you have any controversial or inappropriate information anywhere, that’s not a good thing. Or if you have no presence at all, that’s not a good thing, either.”