Advice for the Road Ahead

Today’s question comes from Karen H. who oversees a large team of people.  She asks,

I’m often asked for advice from young professionals who are looking for guidance on their career path and knowing what their next step should be.  How can I help them when they wonder, ‘What kind of jobs should I be applying for?’  Is there a process you recommend to help people think through the journey of job transition?

Karen, your team is so lucky to have you looking out for them!  You know that, as a manager, it is important for you to offer guidance to help steer your associates in a direction that makes sense for them.  Of course, the specific actions they take are up to them — each of us simply has to do the hard work and heavy lifting on our own — but, support from a manager, mentor or advisor sure does help.  A couple of thoughts for those in transition:

  • It’s all about relationships. Contrary to popular wisdom, relatively few people find opportunities by blindly applying for open positions.  Now, I know there are exceptions to this rule (for example, my husband found his amazing assistant, Christina, via a job posting on Craig’s List!).  However, by and large, most of us become privy to opportunities as a result of knowing someone who knows about an open position.  So, first thing’s first:  Get out there and network!  Build relationships.  Your relationship base is the go-to place to learn about what’s out there.
  • Think for the long-term. When considering next steps, I like to remind people that their next stop does not need to be their last stop.  Sometimes, to get that dream job, you will need to consider stepping stones instead of a big leap.  If your vision is to run the company, you may need to start at a more junior level and build your way up to the top.  Remember that you are building a career… individual jobs are the piece parts that will get you where you want to go.
  • Culture matters. If there is a company that piques your interest, find out about the internal workings of the organization to determine if it is the right place for you.  It can be important to get a handle on the culture of a firm to know whether it meets your needs, lifestyle and aspirations.  Ask around.  Find people who currently work there or who have in the past.  Get their take on the highs and lows of being part of the team at that company.
  • Consider your past results, skillset and experiences. When you are ready to make a transition to a new position within or outside of your current firm, have a good handle on the results you have generated and expertise you have developed in your current and previous roles.  Every company wants to know WIIFM… that is, ‘What’s in it for me?”  Be ready to tell recruiters about the value you will bring to their organizations.
  • Articulate your wishes. Once you determine your career direction, be prepared to tell others about it.  If you want to help people help you, you will need to clearly state what type of opportunity you are seeking, what job functions interest you and/or what sorts of companies are on your radar.  Then, I call your attention back to the first tip in this list:  It’s all about relationships!  Share your interests with those in your relationship base and seek their input.  They will help you to meet people and organizations that fit the bill.

What advice have you given or received when it comes to career transition?  Please take a moment to share your ideas at

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