We’ve all been there, whether it’s in a career change or a career beginning.
We work and we do everything “right,” but things just don’t come into place.
Is it because you’re not a good candidate, or because this whole career motion thing isn’t right for you?
Absolutely not – no roadblock is absolute!
This kind of thing just takes a bit of practice, and we can’t become great until we make some mistakes.
So take a step back and ask yourself some key questions why your career change isn’t working.
1. Have You Waited Long Enough?
Inspiration and enthusiasm can drive us to do huge, amazing things. Maybe your desire for career motion wasn’t a slow-burning fire, but an explosive desire to get going because of something that happened, or a great talk someone gave you. So maybe you put together your application package, called everyone you knew, and even started practicing how you’d sell your transferable skills.
But maybe other people aren’t willing to wrap this up in a week.
The biggest enemy of enthusiasm is time. The boldest believer will brush aside criticism, but it can be tough to keep sky-high spirits when the world isn’t reflecting your energy.
You developed a great plan. Stick with it. Have faith in it.
2. Are You Thinking Big Change – But Selling Incremental?
Sometimes we have bold visions of where we want to take our careers, and we’re thrilled to show the world what we can really do. We know what we’re going to say in the interview; maybe we’ve even written up a speech.
But the resume?
Tweak, tweak, tweak.
It doesn’t matter how convincing you can be in person, or how infectious your enthusiasm is. If you’re targeting a new industry but basically using descriptions of your old experience, you won’t get the chance to deliver that amazing speech.
Work on your resume and your cover letter, and break down your experience in order to repackage it. It’s not enough that you know what you can do – you have to be able to sell it to strangers first.
3. Is The Jump Too Big?
Maybe the opposite is true, and your jump is so big that hiring officers won’t “see” the links on your resume.
Presuming that you’ve worked hard to repurpose your experience (while still being objective), make sure that there’s no more storytelling that has to be imagined. As in, “If I’m good at X, then surely I’ll be good at Y, which means that naturally I’ll be a success at Z!”
The goal of repackaging your experience is boil down your skills to common, transferrable elements, so that resume readers will make that link naturally. They might think twice about your old job title, but if they read what you did, then they should be able to see that link.
If enough rejections suggest that people aren’t seeing the link, then you might want to scale it back.
4. Have You Sent Enough Applications/Feelers?
Whether you’re seeking jobs using applications, unsolicited emails, or your network, there is one driving principle for success:
Volume, volume, volume!
Yes, one application might get you a job straight away. But what if it doesn’t? That process might take a couple of months, in which case not only have you waited a long time to be disappointed, but you’re way, way out of job application mode.
Send off a bunch of applications, emails, or coffee invitations. First get into the “applying mindset,” and worry about the other stages later.
5. Did You Rush Things?
There’s a great quote that I always use to remind my clients (and myself!) about quality. It’s been attributed to Mark Twain (apparently it could have been someone else) but it comes from a letter written to a friend:
“I wanted to write you a short letter, but I didn’t have much time – so I wrote you a long letter instead.”
Yes, I said above that you embrace volume for sending out job applications. But that should be after you’ve spent loads of time repackaging your experience and developing a new resume.
You can’t rush that part. I find that – in my most inspired moments – I might hammer out a new resume (or a report or a whatever) in a creative burst that gets me 80% of the way there. Maybe that only took an afternoon. But then I’ll take days and days – maybe even weeks – making an adjustment here, or a tune-up there.
Take the time to write a “short letter.” Once it’s done, then you scale up the applications and phone calls and embrace the volume.
6. Are You Being Direct Enough With Your Network?
A network is a great way to get a job. It can be fast, it can be easy, and you can have a great idea of the workplace before committing.
But they have to know you’re looking for a job, first.
Don’t hint around and say, “I might start looking soon.” And don’t be vague about the kind of job you want. If you skim over the topic, I guarantee you that the conversation will soon drift away from you. How can your colleague provide solutions to a problem you won’t even describe?
Be direct: “I’m looking for a job in Area X, ready to start next month. Do you know anyone I can call?”
That last part is key: don’t leave it to your colleague to “ask around.” Take control and do it yourself.
7. Is This The Right Time For Your Target Industry?
Sometimes one industry does well at the expense of another. Sometimes everyone gets hammered at the same time.
Can you take responsibility for an economic shift? No. So you shouldn’t get down if it’s wreaking havoc with your job search.
Times get tough. Competition gets harder. Last year, they might have had four applications, now there are four hundred.
If you’ve answered all the questions in this post and you still feel good about what you did, then maybe you just need to wait a little bit longer. You will get there – you just need to be patient.
8. Is This The Right Time In General?
Along those lines, it’s amazing how seasonal some industries can get.
“Sell in May and go away,” is the expression used in the stock market, but it can apply to most white collar jobs. A lot of the meaningful work shuts down over summer, and whatever menial tasks remain are generally given to students and temps. Some jobs might pop up, but if nothing’s materialized by late spring, there’s a solid chance you won’t see much until September.
Governments rarely have guaranteed funding beyond the current year, which makes the fiscal year-end such a driver of spending – and hiring. At the beginning of the fiscal year, managers are nervous that they won’t have enough money to last, so they put off as much as they can. By the third quarter, they’ve realized they haven’t spent enough money, and they’d better start the (very long!) hiring processes if they want to start anyone before the end of the year. The last quarter’s funds are often just spent on computers, small consulting contracts, and office furniture – stuff they can get quickly, so that they hit their budgets.
(Bonus info: the US federal government’s fiscal year is October 1 – September 30; the UK’s and Canada’s is from April 1 – March 31; and Australia’s is July 1 – June 30.)
The point is: know if you’re not getting a response because your methods are ineffective, or if it’s just a natural cycle.
You want to succeed, and I want you to succeed. So you owe it to yourself (and me ☺) to openly question your methods to see if you can do better.
It’s not about pointing out what you’re doing “wrong,” or why your plan isn’t “good enough.”
In baseball, an inch up or down can mean the difference between a routine out and a game-winning home run.
Look at your methods. Question your methods. Make those adjustments to see how much of an impact you can make.
Go ahead and hit your home run.
What challenges have you faced in changing careers? What did you do to fix them? Tell us in the comments!