When I was very young, I was always fascinated by a small box that my father kept on his dresser.
There were numerous odd coins in curious shapes and sizes with names and languages that I could not understand. There were also two or three medals on ribbons, solemn and beautiful, testifying to something mysterious. And then there was this odd little mechanism made of once shiny brass with levers and rods poking out of a little cylinder.
I was fascinated.
Slowly the story of these objects impinged on my understanding as my father told me stories about his days as a GI and engineer in Europe during World War II. He had been wounded in numerous places and still bore the scars, so the purple ribbon and the little ivory colored bust turned out to be a Purple Heart, a symbol thanking him for his sacrifice. The larger medal was a Distinguished Service Cross awarded to him and the men of his unit for building bridges across rivers ahead of the troops and under fire.
The odd cylinder was the trigger mechanism for a land mine such as had blown up under his jeep, riddling him with shrapnel and leaving him in the hospital for some time.
How many other men and women have, like my father, shouldered the burden of defending principles on behalf of citizens who may not know and probably do not properly honor that sacrifice? We should all pause and reflect on this contribution. That is the purpose of Veteran’s Day.
And we have helped numerous military transitions, for example:
“I would like to thank the Barrett Group for their help in returning to civilian life. I hired The Barrett Group to assist with my post-military career. My career consultant was an effective resource for transitioning successfully to the civilian workforce.”
[Garry L. Parks]
“…there is no way to repay the Barrett Group for what they have taught me:
– A language of mutual added value. – The power of networking. – How to open doors and bypass gatekeepers. – Question presumptions. – And, how to become essential to any organization.”
[Jeffrey M Dunn]
This Veteran’s Day take a moment to honor the women and men in uniform who have given so much so that we may have the freedom we enjoy and say a heartfelt thank you.
We hope this finds you well, as are we. The Barrett Group has been active in the career management market for 30 years and has weathered all manner of crises, including 2008.
Yes, the US and the world are in the grip of a health crisis. Once governments recognize what needs to be done and commit publicly to doing it, people will adjust. Fortunately, with the measures rapidly being adopted in the US and Europe this is finally starting to happen, though it will certainly get worse before it gets better.
Where China has adopted strict lock-downs, the incidence of new cases has already dwindled.
There is hope that “shelter in place” and similar measures being adopted elsewhere can slow the rate of spread and allow health services to expand their capacity and source the equipment and supplies they will need as the crisis peaks.
Medically, most people even if they become infected are not at risk of anything worse than a severe flu, if that, but please take all necessary precautions. Extensive testing for example in Iceland shows that many who are infected never become symptomatic… though they may still be infectious for a period of time.
Industries will be impacted differently.
The cruise ship, airline, amusement park, and concert businesses are already suffering. Consumer goods companies, particularly makers of hand sanitizer, face masks, toilet paper and the like are thriving. The health care industries once they adjust will probably do well, too.
On-line shopping is booming as you can see from Amazon’s stock development. Microsoft and others have leapt into the remote-learning market as schools have closed.
Government stimulus and support is also making its way through the regulatory process and green shoots are showing on the world’s stock markets. Many other industries will not be significantly impacted in the medium term.
So, as one door closes, others will open.
At the Barrett Group we are modestly ahead of the curve as far as virtual working is concerned, and it seems that the world is moving our way. This may be the most significant impact of all in the long term as more and more companies recognize that there are in fact significant advantages to telecommuting.
Already, most initial employment interviews are conducted by telephone and videoconference.
By the way, we can help you set up a complimentary videoconference account of your own, if you wish, to help you capitalize on this trend.
Most of our clients land through the unpublished market anyway and we know how to help you make the connections required to be successful there.
Fear can be paralyzing.
But you need not be a victim.
Take advantage of this crisis to take stock of your situation. Perhaps it is time for you to take action. If so, please consult us. Thirty years of guiding executives toward a better work / life / compensation balance has made us the experts. We can help.
In the meantime, please do everything you can to stay healthy and protect the health of those around you.
You wrap up an engaging interview at a company and come away feeling that this position would be a great fit for you. You have the impression that the hiring manager feels the same way about you. He walks you to the door, you shake hands, say goodbye…and you never hear from him again. Ever. Not only does he not call, he doesn’t respond to your follow-up calls or emails. You’ve been ghosted!
If this has happened to you, you’re not alone.
Companies have been ghosting applicants for years, and it happens across many different industries. A recent survey by Recruiting Daily Advisor found that among applicants that have gotten ghosted, 23% were seeking jobs at business, finance and legal companies, and 22% were job seeking at advertising, marketing, PR and media companies. Many other industries also make the list, including healthcare, retail & hospitality, and tech.
Ghosting is a term that got its start in the world of dating
when one person suddenly quits returning the phone calls, emails or texts of
the other with no explanation because, you know, it’s too awkward to tell
someone that you’re just not that into them anymore. Instead you just pretend
that they don’t exist until they quit trying to contact you.
In the business world, the reasons behind getting ghosted are usually not so petty, but it’s equally painful – perhaps more so because, your ego notwithstanding, there are mouths to feed and bills to pay. How long should you hang in there waiting for signs of life?
Some people experience ghosting at the application stage. They
send a resume to company after company with no response. There are several
reasons for this:
First, maybe you’re not qualified for the job. According to Dan Resendes, Chief Consulting Officer at The Barrett Group, the biggest mistake job candidates make is submitting an application that doesn’t have 100% of the “must have” job qualifications. It demonstrates two strikes against you: 1) You aren’t qualified, and 2) you didn’t follow instructions. In this case, applying is a waste of time.
If you are 100% qualified and your application still gets no traction, your resume might be to blame. Your resume should reflect ALL the job qualifications, and not just in the body of the resume, but also in the headline.
Most hiring managers handle huge numbers of resumes and only read the top few lines of each one.
If you’re applying to a position requiring “international sales experience” and your resume headline reads “sales experience,” you won’t get a response – even if your international experience is highlighted later.
At the same time, you should omit all skills outside the
scope of the job requirements. Many people include a laundry list of common
core competencies in their resumes, but this sometimes works against you.
Hiring managers might think you’re over-qualified, would become bored, or might
ask for too much money. It’s counter-intuitive, but if the requirement is for
20 years of managerial experience and you have 25 years of experience, write only
that you have 20 years of experience.
Lastly, if you’re applying as a stranger to a job posting, keep in mind that sometimes the job opportunities don’t actually exist. Companies often already have a #1 candidate in mind, perhaps through a referral or an internal promotion, but company policy requires that the job be posted publicly. If this seems unfair, don’t get mad; get a friend on the inside who can propel your candidacy.
How NOT to Get Ghosted
First and foremost is to avoid getting ghosted in the first place. How? By developing social ties and good communication.
Get on the Inside Track.
You should never apply as a total stranger to a company before exhausting all avenues to find a social connection. If you’re looking at $80K+ positions, you can be sure that the people who land these positions are not strangers to the company – they will have been recommended for the role. Find a friend to recommend you and you will have personal reputations and political clout to support you.
If that is easier said than done, don’t fret. Many successful professionals don’t know how to leverage networking to their advantage when they’re new to the job market. They’ve been on the giving, not the receiving, side of networking and may be out of practice with the slow, inconsistent process of building and expending social capital. But no one with 10-20 years of work experience, who has impacted people’s lives through hirings, promotions, and business deals, should have go into a job market cold. Always leverage your social capital first by asking your contacts how you might best proceed for a job.
Know Where You Stand.
When you’re in the screening process ask your counterpart (with a twinkle in your eye): “Do you think I’m a good fit for this opportunity?” Often, she will be honest and say, “Yes,” and tell you next steps. If the answer is “No,” it gives you the opportunity to offer more information about whatever reservations she might have.
As a general rule, the last item of discussion should always be a mutual agreement on next steps so you know the timeline for follow up communication. If they say, “We’ll get back to you by Monday,” and you don’t hear from them, wait one day and check in on Wednesday. If you haven’t nailed down a timeline, wait one week before reaching out to check in.
How to Handle Getting Ghosted at the Interview Stage
If you do get ghosted, there are several things you should keep in mind:
Be Patient and Courteous.
If you get no response to your check-in email, wait one week and call. If you get voice mail, leave your name, phone number and a short message saying, simply, that you’re checking in. Nothing more. DO NOT reference any other attempts to check in or offer reprobation about the lack of communication, lest it sound critical. Remember, this is the ONE person who can open a door for you. When all else fails, try to reach out to someone else at the company, preferably one with a social connection to you, who can advise you on how to proceed.
Don’t take it personally. The most common reasons applicants are ghosted by companies is simply bureaucracy or inefficiencies in the hiring process. Candidate selection processes are often handled by lower-tiered people who are overwhelmed or inexperienced. Sometimes decision-makers aren’t available for interviews during the given timeline. Confidential corporate changes might be underway that hiring managers are prohibited from communicating to applicants. Or maybe the hiring manager just got hit by a bus. In other words, it’s them, not you.
Don’t Give Up.
Resendes tells a story of a client who came to The Barrett Group for career coaching six months after being ghosted by a company. Although he felt like he was a perfect fit during the interviews, he got no response to inquiries about his applicant status. He grew discouraged and gave up. His career coach convinced him he had little to lose in following up again, so he called the company and was greeted with a surprising exclamation: “Thank God you’ve called! We wanted to hire you but misplaced our hiring files and didn’t know how to reach you!” The client swore that the coaching fee was the best money he’d ever spent because he would not have called the company again on his own. The takeaway: If you are running short of options, you have no reason to stop following up.
If schadenfreude is your thing, you’ll be interested to learn that ghosting now cuts both ways. The incidence of job applicants blowing off scheduled interviews or even accepting jobs only to fail to show up for work without notice or further contact is on the rise. The trend has been reported not only by professional social network, LinkedIn and many news organizations, but also by the Fed.
Undoubtedly, the tight labor market makes it easier for job applicants to give companies a taste of their own medicine, but resist the temptation to do so.
Even if a better opportunity surfaces, it never pays to burn bridges. Keep to the moral high ground and hope that companies will learn their lesson about ghosting!
Employee benefits and perks have come a long way since the advent of company cars and casual Fridays. A review of emerging benefits and perks in today’s business world yields novelties. Such as “pet leave” for new pet owners, nap pods for sleeping breaks, and beer on tap. These kinds of offerings are certainly a testament to what appeals to millennial workers. They comprise an increasingly large share of the labor force. But it’s not just millennials who are driving this demand.
The volume and diversity of benefits and perks now available to workers at companies bespeaks the growing value that employees place on them in the workplace – a value that sometimes rivals hard cash. According to a 2015 survey by company review website, Glassdoor, nearly 80% of employees would prefer new or additional job benefits to a pay raise. They also play a significant role in the job search process. Three in five people report that benefits and perks are among their top considerations in accepting a new job.
In an employment market as tight as the current one, employers need to pay attention. Because those who don’t risk squandering an opportunity to attract the best talent.
FAMILY AND FLEXIBILITY
In 2015 Netflix made headlines by offering unlimited parental leave – to both moms and dads –in the first year after the birth or adoption of a baby. That offer was in addition to its unlimited time-off policy for vacation and sick leave.
Netflix is an outlier when it comes to such generous benefits, but many companies are, nevertheless, trending towards more family friendly and flexible leave offerings. According to the 2019 Employee Benefits Report of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), which surveys employers annually about their employee benefits offerings, more than one in three U.S. employers offer paid maternity leave. Up from 21% in 2015, and many of them offer more leave than the federal and state mandates. In the same time frame, the number of companies offering paternity leave (30%) has almost doubled. Nursing moms will be happy to learn that this year more than half of U.S. employers report offering lactation rooms. This compares to just 35% in 2015.
Employers are ever more responsive to the high demand for flexibility in work schedules and remote working. With nearly 60% offering flextime during core business hours and almost 70% offering occasional telecommuting, up from 56% in 2015. In fact, more than one-quarter of respondents allow their employees to telecommute full-time.
FASTEST GROWING BENEFITS AND PERKS
The greatest increase in benefits were concentrated in health-related and wellness categories. 20% of employers indicating they had increased offerings in those areas. Given the prominent role many employers play in providing health insurance to employees, they have a great incentive in keeping healthcare costs down. And increasingly ply their workforce with wellness tips and information. About one-third have consistently offered an onsite fitness center, fitness classes, or memberships to fitness centers for the last several years. And just as many are offering a health insurance premium discount for participating in a wellness program, up from 17% two years ago. Nearly 40% offer company-organized fitness challenges.
Other notable changes in benefits and perks offered this year include the rise in onsite stress management programs, company-paid snacks, employee referral bonuses, and the number of employers who allow pets at work. And the number of companies offering standing desks have jumped from just 25% in 2015 to a whopping 60% this year.
Employers seem increasingly willing to invest in their employee. Over half of employers offer tuition assistance, and the ratio of companies offering student loan repayment, while still small, has doubled since 2015. In addition to professional development opportunities, which most companies have offered for years, an increasing number of employers are offering formal mentoring programs. And executive or leadership coaching, which didn’t even make the list five years ago, is now offered by four out of ten employers.
Not surprisingly, the most commonly offered employee benefits are health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, retirement benefits, and paid leave for vacation and illness. The roots of these old standbys date to the 1940s. When companies were precluded by the Stabilization Act of 1942 from raising wages (in an effort by the U.S. government to prevent wartime inflation). Unable to compete with high wages for workers, companies began offering health insurance and other non-income benefits as part of their overall compensation package.
Today, nearly all companies offer these basic benefits in some capacity to their employees and have continued to add more. Over the 20th century the composition of benefits in employers’ total compensation costs has continued a steady rise. They now comprise about 30% in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What’s really interesting, however, is how much the variety and volume of benefits and perks have exploded in recent years. Twenty years ago, the SHRM tracked 60 employee benefits. In this year’s annual report, by contrast, that number has ballooned to 350 – and it’s likely to continue growing, according to SHRM.
Why? One reason is that benefits enhance a company’s appeal to workers without necessarily driving up fixed costs, as higher wages and salaries do. Another reason is that in our increasingly stressful world, workers are putting greater value on things beyond money. After all, how do you put a price tag on a flexible schedule, an in-house mentoring program, or the freedom to bring your dog to the office?
The growing importance of benefits and perks to workers notwithstanding, the negotiation of any new job, naturally, starts with salary. The first step in the process is to know what you’re worth. There are many online tools to estimate the salaries of particular roles in particular industries. Some are even able to calculate personal factors that could influence the estimate one way or the other. The second step is to do your research. Know what companies are paying for similar jobs in different industries, and how things may vary based on geography.
When a job offer comes and it times to discuss compensation, don’t be afraid to negotiate. And if you’re like many workers in the job market today, you won’t limit yourself to discussing money.
The benefits and perks offered by a company shape its culture and values, which may translate into greater job satisfaction. Smart employers who don’t leverage these to get you in the door will lose out on attracting top talent.
Why is it that so many of us become dissatisfied in mid-career and begin to question why it is that we are doing the job that what we are doing? Sure, maybe it’s because you have been on the wrong career path all along. It’s more likely, however, that the original reasons you had for choosing your career are simply no longer valid. So, where are you in your career cycle?
It might be an indicator that you’ve reached full circle in your career cycle and should reassess your current values and priorities. So that you can begin anew in a career that better suits your needs at this time and place in your life.
Understanding career cycles and the stages within a cycle is liberating. Because it helps you understand the progression of a normal work life. It enables you to anticipate stages before they happen so that you can prepare for them. Transitions are challenging, so the more you know what to expect, the better.
The concept of career cycles is one of several mainstream theories in career development to have emerged over the past 100 years. In the 1920s Frank Parsons kickstarted the idea of career determination with his publication, Choosing a Vocation. He was considered to be the founder of the vocational guidance movement. According to Parsons, workers should match their personal traits to specific occupations.
In the 1970s, Albert Bandura promoted the concept of self-efficacy. It suggested that the greater an individual’s confidence in her capabilities to organize and execute a goal, the more likely she is to attain it. It became de rigueur in the 1980s to identify your personality type as a tool to ascertaining your ideal occupation. (Raise your hand if you have ever taken a Myers-Briggs test to learn your personality type).
Super’s model sees occupational choice not as one decision made at a single point-in-time, but as an unfolding process that spans a lifetime and is influenced by life events. It is an excellent way to look at career shifts in a society where rapid technological developments are upending industries and work as we know it.
He argued that vocational development stems from the process of developing a self-concept and that people choose occupations that enable themselves to express that self-concept. To develop a self-concept, you must know yourself. What are your interests? Which kind of worker are you? What is important to you? What are your goals?
In addition to a self-concept, Super identified five stages of development in typical career cycle:
Originally, Super associated age ranges with each stage of development. The first stage beginning in childhood and the last stage culminating with retirement. Over time, however, he acknowledged that an individual might cycle through all five stages multiple times depending on whatever life changes or new opportunities might crop up.
For example, if a worker wanted to change careers in her 40s, she might re-launch a career cycle. Exploring new interests and passions, pursuing them tentatively at first, and following them through to fruition as potential leads opened up. Career cycle stages were, therefore, independent of age. A worker might expect to experience several mini-career cycles throughout her life.
Where Are You In Your Career Cycle?
There are development markers and tasks associated with each of the five stages in a career cycle. Knowing where you are in your career cycle now can help you anticipate next steps as you transition from one stage to another.
In the Growth stage, an individual is expected to develop a self-concept that germinates in the fertile ground of fantasy, interest and a growing awareness of individual capacity and how it relates to the specific requirements of a job.
During the Exploration stage, an individual hones his self-concept more realistically and identifies vocational preferences, which he then implements experimentally in the form of hobbies, volunteering, and part-time or otherwise low-commitment work. If a particular choice turns out to be a poor fit, then he may pursue other interests.
When an individual enters the Establishment stage, she endeavors to secure herself in a position in a chosen field of work, establish herself, build good work relations, and pursue advancement opportunities.
The Maintenance stage involves a continuity of established work patterns and a preservation of one’s achievements. Workers in this stage typically break little new ground in their careers and may even plateau.
In the final stage, Disengagement, workers experience declining interest in their occupation and invest less and less energy into it. People over age 65 may mentally transition into retirement planning. For younger workers, however, this may be a point to reassess values and sources of satisfaction and re-launch a mini-career cycle by exploring interests that better align with their self-concept, which may have changed over time.
Is It Time to Consider a Change?
If you are unhappy in your work, feel stressed or unchallenged, face a poor work-life balance, or lack a career-related identity, you may be in the disengagement stage of your career. It’s important to reflect on the source of your discontent. Then consider how your needs, interests and priorities may have evolved. And acknowledge that it might be time for a change. It is natural for your self-concept to change along with life events, and your career choices should reflect that.
When your occupation is aligned with your self-concept you will be the most satisfied in your job. Acknowledging where you are in your career cycle allows you to purposefully move yourself into the next stage.
Maybe you have a new baby and want to spend more time at home. Or maybe your company is undergoing a round of layoffs. Not only are these kinds of life events normal, you should expect them. In fact, in the 21st century you should plan multiple mini-cycles because the rapid pace of technology is disrupting so many industries. Workers simply don’t stay in the same job throughout their lifetime as they once did.
The trick is to plan ahead and think strategically! Be open at all times to recognizing new opportunities as they arise and be willing to explore them. People who plan for change, even when things are going well, cope the best with a career change. Pulling the trigger on something new when the times comes can be scary, but the more adaptable you are, the easier it will be to transition into the next chapter of your career.
Many factors affect hiring cycles and recruitment. Some are internal to an organization, such as organizational culture, or company product releases. Some are external to an organization, like economic trends. Seasonality is definitely important. Naturally, industry fluctuations play a big role, too.
It’s the Economy, Stupid!
Obviously, the economy is the paramount influence when it comes to hiring cycles. A strong economy means a good job market. With the unemployment rate currently at 3.6%, a 50-year low, we are seeing a uniquely advantageous time to be job hunting. However, the situation is even more interesting.
It’s clear from the most recent data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that many aspects of the job market are in ground-breaking territory – much of it good news to job seekers.
Since hitting a low in July 2009, job openings have rocketed past the pre-recession peak of 5 million in 2014 to 7.4 million at the end of April 2019. Hiring increases have been even more impressive, surpassing pre-recession levels and peaking at 5.9 million hires, a series high.
What’s particularly notable about these figures is this: For most of the JOLTS history the number of hires (measured throughout the month) has exceeded the number of job openings (measured only on the last business day of the month). Since January 2015, however, this relationship has reversed, with job openings consistently outnumbering hires.
In other words, there are a LOT of open jobs. This April, there were 1.5 million more job openings than there were newly hired people. In fact, there are now more jobs available than there are unemployed people! The ratio of unemployed persons per job opening was 0.8 in April according to JOLTS.
Clearly, in this market, the onus is on companies to act quickly lest they lose out on hiring the best talent.
What Industry is Hot and What’s Not?
There is an unsettling truth to keep in perspective if you’re looking to change careers: One reason why there are so many more open jobs than there are unemployed people is because there is a skills gap. Many open jobs are in technical fields requiring skills that too few job seekers have. If you are in a position to do so, you can’t go wrong by improving your technical skills. Technical fields and technical industries are perennially hot when it comes to hiring.
But other industries are growing, too. According to a monthly analysis by LinkedIn, the industries with the most notable hiring shifts in May were Corporate Services (7.6%), Wellness & Fitness (7.4% higher), and Software & IT Services (6.7% higher).
Year to year, employment in professional and business services, and health care continue to trend up. The chart shows the yearly change in the hiring rate in several industries according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Wondering which industries to shy away from? Answer: Mining and Logging, and export-producing goods industries, like Agriculture and Manufacturing – all of which are facing significant downturns in hiring.
A Season for Change
The granddaddy of all hiring cycles is the calendar. While some industries buck the historical trends, there are definitive hiring seasons during the year. Understanding the trends will help you choose the optimal times of the year to pursue a career change.
For several reasons, a New Year means new jobs. Companies have new hiring budgets and sales forecasts to act on at this time. Recruitment managers are refreshed after a holiday vacation and eager to start filling newly created positions. Moreover, many workers resolve at this time of year to make a career change, which creates opportunities in newly vacated positions. For all these reasons, the January-February time-frame is the springboard of a hiring season that continues throughout the spring.
The 2nd Quarter is also a good time to job search, although the later you wait, the fewer job options you might have. The ranks of new hires towards the end of this quarter tend to be filled out by newly minted college graduates. But hiring for many industries peaks in the spring, especially Construction, Tourism and Hospitality. It’s also common to find, at this time, many hiring managers scrambling to fill open spots before the office empties for the summer months.
Not surprisingly, hiring surges for seasonal industries like Tourism, and Outdoor & Leisure are typical during the summer months. Education also sees a big boost, as school districts seek to replace non-returning teachers. Professional industries, however, tend to experience a hiring lull. To the extent that companies are hiring, the available jobs are more likely to be seasonal or lower-level positions. After all, it’s hard to set up interviews and streamline the hiring process when people are on vacation.
Back-to-school season is also a “back-to-work” season, with hiring bumping up again. Rejuvenated once again from their summer vacations, hiring managers are keen to fill available spots in their departments during September and October. They are often motivated by a “use it, or lose it” mentality because whatever funds might remain in their hiring budget at the end of the year will disappear. In November and December, however, hiring falls of a cliff. The glut of major holidays and depleted budgets puts hiring on hold for many industries.
The chart on the left tells the basic story of hiring during the year, but remember that not every industry falls neatly into this pattern.
Hiring in Retail, Warehousing, Transportation and Customer Service, for example, surges during the end-of-the-year holiday season.
Likewise, because January to April is peak business season for Tax and Accounting professionals, hiring in these industries tends to happen outside these busy months.
Regardless of the season, you should never be doing nothing if you’re a job seeker. Slow times are ideal times to be researching new options, developing new skills and, most importantly, networking.
All of these tasks take time and are incredibly important in positioning you to act quickly when the right opportunity presents itself.
If you are trying to figure out the best time to start a career change, familiarizing yourself with cycles and trends that influence hiring and recruitment is a useful place to start. But careers begin and end regardless of whatever economic trends, seasonal cycles, and industry changes are doing. So, when you’re trying to decide the best time to start your career change, the answer is NOW.
The most important influences on your recruitment by a future employer are the ones that you create for yourself.
That means that you should keep abreast of what is going on at your target companies, watch for news announcements that may identify an optimal time for you to make your move. Some hiring managers budget for positions early, so plan ahead and be prepared to send a resume at anytime.
The best time to get a new job is always whenever the right job comes along. The timing of that might be unique – completely outside typical hiring cycles. It could be NOW.
So, continue to network regularly, build relationships, develop new skills for yourself, and prepare to move quickly when the right opportunity comes along.
Most people focus on their career in a reactionary instead of a strategic way. That means that if things go south, it is hard to understand what went wrong. Let’s take a look of possible barriers to your success.
If you’ve adapted to the status quo, switching gears is hard. You may face barriers to change that sometimes feel insurmountable. Some of these barriers are very real, while others might be self-imposed.
Either way, overcoming barriers to your success often involves a level of self-reflection during which you analyze your career and, more broadly, your life in order to assess your innermost goals and your value proposition – that is, everything that you can offer an employer. Only after you have taken stock of yourself and your dreams can you make informed decisions about how best to manage your career effectively and achieve your goals.
What is standing in your way? If you feel stymied in your efforts to advance your career, answering that question is the first step towards overcoming whatever barriers you face.
Maybe you’re worried about money. Or you don’t relish the idea of starting a new career at the bottom rung of the ladder. Maybe you struggle to find time in your day to job hunt.
Many people are paralyzed by fear – fear of losing their job; fear of speaking up at work; fear of getting passed over for a job because of age, gender or race. Or perhaps you have “impostor syndrome,” the fear that you aren’t qualified to do the job your hired to do.
Perhaps your problem is simply that you know that you are unhappy in your current job, but you just aren’t sure what else to do. Or maybe you know what you want to do, but you have no idea how to pursue it.
Some people worry about lacking experience. By the way, if this is you, you’re not alone. In today’s economy this should actually be everybody’s concern because the rapid change of digital technology is disrupting business processes in so many industries.
A 2016 report by the World Economic Forum forecast that within five years over one-third of skills that are considered important in the workforce will have changed.
Only after you identify what is standing in your way to a more fulfilling career can you focus on overcoming it. But be sure to give the question serious reflection. Arriving at an honest answer here is crucial, and it isn’t always easy.
You may need to dig deep to assess the real barriers between you and your goals. It may even be worth engaging the professional services of a career coach, such as those at The Barrett Group. Career coaches are a great resource for someone in a rut because they intentionally push clients out of their comfort zone and encourage them to consider perspectives and options they may not have thought of.
The methodology starts by investigating all aspects of what’s right and wrong in your life, including financial independence, business success, family and relationships, and health and fitness. Ask yourself challenging questions such as:
What are you most proud of?
Success – what does it look like? or
What is the worst thing that could happen if you don’t achieve your goal?
Such questions help differentiate between societal ideals of success (e.g. money or status) and personal successes (e.g. work-life balance and a happy family).
Use the “Five Whys” technique to drill down to the root cause of a problem. In this approach, you identify your problem (e.g. I’m unhappy at work) and ask yourself “why.” Repeat the question five times in response to each answer.
Typically, you will uncover alterable behavior on your part that could resolve the problem. When you ferret out self-imposed barriers in the path of your career advancement, you can think through how to dismantle them.
The clarity process is the hard part. Once that is done, you just need to come up with a game plan for advancing your goals and commit to it. First, consider how you can lessen the barriers to your success that you identified.
Lack of experience? Up your game through online courses, reading books, or volunteering to work alongside someone who can coach you. Of course, if you’re an older worker, don’t underestimate the value of your soft skills.
Not enough time? Completely understandable! Prioritizing a career change is very hard, especially given that it doesn’t provide immediate gratification. Still, the benefits of scheduling even a few hours per week into your calendar to promote your career will build up over time.
Unsure how to pursue your goal? Start by building and nurturing your network of contacts. Reach out to them and have a conversation or solicit advice. You’ll be amazed how informative and helpful people can be.
How to Stay Motivated
Change is stressful and the frustrations of a job search can wear down the best of us. Getting organized and structuring a routine in your job search will help. Set S.M.A.R.T goals – goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
For example, schedule 10 hours per week towards enhancing your career opportunities, target three resumes per week to send out, or plan to meet 10 people for coffee per month. Revise the numbers as necessary, but stick to it!
There are several other steps you can also take to stay motivated:
Focus on what you can control and not on the things you can’t control.
Celebrate small victories whenever you can.
Make a list of all your accomplishments, which has the dual benefit of making you feel good about yourself and providing you with a handy reference of your career highlights to use for quick reference. It may also spark ideas about how to link different career goals!
Take mental breaks – looking for a new job is hard!
Don’t forget to keep things in perspective. If you ask people how they came to be doing what they are doing, they often answer that they fell into it due to chance circumstances. That may be frustrating to hear, but it should actually encourage you.
“Chance circumstances” is a testimony to networking. If you cultivate and grow your network, you will be surprised how opportunities will crop up.
Changing careers isn’t easy, but it’s easier than staying in a job you don’t want. It’s also easier when you have a strategy to overcoming the barriers to your success.
Did you know that 85% of all jobs are landed through networking?
If you know nothing else about networking, that statistic should focus your mind – and your approach to job seeking. Short of being born into royalty, networking is THE best way to land a job, bar none. And, therefore, it should comprise the lion’s share of any efforts you exert to find a new job.
Networking has been touted for years as a valuable tool during a job hunt. In the digital workforce, it is indispensable.
According to a survey published on LinkedIn, networking is the biggest factor in finding a job for all types of people – whether they are actively job hunting, employed, or any combination of the two.
In fact, the survey indicates that the people who get jobs from networking most often are actually employed and NOT actively looking for a job. In many cases, they’ve been offered a job before it was published. That’s some powerful networking!
Are you fully leveraging your network in your job hunt? If not, it’s time to hone your skills so you, too, can slip through the backdoor of a company to land your next job.
Sow the Seeds Early, Reap the Benefits Later
It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today. The same could be said of building a network of contacts.
A network is much more than the people whose business cards you collect. It’s about building valuable relationships.
Relationships develop over time and must be nurtured and maintained. Naturally, a network includes your professional contacts, but it also includes everyone you’ve ever met in any capacity: former co-workers, clients, vendors, school friends, people in your running club, members of your church – your family, of course…the list goes on.
If you’re anxious about getting started with networking, these are the people you should reconnect with first. Sure, your aunt is probably not the one who can help you get a job at Google. But her neighbor’s daughter’s boss might. You’ll never know unless you reach out to connect with her.
When you reach out for the first time, find out what people are up to. Typically, you will catch up a bit and talk about family, work and aspirations for life. When you enter into those conversations, focus on giving to the relationship, not taking.
At some point in the future, your contact may talk to someone about something that reminds them of the conversation with you and they’ll reach back out to you. It may take a short time or a long time – but the opportunity will grow only if you’ve planted the seed.
Continue to build these connections and expand your circle. Surprisingly often, they lead somewhere.
While a business lunch is still a perfectly acceptable way to network, the best way to build and maintain the informal relationships that are most useful in job hunting is through social media. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are popular options with younger folks. For more seasoned professionals, however, the most important one is LinkedIn, where 56% of workers go to job search.
Unlike other social network websites, LinkedIn is uniquely designed for professional networking. You can summarize your career and highlight certain skills and expertise. You make connections by inviting people to join your network.
This enables you to see their connections and even the connections of those connections. Through this visual web of professional connections, you can develop new ones at the companies or industries that interest you.
Members in your network can also endorse you for skills, which increases your professional value in the eyes of other members of your network. Your goal should be to get endorsements from 99+ people in your network.
How? The easiest way is to endorse people in your network yourself. People will often return the favor. What’s more, the activity might also lead to a phone call in which you verbally reconnect, catch up and possibly learn about upcoming opportunities.
Three Types of Networks
As you build your professional network, you should remember that networking is not just for job-seekers. Everyone should always be networking because there are so many other tangential benefits. Networking is a great way to build up references, meet potential new clients and vendors, and learn the perspective of people outside your industry.
Operational – this is the group that you engage
with in a professional sense and upon whom your success hinges. These are the
people around you that you need to do your day-to-day work – your immediate
Personal – this group includes those
individuals that you trust and to whom you can turn for advice or just to
discuss career options, even in a social setting, like coaches, mentors or
people you might ask to be a reference.
Strategic – this network may overlap the other
two. These are peers, industry leaders or other contacts with whom you can
share ideas, discuss future initiatives and how to realize your goals. Building
and maintaining this network takes time and attention away from your routine,
so it is typically the most neglected of the three networks. But it is,
arguably, the most crucial one to build.
Whenever possible, you should always try to be on the giving end of a relationship with anyone in your network; it builds good will and you never know when you might need to exercise some of that social capital for your own benefit.
Success in Any Industry Starts with Networking
No matter what industry you are in, it is smart to develop a strong network, especially one that spans many other industries, because you just never know where an opportunity might arise.
The client used LinkedIn Analytics and was soon referred by someone in his network to two scientists who were trying to produce an artificial sweetener. He went to work for them, and in his second year made over a million dollars. He never used a recruiter or even a resume. It was all word of mouth.
“This happens all the time,” said Resendes. “Of our clients, 75%
land a job through their social networks.”
leverage your networking skills, you learn about potential opportunities before
they even become available. With luck, that creates an opportunity – and then
you slip in the backdoor.
Lawyers often spend years of their life and heaps of money earning a law degree only to find themselves overworked, highly stressed, and underpaid legal career. Or even, in the case of solo practitioners, not paid at all. Consequently, they then suffer the indignity of being the butt of numerous jokes in popular culture.
An especially insidious stressor for many lawyers is the frustration of having no idea how to escape career pressures. They can’t change positions because who will take them on unless they come with their own book of business? They can’t leave law because they don’t know how to transfer their skills
No wonder that a 1990 Johns Hopkins University study showed lawyers to be 3.6 times more likely to be depressed as people in other occupations. In addition, a similar 2016 study found not only that 28% of lawyers suffer from depression, but also that 19% of them have symptoms of anxiety and 21% are problem drinkers.
Lawyers, take heart! There is a way forward. Because you have more transferable skills than you realize. And changes in the legal profession over the past 10 years may well present you with opportunities you never considered.
Evolving Legal Industry
The legal industry is a different world compared to just ten years ago. New legal technologies, for one, have dramatically changed the way of legal service delivery. eDiscovery automation software has slashed the time it takes lawyers to sift through documents for relevant evidence. Digital business management platforms allow lawyers to automate many processes of case management. And new companies like LegalZoom offer customers standardized, professionally vetted, legal documents at a cost-effective rate for simple contracts.
In addition to technological efficiencies, cost-conscious clients and the pressures of globalization and business have drawn law work from many firms towards corporate legal departments and non-law firms. The result has been the downsizing or merging of traditional law firms.
Others favor a position at a modern mid-size law firm. The resistance of traditional law firms to industry changes has prompted many to pop up. Leaving the law industry for a non-law company where legal expertise is valued is another valuable option.
Legal delivery is no longer just about lawyers and the practice of law – it involves a host of non-lawyers who work in business and technology, conjointly, with legal professionals in a newly developing field. “The practice of law has morphed into the delivery of legal services,” writes legal business consultant, Mark Cohen. Cohen sees this evolution as akin to the way the practice of medicine morphed into the field of healthcare. “Legal expertise is now but one leg supporting legal delivery’s three-legged stool that also includes technology and business,” he writes.
The job market has changed quite a bit, and good attorneys will find that they have many skills that can benefit them as they consider a career change. Some skills are inherent to the profession, such as being organized, logical, and a good communicator.
“They have to work well with clients, opposing counsel, and judges. They are also good at looking at large amounts of data and building a coherent argument.” Add in negotiating, public speaking, and a facility for giving presentations – these are skills that translate well into many areas of business.
Many other transferable skills are developed throughout a career. Lawyers who focus on certain industries, for example, become de facto specialists in those industries. “Solo practitioners representing small businesses don’t realize they have learned a lot and contributed to those businesses,” says Donna Mase. “They could easily go in and take on roles that would be enjoyable to them, beneficial to the company, and play upon skills they have.”
How to Parlay Your Skills into Opportunity
Many lawyers seeking a job or legal career change struggle to figure out how to parlay their skills into a new opportunity. They exhaust the formal side of the job market speaking to recruiters who tell them they must have X years of experience and Y degrees if they want a new job, and they come to the wrong conclusion that “those are the rules.” They are stuck with their lot.
“I’ve seen some truly amazing things happen – not because of who the lawyer knows, but because of who the people they know know. One client thought he had no experience with the nonprofit world, but 75 people in his LinkedIn profile were directly connected to nonprofits. He leveraged his social capital to land a job there. Your social connections are the most important asset!”
Your Social Capital
Even before leveraging your social capital, however, you should thoughtfully consider what you want and what you can offer. This is your value proposition. Why do you want a legal career change? What are your core drivers and values?
People for whom this isn’t clear might consider hiring a career coach who can guide them through a self-discovery process. Once you know what your ideal work environment is and what your strengths and weaknesses are, you will be ready to search for your ideal job.
Whatever you do, do NOT send 300 resumes into cyberspace. This is akin to throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. You will not get a job this way. Start by picking up the phone and being social. If you’re willing to put in the work and think outside the box, these baby steps will get you to the summit of Mount Everest.
Life is not easy for the owners of small law firms. They have to wear many hats: be an attorney, bring in the business, manage employees, and run the firm. In this video, law firm growth expert Alay Yajnik talks about his passion for helping attorneys increase their income and take more vacation.
Lawyers understand this better than most. Attorneys have higher rates of depression, substance abuse, and health issues than other professions. At some point, unhappy lawyers consider making a change. There are two primary reasons why lawyers can be unhappy: the nature of the profession, and the culture of law firms.
Traditionally, law firms were filled with dysfunction. Some firms were misogynistic, creating extreme stress for women. Some firms created a culture of long work hours and ground their employees down. And other firms had a focus on money and materialism. Many firms had a “cut throat” culture, pitting colleague against colleague.
Unfortunately, some law firms still have similar dysfunction today. Attorneys often find themselves having to choose between financial prosperity, career success, their health, and their family. This is particularly true for women who are attorneys.
The practice of law deals inherently with severe problems. In some practice areas, these problems are simply severe (such as estate planning). In most practice areas, the problems are severe AND filled with conflict and confrontation. Attorneys work long hours steeped in these environments of problems and conflict. Oftentimes, these environments lead to unhealthy levels of stress and unhappiness, causing anxiety and depression in some cases.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably considered changing something about your situation. But change is tricky. And, as you probably advise your clients, it’s best to speak to an expert before making a big decision. The Barrett Group has guided hundreds of attorneys to get clarity on which of the five options is best for them:
Fix their firm
Change law firms / jobs
Change their practice area
Stop practicing law and do something else
If you are an unhappy attorney, you owe it to yourself to contact us. We’ll discuss your situation with you, so you can get clarity on your next step.
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