Landing on Your Feet: 11 Tips to Turbocharge Your Career After a Job Transition
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Does it seem like your friends and colleagues change jobs often these days? You’re not imagining it. According to The Balance’s Alison Doyle, the average worker changes jobs 12 times during the course of his or her career. Younger people in particular are wont to flit from gig to gig; there’s evidence that this has been the case for decades.
Not every job change is a seismic career shift, of course. Every change has its own genesis, and some are mundane: a spouse’s geographic move, for instance.
But some changes are truly monumental: real career switches, not just hop between roughly equivalent roles with two cross-town rivals. If you’re contemplating such a change, you’ll need to make sure you land on your feet in short order. Here’s what you can do to turbocharge your career after a voluntary or involuntary transition.
1. Conduct a Work-Life Audit
First up: a thorough work-life audit. This process can be painful, as it forces us to come to grips with the compromises and sacrifices that attend any successful career.
But here’s the thing: if you’re not living up to your end of the bargain as a partner, or parent, or friend, you need to be honest with yourself about that. Perhaps it’s not worth it to you to live up to said bargain — in which case, it’s time to make changes even more drastic than the job transition you’re currently working through.
2. Look for Potential Compromises and Sacrifices
Absent dramatic interruptions to the present trajectory of your life, look for potential compromises and sacrifices through which you can thread a successful career. If you’re willing to move to another city to advance your career, for instance, think seriously about the pros and cons of doing so. If you’re willing to take a pay cut for a job that lets you eat with your family most evenings, ditto. Compromise and sacrifice move in both directions, after all.
3. Take a Break from the C-Suite
Nowhere is written that one dooms their career by temporarily stepping back from day-to-day leadership for a more hands-off advisory or consulting role. Taking a break from the C-suite, or whatever senior leadership role you’ve attained is a great way to gain distance and perspective as you prepare for the next phase of your career. When the time comes for you to return, you might be surprised to learn just how far you’ve grown.
4. Join a Professional Group or Guild
Even if your profession isn’t a traditional “guild,” like law or medicine, there’s almost certainly a professional group or association with your name on it. If you’re not yet a card-carrying member, become one. More than a mere bona fide, membership in a professional association gives you up-close-and-personal (literally) access to the movers and shakers with the wherewithal to advance your career. If you decide that the next phase of your career is a foray into the wilds of entrepreneurship, you’ll want to know these folks — and burnish your credibility as a legitimate thought leader in your field.
5. Join a Networking Association (or Show Up at Networking Events)
You don’t need to join a professional association or guild to network like a pro. Membership in a shared interest group, like a local young professionals’ association, is a great way to put yourself out there in the absence of a highly visible job or gig.
Not much of a networker? Start slow, by showing up at a networking event put on by a professional association in your area. You might enjoy rubbing shoulders more than you realize.
6. Go Back to School (in Your Spare Time)
Choosing to go back to school full-time is a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. There are absolutely situations in which full-time grad or professional school is advisable for mid-career professionals, but you’ll want to think carefully about the potential opportunity costs of this move.
If you’re not willing or able to take the plunge, opt for part-time education. Hundreds of business schools offer part-time or executive MBA programs that demand perhaps 15 or 20 hours of work each workweek — a manageable burden for committed full-time professionals.
7. Find a Mentor
Not coincidentally, graduate or professional school is a great place to find a willing mentor or advisor. If you don’t have someone to whom you can look for professional advice or guidance, find one — and don’t be shy about picking their brains.
8. Invest in Yourself
You’ve heard the old admonishments about “dressing for success” and “waking up on the right side of the bed.” Hokey as they sound, there’s a grain of truth to these bits of folksy wisdom. Set aside some of your severance packages to invest in the material (sharp new outfits, a killer haircut) and qualitative (a new-and-improved CV, a professional website) trappings of success. People will notice.
9. Sharpen Your Salary Negotiation Skills
The best way to get the next phase of your career off on the right foot is to drive a hard bargain at the negotiating table. You know as well as the next careerist that your lifetime earning potential is directly dependent on your negotiating skills. If you don’t make it clear to prospective employers that you know what you’re worth (and that you’re willing to ask for it), don’t be surprised to learn a few years hence that you’re trailing the pack.
10. Game Out the Next Five Years
Last, but not least: your personal five-year plan.
Relax. This isn’t a five-year day planner; we’re talking broad-strokes stuff here, the answers to the proverbial “where do you want to be in five years”-type questions. Think of your five-year plan as a roadmap for the next phase of your career. Like all great road trips, the journey is what’s truly important.
Are You Ready to Hit the Ground Running?
If “landing on your feet” isn’t an active enough metaphor for you, there’s always “hitting the ground running.” Whether your job change was expected, unexpected, or somewhere in between, how you manage its immediate aftermath can make or break the coming months and years of your professional life. Follow the tips outlined above, and you’ll be well on your way to a true running start.
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