Do these three things first for a successful career transition

I recommend that my clients do these three things first when making a career change or trying to pinpoint why the jobs they have no longer feel like the right fit:

  • Tell Your Story
  • Know Your Scale
  • Be of Service

Tell Your Story

There is a reason interviewers will ask you to spend time talking about your career moves: moments of transition highlight your core values. The arc of a career will show how those have played out and changed with the passage of time.  (Trust me: they will change). It is crucial that you take a look at the moves you have made and weave them into a coherent narrative showing self-awareness and candor about your career and development.  Self-awareness is a critical executive function. It is also important to be honest if you have ever made a bad move.  Rather than covering up a mistake, use it as a chance to show what you learned.  You may find yourself bonding with your audience, as the disclosure will humanize you.

As someone who has moved functions, industries, and geographies several times in my own career, the narrative of "born with a client-service gene" is a theme that lends structure to my professional choices.  When I take a person through my professional moves with a focus on my client-service orientation, the career development make sense. What's your story? Write it down.  Own it.  Then tell it.

Know Your Scale

Knowing the scale at which you operate best and generate the most impact is also important as you make your transitions.  This is not to be confused with seniority; rather, it's about the stage on which you want to play.  

Do you want to lead a function in a company, or lead an entire city?  Tackle the universe, or the course of a disease?  A classroom, or the school district?  Disrupt an industry, or disrupt a company's operations?  Have a big team, or work alone?  Have many users, or serve a few, select clients? What is the scale at which your skills are best put to use?

I admire the vast scale at which many entrepreneurs want to play, especially in the tech sector:  Lawyers can practice their profession in many different ways, from global firms to sole proprietors, for-profit, non-profit...the list goes on.  Same with investors.  Executives can lead teams in small or large firms.  Sales can be B2B, B2C, transactional, relationship-based, in person or remote.  You may thrive in a non-profit with a global mission or one with a narrow focus.   All of these speak to scale. Where have you truly been the most effective? How wide a net do you want to cast with your impact?  Answers to these questions may change in the course of your career.  It's important that you examine your most effective scale honestly when considering a change. 

Be of Service

Look outside of yourself when you are contemplating a move or when one arrives unexpectedly. Making time to be of service to others is crucial to maintaining your equilibrium (some would say sanity) during a transition.  Change can be nerve-wracking.  Pursuing leads, interviewing, and doing research is hard to do full time.  Find an outlet that puts you in touch with others who need your help.  You will feel better, I promise, and you may find that those you meet pursuing a volunteer or philanthropic endeavor are ones with whom you share many deeply held values.

Story, Scale and Service.  Does this resonate with you?  Please let me know.