In the last few years I enjoyed leading a rewarding series of workshops for executives in transition, who very much want to land their next full-time job.
It was such a pleasure to meet and work with talented, educated, highly skilled executives, most of them in transition not of their own volition, and all too many of them in a serious state of shock, denial, anger. On top of all that there’s the engulfing sense of shame and fear about their future job prospects, as well as the financial burdens. Here are some of their challenges, how to deal with the most pressing roadblocks, and a few good books that will help.
1) Shock and Denial: Many executives are determined to land a full-time position in a “reasonable amount of time” that is the same as or very similar to the position they left. This time frame usually coincides with that of their severance package. But if the reason their jobs are gone is that they were combined with or absorbed by talent that is often younger, less expensive and more flexible, this determination to “replace” the lost job and its perks often leads to even greater disappointment.
2) Reluctance to network: This stems from lethargy or confidence challenges regarding its benefits. The workshops prove that support from peers in a similar situation is invaluable! Peers or mentors can become avid sponsors – I’ve seen it happen many times over the past few months with women I know who landed great jobs because they got outside of their own cocoon. Sometimes this was due to someone much younger who was in a position of influence and wanted to help. That’s hard for a lot of mid-career executives to accept. But it’s the reality.
3) Shame: Many of these execs have been breadwinners, and are now suffering from shame. Shame definitely becomes a firewall for some women and men who can’t see the value in joining professional organizations. However, joining – and becoming active and visible in – networking groups, professional associations or a cause they care about would help them see there are other accomplished people out there who have risen past any notion of shame. They proudly announce they’re “in transition” and explain what they’re looking for as their “Big Next.” Joining helps them to see there are myriad ways to contribute and expand their experience and expertise, and to meet mentors, sponsors and hiring managers.
4) Inflexibility to pursue what could be valuable options outside their current experience and expertise – i.e., franchising, consulting/freelancing, starting their own business, etc. The research that led to my book unearthed all sorts of women and men whose names (or the organizations they started) are now so well-known that few recognize their drive and subsequent success came after a huge adversity punch to their souls in mid-career.
5) Fear: This is a big one; many attendees of my workshops report being “paralyzed with fear.” Fear of networking, fear of failure, fear of making the wrong next move. The reluctance and/or apathy I so often see with regard to their willingness to take advantage of tools for personal evaluation could be more about fear. Professionals in transition sometimes fear these tests since they point out more deficits or deficiencies than they want to acknowledge. Instead I encourage them to see the assays as an opportunity to benefit from a fresh look at their strengths and how to optimize them.
DEALING with these challenges:
For visionary, intelligent and motivated executives over 40 to combat these challenges, here are the three main areas of focus:
1) Maximize LinkedIn: there are more articles on the web regarding the benefits of using LinkedIn than I can possibly cite here, but the most critical reason to be there with a good profile to attract the work you really want to do and are good at (I rewrite mine once a year or more) is that almost every corporate hiring manager checks LinkedIn for profiles before looking anywhere else. On top of that, if a hiring manager receives your resume and you’re not on LinkedIn, with a strong network and good skills profile that matches their needs, they often put your resume aside.
2) Personal branding: I’ve written on this quite a bit, and there are dozens on books on it. Pick the two or three that resonate with your strengths, motivation and where you want to land, and work the exercises. There’s no substitute for the intrapersonal work you need to do before you can do the interpersonal connecting. If not now, then when?
3) Networking in general: to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most inspirational women of all time, who also happened to be one of the great networkers well before the word became the 21st century catchphrase for connecting every possible interest, “You must do that thing you think you cannot do.” Join and become very active in your industry’s professional organizations. Comment selectively on business blogs and your industry organizations’ websites. Participate in local philanthropic events where hiring managers in your industry also contribute. You don’t have to have a lot of money to do this, but you do have to spend your time wisely. Know how and when to cultivate contacts – and remember, you have to give to get. It sure beats sitting in front of your laptop all day sending mass emails to black holes scanned by computer software that doesn’t care a bit about you and your potential.
A FEW GOOD BOOKS:
1) Career Distinction, William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson, Wiley, 2007
This is an invaluable “how to” manual instruction manual and branding bible for building a satisfying and successful career.
2) The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career, Reid Hoffman, Crown Business, 2012. A great book to inspire you to entrepreneurial endeavors!
3) Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?, Seth Godin, Portfolio Trade, 2011.
One of my favorite books; here is quintessential advice from a master on marketing, emotional investment in careers and work, on taking the initiative, on being a leader, an artist!
4) How to Become a Rainmaker, Jeffrey J Fox, Hyperion, 2000.
An introduction or refresher course in the power of selling.
5) What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith, Hyperion, 2007.
If you’ve been there, done that – maybe so well you think you should be doing it forever – then Goldsmith’s advice is for you. Essentially, his take on leadership is that at some point you have to become the mentor, the guide, the coach and leave the heavy lifting to others. Great advice.
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© The DARE-Force Corporation, 2014.
Check out Liz Weinmann’s book, Get DARE from Here™! – 12 Principles and Practices for Women Over 40 to Take Stock, Take Action and Take Charge of the Rest of Their Lives, by Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA. All rights reserved.
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