Being a Fearless Fish out of Water
Follow these six steps to fearlessly making a career change -- regardless of the economic environmentby Robin Fisher Roffer | Published in July 2009 career | managers' corner | Departments
Follow these six steps to fearlessly making a career change — regardless of the economic environment
These days, it’s easy to confuse activity with progress, especially when it comes to your career. Say, for example, you’ve been laid off. Worried that opportunity won’t knock twice, you rush into the first job you can find. Now you’re as unhappy as before, but at least you have a paycheck. Is this a recipe for long-term success?
Whether you’re newly laid off or looking to change careers, shift your focus from keeping your head above water to going after the job you truly want. That’s how to set yourself up to achieve in the long run.
Despite the bad economy, opportunities do exist. That’s why it’s more important than ever to create a personal brand identity highlighting the qualities that differentiate you. Any attribute that sets you apart is an asset, not a liability.
Here are six steps to being a fearless fish out of water — and how they can help you get the job you’ve always wanted.
1. Go fishing for the real you.
Today’s economy leaves no room for generalists. We’re in an era of specialization — being different is good. Put a flag in the ground and declare who you are and what you’re good at. Peel away the layers you’ve built up playing the game for others and hone your skills to become an expert at something valuable right now. Perhaps you’ve been in marketing at a big company and you want to start your own firm. Assess what makes you special in the marketing arena and go with it.
2. Use your differences as a lure.
Your natural tendency these days might be to hunker down. But that strategy could hurt you in the long run. If you’re not standing up, standing out and standing for something important right now, you become irrelevant.
Ask former colleagues, clients, customers and friends what they think makes you positively different at work. What qualities of yours attract people to you and your work? Use these unique strengths to find your career destiny.
3. Find a few fish like you.
As you network, connect with others in your situation who believe in your dream and can cheerlead you. Start attending luncheons, trade shows or seminars in your target industry to discover people who share your passion. Find out how you can help each other. Consult a business coach or mentor who can help you strategize your transition. Then reward cheerleaders for their support and let go of naysayers, whose negativity will only hold you back.
4. Swim in their ocean your way.
One way to differentiate yourself from the pack and stay true to the core you is through the way you dress. Wear what’s acceptable in your industry — and then kick it up a notch. Every great brand has packaging that sells what’s inside. Think in those terms next time you go shopping. Once you get inside your new company, adopt its culture without getting lost in it. Look for what resonates with you and don’t buy into what doesn’t feel right.
5. Put yourself out on the line.
Fearless fish are perfectly positioned to make a difference. Getting behind a cause is good for business and makes you look like a hero. Volunteer, join a board or make a major donation. Figure out a way to give back as you transition to your new career. Or better yet, choose a career that is a cause.
6. Reel in your unique power.
It’s easy to succeed when things are going right. What determines real character is what you do when faced with adversity. To muster the strength to succeed, look back at other times in your life when you rose to the occasion — you’ll realize how brave you really are.
Uncertainty makes everyone question their personal value and the value of their skills. Be different. Stop wringing your hands, and start raising the bar on who you can be and where you can go.