“It’s like all my life everyone’s told me, ‘You’re a shoe! You’re a shoe! You’re a shoe!’. Well, what if I don’t want to be a shoe? What if I wanna be a purse or a hat?”
Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston in Friends) is on the phone to her dad trying to explain why she ran out on her fiancé at their wedding. He doesn’t understand why she would leave her wealthy husband-to-be to make her own way, waiting tables at Central Perk until she gets her dream career in the fashion industry, eventually working as an executive at Ralph Lauren.
Rachel wasn’t the only character in this TV show to go through a career change. There were ups and downs for all of them but the point was that they had each other for support.
This is not so different from real life: people are key in career change, for support but also to make things happen.
When you’re trying to make a change it can be easy to get stuck. We forget that even though we don’t know the answer to a question, someone else in our circle might.
If you’re considering making a move, it’s worth taking the time to develop your network of support.
Who do you know who is already working in an area you’re interested in? Who might know someone if you don’t?
Family, friends and colleagues
Most people already know someone who can help them when it comes to their career. This can include family, friends and colleagues.
Who do you know who is already working in an area you’re interested in? Who might know someone if you don’t? How easy would it be to pick up the phone and ask them?!
Don’t stop at immediate family and friends – consider extended family and friends of friends. You’ll be surprised how many people you can come up with.
Maybe there’s a cousin who switched careers. How did they do it? What’s working for them and what’s not? Maybe there’s a college friend who went into exactly what you’re thinking of doing now. Or even a neighbour’s son or daughter who went back to college as a mature student. How can you connect with them?
Spending time with supportive family and friends can also bolster you during times of transition, like when you’re trying to change career.
In my experience, people are usually happy to help. Worst case scenario, they’re too busy and say no!
Like Rachel in Friends, spending time with supportive family and friends can also bolster you during times of transition, like when you’re trying to change career.
Reach out for support and not just practical assistance. Think about whose company makes you feel good about yourself and positive about your life and career – they’re the ones you want to hang out with!
Connecting with like-minded individuals is not just a strategy for LinkedIn. What other groups could you join that would support your career change ambitions?
Making the most of LinkedIn
It’s likely that you’ll need to go beyond your family and friends for help when changing careers.
LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, is a great place to start. LinkedIn is more career-focused than any other platform. It’s easy to set up a profile, keep it updated and from there build the foundations of your career change.
Here’s some suggestions for how to make the most of LinkedIn:
– Start to build a network by connecting with existing contacts and discovering new ones.
– Note that you don’t have to connect with someone to follow their feed. (It’s worth curating your feed to make sure what comes up is relevant and interesting. Simply click on the three dots at the top right of a post and select “Improve my feed”.)
– Join one or more LinkedIn groups, consistent with your interests. An added benefit of joining a group is that you can message someone you’re in a group with, without being connected to them.
– Always customise your invites. How do you know the person? Where did you come across them? Why are you reaching out? Perhaps you can offer some feedback on a recent post or article that they shared.
– Consider sharing your own expertise by posting regularly and engaging with other people’s posts and content.
How about creating a group? You only need a couple of people who are interested in progressing their career goals to provide support and accountability.
There’s strength in numbers. Connecting with like-minded individuals is not just a strategy for LinkedIn. What other groups could you join that would support your career change ambitions? Particularly if you’re interested in starting your own business, there are lots of groups out there, including online (e.g. Facebook) and in person (Meetup.com).
Perhaps your interests lie elsewhere and there isn’t anything suitable. How about creating a group? You only need a couple of people who are interested in progressing their career goals to provide support and accountability. Arrange a regular meeting time and together you can motivate each other and brainstorm solutions to any problems that come up.
A couple of tips for success: set SMART goals and monitor the group’s progress, and don’t forget to celebrate each other’s achievements!
“Every time I see someone who cannot move or take action to achieve his goals, I find out he’s trying to pull the whole plan off all by himself… On our own, we’ll often opt to avoid any kind of action, and we play tricks on ourselves so we don’t realise what we’re doing.” – Barbara Sher
What’s the solution? Create what she calls a “Success Team” and get support to make your career dreams happen.
Call in the [career] professionals
One challenge that can present itself when talking to family, friends and people you’ve worked with for a while is that they may have long-held opinions about who you are and what you can do. This can colour the advice they give you.
They may be concerned about what it will mean for you if you move on from your “good” job and do something different. This may be well-meaning but it can put you off your stride before you’ve even taken the first step.
Family, friends and people you’ve worked with for a while is that they may have long-held opinions about who you are and what you can do. This can colour the advice they give you.
Seeking help from a career professional can provide a fresh perspective, as well as access to various tools and techniques designed to help you take stock and achieve your goals. There are a number of different sources of support available, including career coaches, career guidance counsellors and mentors.
Investigate all of the options and spend some time establishing who would be the best person to suit your needs. Take a look at their website, LinkedIn profile and/or Facebook business page. Follow them and see what kinds of content they post. Does it resonate with you? Is this someone you’d like to work with? What are their qualifications? Make a call and have a chat with them before committing to anything.
Set yourself a target of connecting with one person every week
Who will you reach out to tomorrow?
Brainstorm a list of anyone you can think of who would be able to help you in some way or who might know of someone who would fit the bill.
Set yourself a target of connecting with one person every week (or more if you’re that way inclined!).
Why not start with me? Send me a customised invite on LinkedIn, letting me know that you read this article – I’d be delighted to connect with you. As a mid-career coach, I post regularly on both LinkedIn and Facebook about career change and would be happy to point you in the right direction if you need further assistance!
More great advice from Nicola:
About the Author
Nicola Porter, PhD, is a mid-career coach for smart, capable professionals who are struggling to take stock of their career and figure out their next step.
Nicola combines everything she knows and loves about psychology with highly effective coaching tools and techniques to help you create a better quality of working life so that you can enjoy more success, confidence and satisfaction in your work – in a totally doable way.
Having masterminded her own mid-career change to create a more satisfying and flexible working life, Nicola is keen to share what works to help you do the same.
Meet Nicola and take your first step towards creating a more meaningful, enjoyable career at www.coachd.ie.