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Career Change Tips

It seems the new axiom of career management is: the only constant is change. The Department of Labor reports that the average person will make 5-7 career changes during their working life. Millennials (born 1977-1997) are expected to experience even more change. Ninety-one percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years, and consider career and job changes to be one-in-the-same, according to a Future Workplace study.

For those looking to make a change, finding a career of interest is only part of your challenge. You still have to convince an employer that you are the right candidate. If you are thinking about making a switch, here are three tips to help you start on the path of your career change:

  1. Skills: Look at your past positions and develop a list of your skills. This means looking beyond job duties and tasks that are industry specific and identifying discreet skills that would be of valuable in your new desired career. It might help to look at a description for your desired job and see what skills are desired. Chances are you have more of them than you think.
  2. Network: When considering a career change, leverage your professional network. Reach out to people already working in your desired field and find out what skills and qualities are most desired. If you don’t have direct contacts chances are someone in your network does. These contacts might even be able to share information about job openings. Also, join online groups that discuss issues and challenges in your new chosen career. This will give you insights you can leverage during interviews and theses groups give you another avenue for networking.
  3. Experience: The best asset career change candidates have is their experience and success. Employers want to hire people who can deliver results. Consider your past positions and pull out specific challenges you faced and resulting successes. Also, think about how your experience relates to the industry in which you want to work. Despite moving from one industry to another, there are some commonalities. For example, helping an organization expand its market presence and open new offices has some common expectations and challenges - no matter what industry or field.

Changing careers or industries can be a challenge. Use these tips to inform your strategy and ensure you make the transition as easy and successful as possible.

Career Change Tips

Culture Questions for Candidates

Employers and candidates alike are told that organizational culture plays an important role in job success. While many people use the term culture, it is not always clear what they mean. In my mind, organizational culture is the collective way employees do things. It involves a learned set of behaviors that guide perceptions, understanding of events, and what is important. Every organization has a culture, even those that can’t define it. Culture is something you experience and live.

All of the current focus on culture is for good reason. Harvard Business Review reports that culture “can account for 20-30% of the differential in corporate performance when compared with ‘culturally unremarkable’ competitors.” Therefore, employers are looking for candidates that will “fit” their culture. But as a candidate, how can you determine the organizational culture of a place you have likely never visited? The following are three questions you can ask to get some insights into the culture of any organization:

What's the best thing about working at your company that I won't be able to see from an office tour?
This question gives the employer a chance to talk about their cultural values and what they think is important from a belief and behavioral perspective. Listen to the description and see if it aligns with how you like to work. For example, if they tell you that it is an innovative environment where employees are individually rewarded for their efforts this may mean that the environment is competitive with few work teams and limited collaboration. Or, if they tell you “we are like a family” this could mean that employees are social and have a high level of interaction.

How do you collect employee opinions and input?
Use this question to get beyond the established value and talk about interactions. An employer who responds by saying they do an annual employee opinion survey may represent a culture where employee input is not frequently sought or valued. If an employer says things like: “we encourage debate and discussion on all projects” or “our meetings are an exchange of ideas and not one person lecturing” you may be interviewing at an organization where employees are expected to share opinions and views.

What are the top two employee misconceptions about your company?
This question is designed to give the employer a chance to address anything about their culture that might not be ideal or misunderstood. Be wary of an employer who says they are well understood and does not give a direct response. Ideally, the employer will talk about specific challenges and most importantly, what they are doing to address them. Common cultural challenges are encouraging new thinking, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. The ideal response to this question will demonstrate that the employer is aware of what employees think and is interested in making improvements.

In the end, an organization’s culture is a combination of how they define the desired environment and what they do to ensure the definition becomes a reality. During your interview use these, and questions of your own, to figure out if the organization is the best place for you.

Culture Questions for Candidates

Working with Difficult People

Let’s face it, difficult people can be found almost everywhere: at the food store, the bank, or even your child’s soccer game. Fortunately, your encounters with challenging people in these situations are often brief and one-time.

Difficult people in the workplace are another matter. At work, you have to encounter the annoying or frustrating colleague or customer time after time. As a result, your interactions can become more challenging, thereby impacting your productivity or happiness at work. Luckily, we have some proven tips to help you deal with the people at work that test your patience the most.

When dealing with a difficult person in the workplace try the following:

1. Split If you are in an encounter with a difficult person, and feel things are escalating, excuse yourself. This will give you, and the other person, the opportunity to regain some control and perspective. Often challenging people enjoy seeing an otherwise composed person “lose their cool.” Don’t give-in to this tactic. Step out of the situation.

2. Pause Work is not like a sitcom where you will get a big laugh for saying something hurtful or offensive. What will happen is you’ll damage your professional reputation. So, before you respond to a comment that is intended to provoke a possibly inappropriate response, pause for a moment. It’s OK to think the comeback in your head, just don’t say it out loud. By pausing you will be both controlling your response and helping to diffuse some tension.

3. Shift Another great technique for dealing with difficult colleagues or clients is to shift or change the topic. If they are focused on a single topic, change the conversation to something else. Sometimes a transition as simple as: “I hear what you are saying about X. Let’s take a minute to also talk about Y” can change the energy and focus of the dialog. It also helps if the alternate topic is something upon which you both can agree.

4. Think Perhaps, the best way to deal with a challenging person at work is to figure out why they are so challenging. If you strip away the emotion you just might get to the heart of the issue. Are they insecure about their position? Facing performance pressure? Feeling unwelcome on the team? In most cases, people are challenging to work with for reasons other than those they discuss or about which they complain. Understanding what motivates their difficult behavior can give you the insight you need to make the relationship more successful. Finding a way to eliminate their pressure points can lead to a more peaceful and productive relationship.

I realize that there are some folks you can’t please or form a close professional bond. But, by using these tips you should be able to easily eliminate some of the stress from your most difficult workplace relationships.

Working with Difficult People