How do you communicate successfully during career change?
Clarity and effective communication go together. Yet for career changers, getting clear about where you want to go often takes time. How do you communicate effectively during this time of transition when you are in between your current role and where you want to go next.
Whether your goal is to advance in your career or change direction, the challenge is to tell your career story in a way that projects into the future. Read this article for 3 tips to help you communicate more effectively during your career transition.
Do you remember the experience of your first day at work?
My first real job was in a hospital. What stands out is that my first day was a mixture of excitement and terror. Excitement about learning and new experiences. Terror because I was surrounded by sick people who expected me to know the answers to their questions. Yet, as a new trainee, I often didn’t know. Of course there were trained and experienced staff around to help. But I was very aware of the large gap between the demands of the environment and my feelings of competence.
In the same way, when you’re making changes in your career, there is often a gap between your current role and your future role. The discrepancy between how you want to be perceived and how you feel inside can get in the way of your career communication. Whether you want to get promoted to a new career role or want to change career direction, you need to find a way to bridge your current and future self. You need to find a way to communicate successfully during career change.
But how do you communicate about your career goals when they are still fuzzy? To make progress with your career goals, you need to find a way to step into this gap without being paralyzed by it.
Here are 3 tips to help you feel more confident in your career communication, even when your future work role is still a work-in-progress.
1. Communicate More Effectively by Being Prepared with a Personal First Aid Response
If you’re accustomed to talking authoritatively about the work you do, it can be disconcerting to be in an in-between place where you’re not clear about your next steps. But you don’t have to let worry about saying the right thing stop you making new connections.
For most of us, our default response to feeling anxious is to think that there is something wrong. Yet, some anxiety is a natural response to “not knowing.” Once you recognize that, you can take simple steps to manage how you feel. How? By preparing your personal first aid response.
Simple strategies work well for many people. What do your already know how to do? Think of other situations where you experience some anxiety, but it is manageable. Maybe it’s going to the dentist. Or going to a party where you don’t know anyone. Examples of simple strategies might be slowing down your breathing or reassuring yourself with a short phase that you can repeat silently.
If you know that you have an effective way of calming yourself when you start to feel anxious, you can remain confident knowing that you can regulate how you feel. This will help you communicate confidently even when you are unclear about your next steps.
2. Boost your Confidence with an Authentic Answer for the “what do you do?” Question
One of the questions that you can expect to be asked is “what do you do?” Yet many career change clients worry that they don’t know how to answer this during times of change.
The first step is to recognize the question for what is is. It’s frequently a culturally accepted way of connecting in social and professional contexts where you are meeting new people. Once your recognize this, you can let go of some of the pressure you might otherwise feel to explain exactly what you do.
Rather than worrying about saying the right thing or feeling awkward because your role is in transition, plan a succinct response ahead of time. Then redirect the conversation with the intention to connect with your conversation partner. Ask a question. Share something you are interested in learning more about. Listen carefully and build on what you hear to continue the conversation.
3 Be Intentional and Positive in your Communication.
When you’re making changes in your career, it’s important to be intentional about your communication. The human brain has evolved to prioritize attention to negative experiences. Because your frustrations and concerns may be top of mind, it’s easy to focus on these when you’re meeting others socially and professionally. But hold your venting for another time.
Instead, think about your intentions when you are meeting new people. This will depend on your situation. Say for example, you have a lot of experience in finance, and want to transfer your skills to a new industry. You are networking with people in this industry.
Your may be frustrated with your efforts so far. Even if you’re certain that your skills are transferable, it’s not always apparent to others. But rather than talking about your frustrations, choose to focus on what you can learn. This will make it much easier to engage with others. Listen for opportunities to link your experience with what they are interested in. This change in focus will will help you to step into new territory. The connections you make with people in other roles in the industry you’re interested in will be invaluable.
When the gap between where you are and where you want to be feels too large, communicating about your career can feel impossible.
But it doesn’t have to be. Talk confidently about your work and career plans by being aware of the gap but not focusing just on the gap.
To communicate successfully during career change, build these 3 career communication tips into your career transition plan. Practice your personal first aid response, know how to handle the “what do you do” question, and choose to communicate positively and intentionally. You are laying stepping stones that you can use to bridge the gap and make progress in your career change.
Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 6, no. 6
|Jennifer Bradley, PhD helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition.
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