Are you making changes in your career? Are you currently job hunting?
If you run into obstacles, it can be a challenge to know where to turn. How do you get the help you need?
Read this article to discover how to reduce the stress of career change and job search by helping others to help you reach your career goals.
Boost your confidence by knowing that you have set up the support system that you need.
So where should you begin?
Step 1: Clarify the Support you Need
The first step is to get clear about the type of help you might need.
What comes to mind when you think about support for your career change or job search?
Take 5 minutes to make a quick list of the things you need to do to achieve your career goals.
For example, if your career change and job search were a project, what would be on your task list?
Here are some examples to begin with:
- Get clear on my target jobs
- Update my resume or CV
- Identify potential employers
- Connect and/or reconnect with my professional network
Don’t worry about capturing everything. Tasks will vary according to your situation and priorities will change over time.
Use your list to get clear about what’s most important for you personally. Everyone needs different things.
What’s easy for you? Maybe you enjoy researching employers.
So for you, creating a list of employers that you intend to target is no problem. You have the skills and motivation to do it.
But are there things you’ve been putting off? Take, for example, writing your resume. Have you started, but not completed your updates? Each time you begin you don’t get very far. You have too many questions that get in the way. Help with this task could be the difference between staying stuck and reaching your goals.
Sort the items on your list so that you are clear about your priorities and what is most challenging for you.
If it helps, try completing the sentences below to work through this:
When it comes to finding my next job, for me:
- It’s easy to …
- It will take a bit of time, but I feel confident I can ….
- I’m not looking forward to (or I don’t know where to begin to) ….
Now that you’ve sorted your tasks into three categories (easy and enjoyable; not so easy but doable; don’t know where to begin), it’s time for the next step.
Step 2. Broaden your View of Career Transition Support
So far, you’ve probably focused on the practical tasks directly related to achieving your career goals. Perhaps your priorities for help require specific skills that limit who can help you.
This is a good time to expand your view of support. For decades, social science and health researchers have worked on defining social support, what it means in different contexts, and how it influences health and wellbeing. Let’s apply one of these frameworks to careers as a way to spark ideas that you may not have considered.
Here are four categories of support (described by James House and Robert Kahn) with career-related examples. Adapt this framework for your own use.
1. Instrumental support
This is practical help that supports you to reach your career goals. An example might be proofreading your updated LinkedIn profile or doing the layout of your resume for you.
2. Informational support
As the name suggests, this involves providing you with access to relevant information. For instance, a former colleague might help you make an important decision about an opportunity in one of your target companies by sharing personal experience of the culture of the organization.
3. Emotional Support
Have you had the experience of needing a listening ear and instead getting nothing but advice?
When you’re in career transition, even well-intended friends and family don’t always know how to support you emotionally. If your career change and job search are prolonged you may find yourself avoiding the topic in social situations.
Career change can feel like a roller coaster of excitement and disappointment. But paying attention to your emotional needs during this transition builds resilience. Begin by asking yourself what you need. Share this with family and friends. It will not only benefit you, but may also help others who want to support you but are not sure how.
4. Appraisal Support
This fourth category of support includes affirmation and feedback. An example might be a trusted coworker or former manager who offers to do a practice interview with you. Or you might join forces with another career changer or job seeker to “compare notes” and hold each other accountable.
Now that you have identified what you most need and have a framework to expand your view of support, it’s time to move to the third and final step. It’s time to marshal your resources.
Step 3: Identify the career support resources you already have and what is missing
The chances are you already know people who can provide many of these different types of support. Look through your contacts to remind yourself who you already know. Based on your personal priorities, who might be a match for what you need?
Initiate conversations to let people know your plans and check with them about their availability to help. By proactively creating a permission-based support system, personalized for your needs, you are off to a great start.
This can save you a lot of stress later. For example, at some point you will need references to support your career change and job search. By setting things up early, you have time to update them on your career achievements and aspirations for the future. You have time to find alternative references if they are not available.
Do you still have gaps between what you need and the resource available? Did you identify tasks in the “don’t know where to begin” category? If so, don’t let this prevent you from making progress. Consider professional services if appropriate. Ask your network for recommendations and find the right person to help you.
There are many steps in the journey of career change. It can be an isolating experience. But there is help available. Don’t assume that others know what you need. Identifying what will help you the most to reach your career goals is a great start. Using the priorities you have identified, start your list today. Know who to call on when the needs arises.
Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 9, no. 1
About the Author
Jennifer Bradley, Ph.D. 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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