Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Don't Think, Start Now. Act Before Your Competitors Before They Take Your Job

Career paths are changing as social and mobile technologies change the marketing landscape. As a graduate student in Northwestern's Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program, and having managed a team at my previous job, career change, advancement, and identifying the best way to do it has always been an area of interest to me.


Are you in a pigeon hole? Have you hit your plateau? Want to switch career/industry? First things first, make sure your skills are transferable to the new industry. This means highlighting the skills you already have that are relevant in the industry you are switching into. An article on Changing Industries and Changing Careers reminds us that, sometimes the job is exactly the same, but they call it something different; it might be a ‘content management system’ in one industry and 'publishing software' somewhere else. Find people who are in the kind of job you want and link up with them on social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook and ask for their advice.

Convince others that even without industry experience, you will bring it to the table. Get ahead of recruiters and hiring managers who only want to consider candidates with industry experience. Make it clear that your experience outweighs your lack of tenure in a specific field. Spell out for them how your experience translates to common themes in the new industry, and explain it in terms of the results you were able to deliver in your previous field.

Learn the lingo – it will give the hiring managers or recruiters enough confidence to keep talking to you to find out how much you really know, rather than dismissing you at the outset.

Here are three things you should do immediately to begin addressing your future career:

1. Know the skills needed
In order to transfer your skills, you need to know what is transferable. Look into job descriptions/requirements of positions you want to pursue, and keep track of the most common words. Do a self-analysis, by crossing checking the list (of common words) with skills you have and which you need in order to have a good shot at getting an interview invite. The best way to understand what the position entails and skills needed is through informational interviews. Try to set one up with professionals already in the industry. You can find them on Twitter and Linkedin, through groups and communities. However, do not straight up ask these people for an informational interview. Introduce yourself, follow and engage in their posts, after they have an idea of who you are, then politely ask for an informational interview.

2. Be ambitious, be friendly, most importantly, treat others well
Being ambitious gets you places. Being friendly gets you noticed. No matter how objective people want to be, they toil with their emotions. People want to promote for the ones they like. Ask about their day, get to know them, first and foremost, be genuine. Whether you're talking to the interviewer or a professional in the industry, be inquisitive, let them talk, and you listen. People like to be listened to. Repeat a couple of their lines in your head to make it stick. Maya Angelou summarizes it perfectly, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The handwritten thank you notes, crafting a creative, symbolic memorabilia - all these tactics play on the receiver's emotions, hoping they would make a decision with their heart. These gifts make them feel good, and many times, that's the tipping point when they have a pool of highly qualified candidates to choose from.

3. Be persistent and patient
A former (wise) boss of mine told me opportunity is when hard work meets time. Working hard is praised, but if timing isn’t on your side, the opportunity won’t come. Similarly, if positions you want are available ( here comes timing), but you haven’t put forth the hard work, you won’t be noticed and considered. It is not the smartest, or the hardest worker that will outlast, but the one who is willing to be patient will earn the opportunity. Timing is crucial, and most give up before that time comes.

Start looking for professional networking events to attend now. If you want to tap into the industry, you need to take action, and know people in the industry. Give yourself an attainable monthly goal. Start out incremental then make bigger strides. Find one event to attend every month, and make it a goal to approach two strangers - give and ask for two business cards. As you become more comfortable with talking to strangers, you will be more likely to attend events and naturally approach people to start a conversation, even without the intention of networking. Barbara Gibson, author of Power Networking Tips, emphasizes the golden rule: “work for your network. Don’t look at networking with the idea of “what can it do for me?” See yourself as a resource for every one of your contacts.”


Lisa Hu is a master’s student in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Medill, Northwestern. She also spearheads the Branding and Talent Q committees in her program. Prior to Medill, she worked in operational management, managing a team of 13 at a global tech firm. She is pursuing a career as a brand planner/manager with a multinational consumer product goods company. Lisa is fascinated about digital marketing, technology, consumer insights, and promoting products that have made her life more enjoyable and easier, in hopes that it will do the same for others. As a career switcher herself, follow her @LisaHu22 to learn from her wins and setbacks of her journey into the new industry.


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