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Career Change
Career Change
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Re-entering the job market
Lack of experience
How do I pick a job?
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I need a big promotion
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Q  "How do I pick a job?"
I'm think I'm pretty much boxed in as far as my career goes. I'm 36, MBA in Info Systems, and I've been working about 12 years at 2 banks and a large consumer goods company. My background is split fairly evenly between finance/ops and info systems jobs, but always in 'information' jobs and roles. I've basically done things that interested me, and I had been getting promoted fairly regularly until I joined my current company (for various political reasons), where the promotion opportunities slowed down considerably. Anyway, here's the problem: my background is pretty broad -- I have some experience in Sales, Marketing, Finance, and particularly Info Systems, but I don't have a deep identification with any of those disciplines. That is really limiting my ability to move to a new company. I've been described as 'neither fish nor fowl.' Any thoughts/suggestions?

A  People have a hard time with this because they're brainwashed by a stupid 'employment system' into thinking they have to 'find a job'. You don't. You have to decide what kind of work you can do that will be profitable to you and to others. That sounds simplistic, but it's profound. Stop thinking career, and stop thinking jobs. Start thinking about what you're good at and what you are interested in. The only way I know to do that effectively will also sound silly: explore.

Ignore the want ads and 'The Top Ten Careers for 1998'. Those will just limit your explorations and drive you into directions you think you should be pursuing rather than ones you are motivated about.

The best career for you is the one where you're motivated to give 120%. Pursue no other. To start, take The Library Vacation™: go spend a few days at your local library. Explore what's going on in American business. Devote yourself to reading about every industry and business you're interested in. Follow your excitement. Hit the major business publications. I'm partial to Forbes because it covers unusual businesses and unsual aspects of common businesses. It's also pretty inspirational because it has a very 'capitalist' agenda. You'll find great stories about people who've tried and succeeded, and about others who've failed. It's also chock full of the names of people you'll want to call for advice.

All you're doing is exploring and studying. Don't look for a job. Don't try to do more. If this takes a day, fine. If it takes ten, that's okay, too. Have fun with it. You should start to see some trends in how your interests develop. The goal is to pick an industry, a handful of companies, and a set of problems and challenges you'd like to tackle. The specific 'job' comes last. There may not even be a specific job. You may have to convince a company to create it. As a headhunter, I've done that more than once -- and my clients appreciated it.

Then the tough part starts. You have to pick one or two businesses and study them in depth. Read the specific industry journals. Talk to people who work in those businesses. Drop any target business that winds up leaving you cold; add a new one.

The key is this: you must figure out what problems and challenges the business you want to work in faces. Then you must apply your knoweldge and skills to tackle them. Forget your lack of 'skills'. Use your brain and abilities you do have. Prepare a plan of attack. What would you tell the board of directors if you had half an hour with them? How could you help them make their business more successful?

When you get close to something you think you want to pursue, stop and assess what you need to pursue it. More education or training? An apprenticeship? An entry-level job? Other, related experience that has to come first? Advice from others in the field?

I hope this helps you get started. There's nothing wrong with shifting gears in a big way. The trick is to avoid shifting into a direction that someone else tells you to go in. Do your own homework. Make your own decisions. That's where the motivation to succeed lives.

The Headhunter


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