Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Re-energizing Your Career

The economy is rough nowadays, and coupled with the recent massive lay-offs and plenty of discouragement happening, it’s definitely a good idea to look for career advice to change your focus to something you can be passionate about.

I remember talking to an ex-colleague a couple of weeks ago – at the beginning of our conversation, she was all de-motivated in her current role because she felt there were nothing more she can contribute and that all her previous passion for what she’s doing is greatly diminished. She was getting frustrated at what she termed as her daily routine, which she had been doing for the last few years. She wanted to advance further in her professional development but was unsure what, how and when to do. In a nutshell, she was confused and had lost her sense of direction. There was absolutely no sign of energy in doing what she was doing at that moment

The difference between a job and a career is that the first option is labor oriented and usually does not have much advancement involved, and the second option is passion oriented, allowing you to advance and grow using skills that you have learned through some kind of formal or technical education. If you do not know what direction to go into, seeking advice is an excellent first step to organizing your goals while helping you head down a path that will encourage and motivate you to succeed. As you begin your quest for a career, you may not have an idea about what kind you should be pursuing. An easy way to determine what direction to take, and the first bit of advice to edge you forward, is to think about what you have always loved to do with your time. There are activities that you take part in because you enjoy them as hobbies, and activities that you take part in because you could see yourself doing them to make money seriously. Those activities that you could see yourself turning into a career should be your first stepping stone to paving the road to success for yourself

The second point of advice for is to consider going back to school or taking some kind of professional training to help enhance your skills. You may not be equipped with the necessary skills and education to begin your future plans right away, and finding a job without the right skills will be nearly impossible. It is best to research what institutions of higher learning you can attend that will allow you to get a degree, certification or license in the field that you are interested in. Choose a university or program that you will enjoy going to in a location that makes you excited to be there. This will help to motivate you to continue on with your studies

The final point of career advice is to learn how to negotiate your salary so that you can live a lifestyle that is enjoyable. Research the high, average and low incomes for your career so that you know what kind of base salary to expect with your experience and skill set. The skills you have obtained may be high end skills that allow you to select a salary that compliments what you have learned. Be confident when you negotiate your salary, but not arrogant or unrealistic. It is always better to be humble than to come off as obnoxious or snobby, so keep your attitude in check and enjoy making the money that reflects what you are worth

After engaging in a few “coaching” conversations with that ex-colleague of mine, she finally decided to continue pursuing her current career track, and in addition obtain additional professional certification in psychotherapy and to gain further overseas work exposure. We broke down the two major components of what she wanted to do additionally, and worked out a time-line for her to complete the sub-components and she’s now on track to meeting those targets. I spoke to her recently and she’s feeling motivated, re-energized and extremely excited about the changes she made to her career.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Changing Your Career

For decades, people thought that doing their job – and “doing it well” – was sufficient to ensure long-term career success, plenty of financial rewards, and job security well into the future. In this school of thought, managing your career was only like a tiny piece of the picture – when it came time to stop working for a time (in the case of parents wishing to stay home with their children, for example), or under extremely unusual circumstances (such as when someone wanted to actually change careers).

Today, working professionals typically change careers 5 – 7 times before retirement. Yes, you read that right – they change careers, not jobs, 5 – 7 times. Many people are still only equipping themselves to deal with the old reality and are unprepared to navigate in the new reality of career management, where jobs are only a subset of the overall “Career” bigger picture.

A Career change is a good way of getting that “oomph” back into your professional life. Most people battle with this idea all of their professional lives and a few of us choose not to take the beaten path and try something new. Most career changes if well planned do not require much additional qualifications or risk-taking.

So, you will ask, “when does it call for a career change?”

And I will answer you this – “career changes should be considered if you experience a few or all of the following criteria”.

  • When your job becomes mundane, overtly routine and boring, and you sense that you are not adding any value to yourself or to the organization. You have reached that burnout stage (or bottleneck) and you have advanced as much as you could in your line of work. Your work now no longer offers the challenges it used to
  • You have changed employers in the hope that a new organization might offer new challenges and it has not.
  • After graduating, any new recruit has two basic requirements of a job - lots of travel and lots of money. When you are no longer single, all that hectic traveling is bound to place a lot of stress on your family life.
  • When you are young, you are more mentally prepared to take on the stress that your job entails. As you grow older, your tolerance to stress decreases and you might find yourself seeking less stressful jobs
  • There are challenges, but there is no job satisfaction. And no amount of additional money in your current job is giving you that satisfaction. Though there might not be as much money in the job that you are considering, the thought of it itself is making you happy
  • The current job does not hold as many opportunities as it used to or it is being phased out for a more technologically advanced function.

Ah-ha … you seem to fit into one or more of those “unfortunate” situations I mentioned and now you’re pounding your head as to what to do next? Take it easy… things aren’t as bad as you think. Let me share with you some steps when you are considering making a career change of your choice.

First and foremost, you should be suitably qualified to make that change in career. If you are less qualified, consider taking up distance learning or training courses to bridge the gap. The more the information you have, the better it is. Understand the industry well and be prepared for the challenges you may have to face. Also understand that this is going to take longer than planned

Next, carefully evaluate the reasons that are making you head for a career change. If it is bad performance on your part, try better it at your current job itself. Changing your career because of a tough boss is not a valid enough reason to leave your job. This might boomerang when your prospective boss does background verification at your workplace

When you consider a career change, you must be open to starting at lower strata in the organization. Since you are just starting out in that new career (remember this ... .it’s not a job you have done or experienced in doing), no employer might consider you for a senior or managerial position. But that should not be a stumbling block when you are working on your dream career

Then, as you begin to research on the industry of your choice, also begin building a network that you can fall back on for information. This provides a lot of leverage. Prospective employers will be aware of you as a potential resource. Also reading up on the Internet, joining discussion forums to help you gather information helps in making career changes.

Once you have completed the steps above, you are at least prepared mentally to make that career change. But this is not the end of it all… remember, making a career change is a long process and it takes time. I will touch on other elements of this topic in my next article so stay tuned in.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Partnering With A Professional Career Consultant

When I first moved into a career consulting role, my friends and business contacts would ask me… “what do you do as a career consultant and coach?”; “why do people want to work with a career consultant, especially if they’re already relatively established within their industry?”; “what’s the value in engaging a career consultant?”, and many other related questions…

Considering I am in Asia where the concepts of career consulting and career coaching are not as wide-spread in this part of the world, as compared to North America or Europe, their queries and skeptism are of no surprise to me.

Today, I shall attempt to answer some of their queries here. Off course, portions of the information here were obtained through other sources and not all are entirely my origination.

Understanding Career Consultants and Their Work

Why Professional Career Consultants?

While many people today are happy to manage their career progression themselves, on some occasions the most effective way of reaching your goals is to call in some professional help. Professional career consultants can help you determine what kind of career you should be in, set career goals for yourself, and prepare for a job or promotion campaign.

To find the right career consultant for you, be sure to do your homework. Not all career consultants are created equal, and not all will be the right fit for your situation and personality. Not only will you want someone with good credentials, you will also want someone with whom you feel a sense of compatibility and trust. And considering that they are not inexpensive, you want to make sure that you get the most for your money.

Key considerations as we set out to work with a career consultant?

Prior to working with a career consultant, you should answer the following questions:

  • What is your goal in working with a professional career consultant?
  • What are some of the services typically offered by career consultants?
  • How do you find the right person?
  • How do you manage the relationship effectively?
  • How do you know when your goal has been achieved?

When is a professional career consultant most useful?

Career consultants are most commonly called up on when someone is looking for a new position or considering changing careers. However, career consultants can also prove useful for anyone seeking advice about their current role, and they can be an objective and impartial sounding board. And some people use career consultants once or twice a year for career “tune-ups.”

Is there a typical fee for a professional career consultant?

Obviously, when we engage professionals, there will be some form of monetary investments required. Some career consultants charge by the hour, and their fees generally range from a low of US$70 to a high of US$400 per hour (I have heard of some consultants charging over US$500 per hour), whilst others may charge according to programs, and cost of each program varies according their intensity, coverage and duration, from US$ 1,500 to US$ 12,000. Off course, do bear in mind that the amounts here are to be taken as a general reference only.

Generally speaking, career consultants can offer you a battery of tests to help you understand your skills and your personality style. They may also conduct a self-assessment that can guide you in deciding what kind of career you will be successful in. Such extensive testing will not be right or necessary for everyone, but in cases where a person is really floundering in his or her career, it may prove helpful.

What is the best way of finding a career consultant?

Personal referral is by far the best method of finding a career consultant. If you know someone who has successfully used a career consultant, you can ask them to give you the person’s name and number. Without a personal referral, you will have to do the research on your own. Use the Internet or your telephone directory to search for career consultants (also called career coaches or career counselors). Ask the consultant about his or her background, methods, fees and references to be sure you find the right person for you.


Set Some Goals

To get the best from working with a career consultant, you need to have some concrete goals to work toward. Define these in results-oriented language, being as specific as possible so that you will know when you've reached your target. For example, you might want to:

  • To find a new job;
  • To obtain a promotion and a raise;
  • To change careers to something more fulfilling.

Be Skeptical about Big Promises

Career issues are complex and often take time to work through. Be skeptical of career consultants who promise a quick fix, easy money, résumés that get speedy results, or other come-ons.

Create a List of Potential Career Consultants, Research Their Qualifications, and Make a Choice from Your List

Using the Internet or your telephone directory, make a list of career consultants in your area. Some career consultants work with clients outside their physical location. You may want to check them out too.

Once you have developed a list of candidates, it is time to narrow that list down to the one career consultant best for you. Begin by conducting a telephone interview with each person on your list. Introduce yourself and explain your goal to them. Ask them about their methodology, what their costs are, and how their background will help them to help you.

In addition to the qualifications and methodology of your career consultant, you will want to pay attention to your comfort level with each person and to what your instincts or intuition tells you. You want to select someone that you can trust and who will challenge you to reach your full potential.

When you have narrowed your list to two or three potential career consultants, make a face-to-face appointment with each in order to make your final decision. Most professional career consultants will not charge you for an exploratory meeting.

Clarify Your Goals and Expectations

Explain your goals to your career consultant, and make your expectations clear right from the start. Your career consultant will also explain what is expected of you, for example, what you are to do between sessions.

Be sure you understand the payment schedule and amounts. Will you pay by session, or will you be billed at the end of each month, for example? Most career consultants expect you to pay something before the sessions commence as a sign of your commitment, and many will ask you to sign a contract. Only sign the contract if you are completely comfortable with all elements of it, though, and be sure to question any items that you do not understand or like.

Think About How Your Professional Engagement Will End

Because you set a list of clear and specific goals when you started working with your career consultant, it should be pretty clear when your work has been completed. If, however, new goals arise as you work through that “To Do” list, you may want to sign up for a new contract. Or you may decide that you want to meet maybe twice a year or on an “as needed” basis.

Because the relationship with a professional career consultant can be very personal and rewarding, it’s always nice to end with a little celebration or with a small gift to mark your appreciation.


Not Setting Specific Goals

Some people go into this relationship because they have been laid off or dismissed and the company pays for a career consultant as part of the severance package. The result can be that you meet with your consultant regularly but without any direction, and nothing gets done.

A good career consultant should guide you into setting goals right at the beginning. If you find yourself meeting for over a month without seeing any progress, it’s probably time to move on and find someone else who can help you more effectively.

Can't Let Go

If the relationship has been really successful, you will have developed a powerful bond with your career consultant, and it may be difficult to terminate the relationship when your goal is met. But it is important to recognize when it is time to move on and to begin to apply what you have learned.

Having a celebration dinner is a nice way to symbolize the ending of your working together, and you can always schedule career “tune-ups” if you need them.

Not Committed to Making Progress

You meet weekly with your consultant and you agree to take certain actions such as working on your résumé or making five phone calls. But the following week when you meet again you have not done the things that you promised you would do. If this happens regularly, you must take a serious look at your goal. You may have set a goal that is not realistic or is not really what you want to do. If you feel this is the case, when you next meet your consultant, ask him or her to advise you on how best to re-evaluate what you are doing and how appropriate your efforts are.

Working with a career consultant can help you go a long way in your personal and career development. But whilst the benefits of this partnership are significant, you need to do your homework on choosing the most suitable consultant for you and you must also be committed to invest time and effort into the partnership

I hope the above will prove useful to those of you considering a career consultant.