Category Archives: Trasnsferable skills

career transition

9 stages of career transition

Over the years I have coached probably thousands of men and women through career transition. And although each case is always unique, (everyone likes to think they are special) I have observed 9 common stages in the process which each career changer or transformer makes.

1.Detached and dissatisfied 

Most people seek out professional career support when they are desperate or lost. They have usually tried to change jobs on their own and have met obstacles. This can be extremely disheartening and frustrating.  They read my web site and say:

“You wrote that for me! That is exactly where I am”

They are filled with conflicting emotions which can include anxiety about the future or financial issues, concern about lack of status and self-worth and even depression. They might have enjoyed their old jobs at some point and either change has been forced upon them or they have simply fallen out of love with their old profession. This will involve an element of grieving and a lot of chest beating and “what ifs” and “if onlies.”  It can be a very challenging place.

A smaller number focus on change in a strategic and structured way and they usually get stuck in this particular sand trap less frequently. They are happy to consign their old career to the past, but are then caught up in another bind. This group frequently want to disown their previous life and skills. This presents a whole other set of problems.

2. Identity limbo

As we struggle to understand who we are, what is important to us and how we want to add value in the next phase of our careers we can fall into identify limbo. Benchmarks about our achievements may no longer be valid and in some cases we may even reject the values that were once important to us and the people around us. But when we do that we frequently miss the recognition and endorsements we all seek at some level associated with that.

Aaron decided he wanted to leave private legal practice and join an NGO which was more in line with the values he now held. This created a significant gap in income and outlook with his previous colleagues which he described as being

“insurmountable. They just didn’t get the person I’d become. It wasn’t something they could deal with and pretty much dropped me. We were in different places. ”

That happens, but there are new kindred spirits on the horizon.

Read: How to manage your career in times of uncertainty 

3. Confusion

Many people say they “feel all over the place” at this point They seem to have too many choices but at the same time none of them feel totally right. They flounder and become overwhelmed and get bogged down in analysis paralysis and make no headway. They feel insecure and lack confidence. This is the point when most seek professional support. It’s important to hold yourself accountable for decisions and paths taken in the past, without beating yourself up. You can’t change what happened historically.

4. Commitment to the process

Most career changers expect an epiphany or “ah-ha” moment. In reality although that can happen, it rarely does. What usually takes place is through painstaking hard work. If you commit 100% to the career transition process, being open to support and willing to change, a myriad of inter-connecting switches flicker on, causing a slow and gradual internal illumination. Those that don’t commit totally to the process in terms of time and energy will not make the same progress. Getting a job is now your job. Anyone who can’t get into that zone, gets into trouble.

5. Danger zone

Spending time doing the inner work, anchoring strengths, identifying personal development plans and finding and owning their “why” is really key at this point. It’s not uncommon to meet resistance as old habits, inner critics and negative thinking hold career changers back. Backsliding can kick in at this point until complete clarity about goals, vision and action is achieved. I hear a lot of “yes-but,” at this point, which is a massive tell that there is deep-seated resistance. The message here is “yes I want to move forward” but old habits and influences are still getting in the way as clients struggle to let go of what they usually do or did before.

It takes persistence and resilience to get beyond this and can be a danger zone for some. It’s important to work with your coach to get through the fog during this phase of your career transition.

6. Picking up the pace

Emerging from a misty tunnel and making progress is a huge energy booster. It’s common to see a flurry of activity at this point. Plans and strategies are drafted, CVs updated and online profiles professionalized. It’s all systems go! Networking is well underway, job applications in the pipeline and even interviews lined up. Remember to stay focused and on plan.  It’s easy to drift and get sidetracked by online “busyness.”  There is a lot of nonsense around job search and career advice which can be distracting and a big time eater especially on the internet. It’s not uncommon to see a loss of focus after a period of intense activity.

Read: White noise nonsense on job search and recruitment  

7. Cohesion and synergy

As all the different threads seem to come together and fall into place. The potential and possibilities of a new career and maybe even a new life are on the horizon. Success breeds success. The career changer gets a buzz. Success seems on the horizon and within their grasp.

8. Set backs

But….career transformers rarely get the first job they apply for. They are dismayed at the speed of the procedures (slow) and lack of positive response (variable.) Recruiters take time to respond or don’t respond at all. It’s all frustrating. It can take 6-9 months to start a new job. Patience is vital to maintaining sanity. There may be some set backs, perhaps several. It’s important to learn from the experience and be flexible, adapt and dig deep. Every situation even the negative ones, give great feedback, so it’s important not to let it damage your confidence. You have to hang on,  flex the resilience muscles and power through the adversity. It’s only temporary.

9. Score

Finally, after what seemed at times like an impossible journey, goals have been achieved. Dreams have become a reality!  Your new life is about to start!!

If you would like to re-invent your career – contact Dorothy Dalton  

How to cultivate gravitas

You can cultivate gravitas with inside out work

Many think it is not is possible to cultivate gravitas, central to executive presence, that elusive quality said to contribute by 25% towards career success.  It can be acquired by anyone, at any age. It’s about presenting your best self, all the time, even when you may not be prepared. Gravitas and charisma are not necessarily the domain of the older and usually more experienced, male, professional.

For lazy managers the lack of executive presence, has become a catch all phrase to avoid constructive and thoughtful feedback and emphasizes an inability to create a strong coaching environment. It lets the manager easily off the leadership hook. This sloppy opt-out, helps fuel a lack of diversity at senior levels, as those not fitting a cultural template based on age, gender or ethnicity, are excluded. It is a failure to understand that it is possible to cultivate gravitas and therefore executive presence.

More people believe they have these characteristics than actually do. The reality is that gravitas is both bestowed and earned. So there is both a self-perception and self-assessment problem, which can lie at the heart of the issue.

The 3 pillars of Executive Presence: gravitas, communication and appearance.

3 pillars of executive presence

3 pillars of executive presence

According to more than two-thirds of the executives (268) surveyed, in the Center for Talent Innovation research, gravitas seems to be the core quality of executive presence. This is a word that is less used today, but it is perceived to be a combination of behaviours and characteristics that convey confidence.

The Latin root of gravitas suggests “weight” and the word gravitate, its cousin, means moving towards. So gravitas conveys a depth of personality, reliability, respect, and trust, which draws people.

Think of the leaders you are drawn to. Why is that?

Add to those mentioned qualities, gravitas also requires a demonstration of moral integrity, a burnishing reputation, vision, an ability to show poise under pressure (bringing your best self to every situation) and credibility. People with gravitas are able to lead and develop relationships more effectively, are promoted earlier and are believed to get better results. This concept is especially confusing when so many of our leaders today do not seem to possess some, or all of these qualities.

Yet many people are uncertain how they can cultivate gravitas that and think there’s some magic formula.

There isn’t.

Self awareness needed

Executive Presence essentially starts with an inside out process. Anyone who bypasses this key element (and many try) will de facto not have achieved it, unless you are in the tiny minority for whom gravitas is a totally innate gift and you know instinctively when to present your best self. Developing gravitas is highly individual and everyone will have a different journey and response. Read: 10 Executive Presence Rules

It is difficult to standardise a learning process to cultivate gravitas. Yet many organisations try, with a one size fits all coaching or training programmes. Group exercises with prescribed prompts relating to values or personal qualities are often carried out. In a like and click internet culture, these can be less effective than they were in the 50s when Jahari’s Window  for example was originally designed. They can interfere with the real work you need to present your best self. Thinking. Not clicking. This inner work can be really challenging.

Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.  J.F. Kennedy

I would suggest only using these exercises if you are really stuck.

Ask the right questions

if you wrote your own speech for your leaving party what would you say? Ask yourself the questions: what do you want to be known for? What do you regularly achieve? Are you the person who respects people’s time, communicates courteously and effectively, asks the right questions, listens attentively and smiles hello in the corridor?  Do people come to you to ask for your opinion or feedback? Are you open to feedback?

Or are you always late, poor at listening and responding, or bring your stress to the office?  Distracted or unwilling to engage. In many ways some of this is common sense and old school courtesy. Like many things, executive presence can be built up by small daily habits built upon from self- insight, that eventually become who you are. Trust is rooted in a reliability to make the right choices and decisions.

“We become what we repeatedly do.” Sean Covey

I ran a training programme for an international company last year, where for some reason 70% of the group had not done the pre-course work, despite the best efforts of the organiser. The group clearly under performed and their lack of innate skills was exposed and they were vulnerable.  Some embraced the learning experience. Others became defensive.

Executive Presence is an “E” concept, so preparation is critical for introverts. Without it they will get left behind in the promotion process. This is the group which is more frequently told they have no EP or charisma.

Inside Out Work

Charisma checklist

How does the inside out process work? It’s about:

  • Knowing yourself, your values and passions and what you stand for and against.
  • Creating  a powerful, passionate, impactful message, preferably  with humour. People love to smile. This can be a major stumbling block for many, but can be learned.
  • Sharing your great message whenever you can. The ability to weave your story into any situation in an appropriate way, conveying a benefit, shows mental agility and flexibility.
  • Developing strong people skills. Treating everyone with warmth, respect and consideration. Every day. Asking questions, listening and being present.
  • Making a great first impression. Make sure people remember you. Presenting your best self whenever you can. Pay attention to your professional image and finding the right balance between compliance and authenticity. Remember women are judged more harshly than men in this area.
  • Getting comfortable with the right kind of discomfort – by that I mean a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. Anyone who displays that kind of openness, is able to embrace change and will stop trying to control the conditions that make them feel secure. Whatever they are. This allows you to step up when you might have held back. If you hold back on something because you are nervous  – this means you need training or coaching. Make sure you get it.

When you have completed your inside out work you will have the skills and tools that will give you mental agility to present your best self even under pressure. You will have the presence of mind to take advantage of spontaneous opportunities to advance your career. It also makes you a great brand ambassador for your company.

Outside-In Work

This is about how you present yourself to the world. It is about trainable skills around communication and appearance.  It covers professional image, voice, smile, eye contact, and posture. This comes easily to people who have done their inside out work and is the easy part. Many great leaders have had coaching for presentation skills or voice.

Gravitas is not necessarily about age, as you can see from the video below. Malala Yousafzai was only 16 when she addressed the United Nations.

Companies encouraging employees to do their inside out work early on, will have a greater chance of grooming higher numbers for senior management  roles and strengthening their talent pipeline much earlier. Quite often this is left to leadership training when for some it can already be too late.

For any information on executive search, coaching and training services contact me here.

 

 

Metrics: If you can’t measure it – don’t mention it

The Peter Drucker phrase “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”  has been around in management training manuals for decades.  With some dissenting views, it is widely accepted if not as a business truism,  certainly as  a useful guideline and management tool.

I’m a big subscriber to that philosophy.

Why "if you can't measure it -don't mention it makes perfect sense".

Why “if you can’t measure it, don’t mention it” makes perfect sense.

Metrics

We are seeing a convergence between the marketing techniques usually associated with entrepreneurs and businesses with individual self promotion (in biz patois Personal Branding,)  with the the same measurable values starting to become applicable. Many balk  at this shift,  feeling that people are becoming commoditized.  But are they really? All this really involves is simply a move from a task and chronology mindset, to a result, achievement and skills focus.

Just as we don’t care about the detail of the business process for any organisation,  we are also starting to expect the same approach on individual resumes and profiles.  We don’t care how smart phones are made. We just want to know what they can do for us. When we  buy jars and tubes of emulsified chemicals from L’Oreal, we buy products that are hopefully going to  magically transform us – even if it’s only in our imagination. We are buying the added value. Why? Because we are worth it.

The management accountant who produces monthly reports and forecasts using Bex Analyser and Excel would be better placed telling us what he used that information for,  rather than describing the detail of the routine task.  If this can be followed with a metric and results so much the better.

If you are “young and dynamic”  I need to know what difference that will make to an organisation. If it means you have just graduated  at the top of your class with the most up to date mathematical models to support faster analysis of business processes at your finger tips. Tell me that.

These are just two conversations I had this week alone.

Need help identifying your transferable skills? Check out the individual coaching programmes

Forget cute, metrics matter!

Very often people are so focused on being cute, zany or idiosyncratic that their message becomes simply verbiage and we have no idea at all what they mean.  I am highly literate so always recognise the individual words,   but sometimes I have no clue what the person actually does in a joined up sentence. “Effective change agent,  crisis manager,  business turn around leader.”  A crisis could be a merger, takeover or a blocked loo.  What sorts of businesses, crises and changes? What were the outcomes? Can this person do that for us, is the over-riding question of any employer.  If it’s not clear and the question has to be asked,  the risk of losing the reader (me) has already increased. I have the attention span of a gnat. And I am slow!

Just as when we buy a lap- top we will want to have some information on the basic features (weight, operating system, colours, memory, hard drive etc)  the main questions will be centred around what value that lap- top can add,  how we can benefit from it and how we can best use it for our own purposes.

Job search processes are no different. If a computer had a “buy this computer”   sign on it, wouldn’t you ask “Why? What will it do for me?”

Candidates are no different.

5 Personal branding tips for women

Stand out!
According to Connie Glaser, author and women’s leadership expert, societal expectations for female behavior promote modesty and collaboration,  but these characteristics don’t necessarily lead to professional advancement. This requires actions closely associated with  standing out from the crowd  rather than  blending in,  by being able to identify, articulate and promote our USPs.

We know that women are competitive and are more than willing to be highly visible in all sorts of other arenas  (homes, husbands, kids, recipes, gardens,  b.m.i.). But how can women overcome this reluctance to self promote professionally and develop a badly needed personal brand,  which for many doesn’t come naturally?

Snow boarding is a learned skill.  So are driving and dancing. But women do learn how to do all three.

 

Tasteful  self – promotion

 

It’s not necessary to stand on a soap box proclaiming brilliance to the world.  Women can do some or all of the following to promote their success stories:

5 personal braning tips for women

  • Self-insight :  Women need to be able to identify, recall and articulate those successes, both on demand and even when not requested. There are no short cuts.
  • Use powerful vocabulary: there is no need to appear boastful. If you ran a team of 100, or closed a deal worth several million  – simply say that. It’s not necessary to embellish by telling people what a great sales person  or manager you are – that will now be evident. Powerful action words such as led, ran, created, drove, initiated, generated, leveraged should feature regularly in  self evaluations.
  • Harness modern technology :  women are great at building relationships and should leverage these to generate recommendations for their  LinkedIn profiles, creating websites showing testimonials and  by keeping copies of any complimentary emails and performance reviews for future  use.
  • Accept praise and compliments graciously: bite your lip on lines such as “it was nothing ” or  “it was a team effort” or ” I got lucky“. It is OK to say “I worked really hard and am very proud of the result.”   Don’t forget we create our own luck.
  • Create a  strategic network.   Extending brand reach by widening your reputation. Set up a professional profile ona platforms such as LinkedIn, Xing or Viadeo.  Tap into your Facebook network for professional purposes as well as social relationships.  Being known as a strong resource will be always be helpful.   Find people to support, sponsor and mentor you,  not just to chat to! Return the favour.  Let people around you know what your goals are and that you are ambitious.

Women also have to be prepared to ask for support. They seek specialist advice from others in every area imaginable: physical fitness,  snowboarding, their nails, health issues, styling, children  and marriage guidance, but place far less emphasis on professional support.

This is an additional barrier which needs tackling .

Portfolio Careers: impact on workplace & jobseeker

A Portfolio Careers “a tapestry of a variety of eclectic employment experiences; employment in a series of short-contract or part-time positions

Not new but on the increase

The term Portfolio Career is being used in current business  vernacular with the same type of smug and superior “in the know -ness,”  as we might have seen when the atom was split or  the wheel invented. I always smile indulgently! The concept of a portfolio career is actually far from new. What is new is the number who have embarked on this career path.

“Moonlighting” has long been a euphemism associated with individuals aspiring to break into such professions as acting, music, arts, writing etc, or others running more than one job. As companies abandon the corporate  “cradle to grave” employment concepts,  and move towards the leaner and meaner machines of more recent times, we had already started to see the beginnings of this seismic shift some years ago. Business Week referenced the changing work place practise of  Perma Temps, as organisations began to seek flexible ( =  disposable) workforces, to allow rapid response to fast changing business conditions.

I view and review literally hundreds of CVs in any given week. Although predicted by all the trend spotters, the shift to individuals having an increasing  number of jobs and spending less time in each, is becoming very marked. I am  often asked to avoid “hoppers/movers/jumpers”, but that is now an outmoded concept, particularly as younger age demographics move between jobs more strategically, with periods of employment, also punctuated by stints in further education.

No alternatives

Portfolio  careers and the wearing of many hats was once associated with mid- career or older professionals, perhaps after redundancy seeking a better work / life balance,  or when there were no other options. It was considered a fall back position. We are now seeing younger  Gen Yers build up this type of career, not because they particularly seek an improved quality of life, but because they have to tap into different parts of their skill sets, simply to  get a job,  any job. This is also apparent when coaching career changers pursuing MBA courses,  when I have come across a range of skills from Project Management, entrepreneurial roles, to professional photography, all in the same student.  The real challenge is to create an interesting and credible career profile to showcase success stories, transferable skills and the lessons learned from such diverse backgrounds and interests.

Choice

However, there are people who simply prefer the variety, flexibility and freedom offered by tapping into a wide range of skills, so they choose a wider portfolio career, over a more traditional focused one.  At one time a portfolio career was considered to be higher risk than a corporate role. Today, I’m not sure that is the case. Portfolio careers suit disciplined, self motivated people with strong time management skills,  who have a variety of skills and interests, as well as the drive to go out and market and monetize them. Portfolio careers are also generally associated with adept networkers and can be a great route to gaining experience in a new field, whilst maintaining a part-time role in a traditional job in line with a professional background. Many do just that.

Challenges

The real issue will be for the demographic which doesn’t voluntarily choose this more entrepreneurial style of career strategy.  Flexibility for companies is key, of course, but if organisations aren’t careful, they can wind up searching for new talent in an alienated and demotivated workforce, which has struggled to gain skills in a wide range of unstructured and less professional environments. It also means a  quantum shift from lazy and uninsightful  “copy / paste” recruitment methodologies, sadly  relied upon by companies and some search consultants alike.

Read also: Career path replaced by Cluster Career