Last year, when I decided to leave my management consulting career to pursue my passion in coaching, I did not have an idea about how I was going to make this work. I had met a couple of executive coaches during business school but beyond that I neither had the network nor the knowledge to further develop my coaching career. I knew I could read articles and do research online to learn more about this new field. However, I also knew that in order to make any substantial progress (such as landing a new job in the desired field or starting a practice), I need to be talking to people.
But how do I know who to talk to? and how do I reach them? To answer the first question, you need to know what you want in your next career move. Do you need to find experts with whom you can conduct informational interviews? Do you need job leads or referrals? I have encountered people in career transition without a clear sense of what they want next. This makes it extremely difficult for them to communicate their goals and for others to help them. If you are in this situation, I would encourage you to take some time to reflect, talk to family and friends, or engage with a career coach to figure out what you would like to pursue for the next phase of your career.
Once I figured out what I want and who I want to meet. I started reaching out, or in more business terms, "networking". Many job seekers don't make an effort to publicize their job seeking status. Many even consciously hide their situation to others due to pride. I would argue that "asking for what you want" is the number one under-utilized tool in career transition. We all know that 80% of jobs are not advertised, but how can we get access to these information without letting others know that we are looking for them? Sure, some of us are not at liberty to share that we are in the job market due to our current employment. I would argue that there is still a good amount of people you can reach out to and ask for help without risking your current employment.
- Sending an email to my co-workers and friends asking for referrals. The key here is to be as specific as possible (your goal, who you want to talk to, for what purposes, etc.) so that others know what to offer you.
- Reaching out to experts on LinkedIn. Starting with 2nd degree connections and ask for introductions. For "cold" invites (3rd degree and beyond), ALWAYS customize your invitation message.
- Talking to friends, family members, even strangers who I meet at parties and events about my career transition. Ask for relevant connections/referrals if appropriate.
- After I finish an informational interview with an expert, I always ask for additional people that he or she can connect me with.
This would not have happened if I did not take the initiative to ask for help. Therefore, I invite you to identify you goals, reach out to those around you and simply ask.