If contemplating a switch from your current career, get ready to eat some humble pie before you can enjoy your just desserts.
Transferrable skills form the foundation of a step change but plan on some twists and turns before you arrive at your destination. Start by taking inventory of all you‘ve done in your professional and personal lives and draw from lessons learned in both arenas.
As an HR executive who turned in her corporate keys a few years ago, I contemplated a new path but was unsure of what it would be or how I would get there. It’s been three years since embarking on a new profession as a résumé writer, career coach, and freelance writer. In many ways, it feels as though the journey has just begun. Here’s how it all started.
BUILD A PORTFOLIO IN INCREMENTAL STEPS
My foray into the brave new world began with a U-turn as I attempted to leave my comfort zone but instead gravitated to the familiar. Pivot #1 proved a mini step while venturing into the consulting world and performing work as an interim HR director. Not the boldest move, but it allowed me to ease on down the road and transition from a W-2 employee to a 1099 contractor. Then life took an unexpected turn and personal matters demanded attention.
Next on the horizon was the sale of a family business. Every turn presents an opportunity to parlay past experiences and apply them in a new context. That’s exactly what I did. The discipline of managing projects and defining critical paths proved invaluable in balancing objective and emotional decisions related to the sale. Establishing a sound valuation of the business formed the foundation to go forward.
Start every deal by knowing what your assets are worth or risk leaving fate to chance. Learn the art of negotiating and understand that no one gets it all…and shouldn’t. Compromise will always lead to the best outcome.
WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, OPEN THE DOOR AND LET IT IN
Serendipity is a real phenomenon, so seize the moment when opportunity lands on your doorstep. Just as HR consulting started to lose its luster (same sh*t, new setting), my former boss came knocking to test my interest in co-authoring a book. Neither of us had ever written for a living but collectively we formed a good brain trust as subject matter experts on navigating the workplace. We decided to share our knowledge with the universe and author a book. Who would our target audience be; Gen X, Y, or maybe Baby Boomers?
If two heads are better than one, then three proved to be best. Play to your strengths and call in the reinforcements when you’re out of your depth. Our talent pool consisted of finance and HR but lacked a marketer. We enlisted the third co-author to help define who our readers would be and landed on millennials, the future workforce who could also benefit the most.
The collaboration created a much better end product, but operating as a loose affiliation of talent rather than functioning in a traditional corporate setting presented new and challenging dynamics. Yet, out of it all emerged a revelation that I just may have found writing as my new path, and the spark was ignited!
Just as I was romancing my new found love of words did I find myself abandoned at the altar. The editing and publishing process began and with it came growing pains. Think you are a good writer? Get ready for a soul-crushing experience once the red lines and editorial comments arrive. The labor of love quickly dissolved into labor only as the showdown commenced between authors and editors on what words should stay and which would ultimately have to go.
Remember the humble pie? It was now time to eat a large slice of it. The pivoting process involves accepting reality. Potential and enthusiasm will only take you so far. With limited knowledge and experience, it’s time to respect and accept feedback from those who’ve been in the world you’re attempting to enter.
STRENGTHEN YOUR SKILLS AND ENGAGE IN VOLUNTEER WORK
Flex your newly acquired muscles, and try some pro bono work. Find a safe place to test your skills. When still an HR exec, I volunteered at a local career and networking center, conducting 1:1 sessions, facilitating accountability groups, and presenting workshops. Only in this go-round, I shifted to the other side of the desk and represented the perspectives of the job seeker, not HR.
Volunteer work presented a safe place to practice and develop career coaching skills, expand my network and continue to help job seekers. I also joined two other nonprofits to provide coaching and résumé writing to millennials and used lessons learned about this demographic from my book-writing experience. Keep weaving the thread from all you’ve done.
EXPLORE MODELLING AS A SPRINGBOARD TO THE NEXT VERSION OF YOU
No, not the runway type, but find inspiration from people whose careers you aspire to. Find a healthy balance between wanting to “arrive” too quickly and plan to earn your stripes. Develop a signature style and hone your skills if you want to compete with those who have gone before you.
Find new tribes and hang on to the old ones if they serve as crossovers to your new career. I remain active with HR associations to stay connected with workplace trends and employment law but have thrown out a wider net and joined résumé writing and coaching groups. Expand your horizons and follow the industry icons, attend their webinars, and read their articles for inspiration.
Abandon all thoughts of becoming an overnight sensation; it only happens in the movies. Work hard, keep learning, and practice what you will be preaching. It’s the only way to succeed.
PAVE THE WAY WITH CONTINUOUS LEARNING
While I had some proof of my word-smithing ability, I took it to the next level and enrolled in a writing excellence course. I engaged in some friendly fire and challenged my teacher about the intrinsic value of prescriptive résumé-writing guidelines but respectfully submitted to the wisdom of the pros. Another bitter pill to swallow after spending a lifetime in talent acquisition! I had to accept that career coaching was not the same as years spent in HR or choose to die on the vine.
It’s been three years since embarking on this new life’s journey. While this new career is not a dramatic departure from the old, it has taken more effort than I originally anticipated. However, the rewards have also been more incredible than imagined.
I believe someday (lots of people) will clamor for my grammar but until that happens, the joy of putting pen to paper will do. I now understand that writing was not just something I could do, but rather something I couldn’t not do, and that has made all the difference. I have the good fortune of helping give voice to job seekers to pursue their dreams while I get to chase mine, too. It’s about finding your purpose-no matter what stage of life you’re in. Be open to what comes next and the rest will follow.