5 Steps If You Are In Transition
3 years ago, I went through what I felt was a major transition. I left a stable, public sector job and set up my own solo business. On the last day at my job, I felt both a sense of liberation and fear. With no clear business plan in hand (my business plan was a sketch in my notebook), I was lost and doubted whether I had made the right decision. Yet even though my mind had doubts, my heart knew it was right for me.
As I grappled to put together a business plan, I thought that with each day I would get more clarity. But clarity was elusive, and I started to feel that perhaps I was hoping for something that I would not be able to nail down in my head. I needed to act before I could get clarity. I needed to learn from my actions. This cycle of action and reflection helped me to get through the transition years (sometimes it feels like I’m still transiting but that’s a different storyJ).
Coincidentally, in the past few weeks I have met a number of wonderful ladies who shared that they are thinking of transiting in various ways – either going back to work after a long gap, changing jobs or leaving their jobs. Many asked for my advice. I am cautious about giving generic advice as I recognise that each of us have a different ‘back story’ and my tips may not apply to all. But I also feel that some practical steps can generate momentum to help people move toward especially if you feel stuck during the transition.
If you are in transition or thinking of a career transition, here are my 5 tips to help you get started. As a caveat, these tips helped me, but you will have to see if they suit your context.
- Your head shot
It can feel quite counter intuitive to take a photo of yourself as one of the first things when in transition. You not may think this is important to begin with but just get it done. Better yet, get a professional head shot which is sharp, clear and in high resolution. If possible, have 2 versions of head shots – one that is more corporate-looking and another more relaxed and which reflects your personality. Trust me, get your photo done. I find that my photo is one of the first things people notice about me online and often I get asked for my profile photo. Your photo also will come in handy if you decide to have a website or have an online presence.
- Update Linkedln profile and your resume
Not a fun thing to do for most people but do get your Linkedln profile and resume updated. If you feel stuck, just start with a chronological list of your job and roles so far.Then step back and see what your strengths are and what is something you have that others would appreciate. For example, are you someone with expertise in managing a globally diverse team or do you have experience in a certain industry? There is a plethora of resume templates online to help and I find the most important thing is to nail your first 1-2 paragraphs of your resume. Have a longer version with all the roles you have held and a shorter 1-page version.
- A service or product that people might want. Test it pro bono first
One of the initial challenges I hear people have is what exactly to “sell” if they start their own business. If you are unsure, try to offer it pro bono first to get some feedback from others. For example, I started by coaching my colleagues first which gave me immediate feedback and I had a coach supervisor to help me make sense of my coaching experience. Even if your service or product is not complete, just go with a prototype. One of the best pieces of advice I got was that it is better to be prolific than to be perfect. Go with your prototype and then tweak it as you get feedback.
Another tip (I know I’m squeezing this here) – put yourself out here on social media. You can blog, write short pieces or just post pictures that is relevant to your product or service. The writing can help to establish you as a thought leader but more importantly it will give you the discipline of reflecting.
- A “tribe” or community you can connect with
If you plan to start your own business, it can get a little lonely initially. Join a community that can help you stay connected. In fact, join a few communities so that you can feel and decide which one resonates the most with you. You could even consider creating your own community around your product or service as there will likely be others who need connection too. Keep it simple and support one another.
- Make your employer your client
You know the old saying “don’t burn your bridges when you leave an organization”? Well I think instead of not burning your bridge, you should think about building your bridgeswhen you leave. Don’t underestimate the power of your network and the people who know you at work. Let people know what your plans are and ask for help. Be clear and specific in what you ask and there is a higher chance you will receive it. For example, would your employer be willing to give you a contract to work on a project for a limited duration? Organisations often have pending work that people can’t find the time to complete so maybe you could offer to get it done. Plus, you will have the added advantage of knowing their processes and system. Collect testimonials and referrals as you go along. Some of my initial work after I left my job came from my ex-bosses and colleagues – which I’m very grateful for. Notice I said the “power of your network” and not networking. While both are important I think that we tend to network and look for new leads rather than tap on the networks we already have.
So, here you have it, my top 5 tips if you are in transition. None of the tips are quick-fixes unfortunately. Getting through the transition can take time and effort but with some planning and intentionality, you can definitely get the momentum going. Just take one step at a time and make sure you have some support in your journey.
I notice that I have spoken about the practical aspects of transitions here. Perhaps I am working off the energy of the people I met recently who asked for transition advice. There is of course the emotional aspect that we will go through in transition as well. Let me know if you would like me to write about that 🙂