Deciding to change career paths can be daunting. Where do you actually start? In this piece, the author offers four concrete ways to ease the transition: 1) Start by mapping the terrain. Read the bios and LinkedIn profiles of senior leaders or fast-growing colleagues and reverse engineer the path they took. This enables you – if you wish – to draw up a comparable step-by-step plan. 2) Recognize that you have to take the lead. 3) Network to give yourself freedom of choice. As a newcomer to your field, you may have ended up with a sub-optimal company (for example, a company with a toxic work environment or declining fortunes) without realizing it, as it is likely easier for outsiders to break into an industry at a company that insiders avoid. So network wide, because if your first landing pad doesn’t fit, you’ll want to change quickly. 4) Identify new opportunities. If you can become the “go-to” person in an area of increasing importance, you can often build a career path around it.
When professionals reinvent themselves, they often feel like they have to start all over again and that their past connections and experience don’t count in their new realm. Your skills and network are probably more transferable than you think. But it’s also true that you may feel confused for a while as you orientate yourself on the way things work in your new career.
As I found out by researching my book Reinventing youhere are four strategies for building a career path for yourself in your new venture, even if you’re still figuring things out.
Map the terrain.
In the early days of building a career in a new field, you may be unsure of the most important questions: Which skills or behaviors are rewarded and which lead to career stagnation? How long does it usually take to progress to a managerial position? What should you expect? Even if it’s a tedious process, things will feel more in control if you have a sense of typical patterns, such as “Senior leaders almost always have a financial background,” or “It usually takes X years to get a promotion to VP.” to get.” Conduct informative interviews and don’t be afraid to ask your manager or colleagues what traits the most successful people in your company or industry share. You can also read the bios and LinkedIn profiles of senior leaders or fast-growing colleagues and reverse engineer the path they took. This allows you to create a similar roadmap if you wish.
Recognize that you must take the lead.
In the past, companies often had clear career paths for their employees: You got on the escalator after college, and—assuming you performed well—would simply step down 30 years later, seamlessly whisked up to a higher rung and salary range. For better and worse, that unified, standardized experience has almost completely disappeared from today’s business — though many employees don’t quite realize it.
A common theme in my speaking work is that companies bring me in during their “career month” activities to explain to employees that they need to proactively raise their hands to find the opportunities they want, and that there are likely many more sideways moves. will be (to new geographies, functional roles and more), rather than a steep and semi-guaranteed climb in a narrow area. As a newcomer to a field, you’ll be ahead of the competition if you recognize from the outset that you need to plan and work on your progress, rather than letting things be pigeonholed without your active participation.
Network to give yourself freedom of choice.
If you are entering a new field, your network is probably not yet very developed in this area. Double click to correct this, for three reasons. First, in the early days of a new career, you may have no idea where exactly you fit. For example, you might enter the marketing field with a job focused on social media, but later discover that you prefer to focus on long content. Networking at scale allows you to discover facets of your new field that you may not have even been aware of – and where you could ultimately excel.
Second, it’s important to note that you need to consciously cultivate your network both inside and outside your company. As a newcomer to your field, you may have ended up with a sub-optimal company (for example, a company with a toxic work environment or declining fortunes) without realizing it, as it is likely easier for outsiders to break into an industry at a company that insiders avoid. So network wide, because if your first landing pad doesn’t fit, you’ll want to change quickly.
Finally, most jobs are found through “weak tie” connections. Especially if you’ll be in this field for the long haul, the composite value of early-stage relationship building is significant because these are the people who will be pinging you about job openings in 10 years.
Identify emerging opportunities.
One of the best ways to build a career path for yourself is to invent one. in my book excel, I profile Mike Lydon, a young urban planner who successfully launched his own company – amid the economic turmoil of the Great Recession – based on his expertise in tactical urban planning, a new development in his field. Because it was an emerging trend, no other company had cornered the market, and Mike was able to quickly become a recognized expert, by compiling extensive case studies and widely sharing them, without directly to take on the giants in the industry . If you can become the “go-to” person in an area of increasing importance, you can often build a career path around it.
Life, admittedly, would be much easier if we could just step on predetermined career paths. But nowadays that is generally not an option. We must identify or create them – and pursue them aggressively. It may sound exhausting — like an extra task to take on — but it’s also an opportunity to chart a career path that better aligns with our own interests and talents. By following these four strategies, you are much more likely to get the long-term career you want.