I didn’t have an EXACT idea of what direction I wanted to take when I went to graduate school. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do but not specific enough to have a course of action that would be helpful. There was too much ambiguity. My course of action meant being very busy with tons of internships and classes in all the subject areas I thought I should know. Being busy became a substitute for having a plan. It wasn’t until I randomly scheduled a class to fit into a specific schedule that I found the area I wanted to work in, but not what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, it was near the end of my academic career. This didn’t really leave time for fine-tuning, or exploring.
At the end, I had a schizophrenic transcript and internships. My internship experiences – and I packed in a ridiculous amount – ended up being in areas I did not want to follow up with. I scrambled after school and took the first opportunity that came my way instead of intelligently planning my next steps. Sure, I was employed quickly but not in anything I wanted to do. Brain numbed and pointlessly strenuous wouldn’t even being to describe this position. As it was no more than a half year researcher position, I moved on eventually to an UNPAID internship…in exactly what I DIDN’T want to do, related to the same thing as my last researcher position. I was scrambling remember? I had a path now – not in anything I wanted. An externship, a short term project role and a post-grad internship had led me to an area I had ZERO interest in. So, when I go to recruiters and they focus on this aspect of my resume, I cringe inside.
Realistically, I don’t have a concrete post-grad connection to what I want to do. This makes the submission of my resume for these roles like throwing a stone in a black hole. I ain’t never hearing back! 😦 While my most current work experience is adaptable and represents key experience in various deparments and functions – I do NOT have the TITLE or the FIELD they want. Bummer. In this instance, you need a hiring manager who can see adaptability. This went out of style circa 2008. Deal with it.
The “scarier” the times, the more inflexible and exact people become about their hiring requirements. It is now about hiring the person who has EXACTLY the same background, using the same skills set, in the same exact way, in the same industry, of another similar company. The only other OUT is finding someone high up in the company who can VOUCHE for you regardless of your background. I have a number of colleagues who were able to get positions because of this, despite not meeting the “requirements” for the position. (BTW, they are all doing fantastically well. So much for the necessity of those “requirements.”) They only prove the importance of networking. Their relationships proved invaluable. Networking is an absolute necessity. Business is about building relationships. But that’s only part of the work you need to do.
At this point, I know I have to redirect. Start over. However, I refuse to go back to school, although I know some people who did, but there is no way I am adding MORE student loans! I am making do with what I have. Ultimately, I decided that I needed to start making serious connections within the field I want to work in. This is VERY difficult if you are NOT currently a student, or are several years removed from graduation.
Having said that – I am still luckier than many folks in the same predicament. I at least have work experence of any kind. I went to a recruiter not too longer ago and he said he keeps getting resumes from folks who just graduated, and he can’t do anything with their resumes because they have no experience. OUCH! How exactly are they supposed to get experience if they can’t GET experience? Unpaid internships, BABY. That’s foul, but it was what I instinctivey knew when I graduated – I needed any job of significance. The fact that it wasn’t paid did not matter. For those out there just graduated from college or higher – keep this in mind.
So, here I am plotting. Reverse engineering my career. What the hell is that? I am going to plot my career going backwards. Instead of figuring out what I need by building up, I am going to figure out the steps by researching backwards. This means identifying the business, then companies, and then individual position I want. I have a industry and type of companies in mind. Now, I need to isolate the business practice areas that have low entry costs (but low competition, as well) that naturally match up with my interests and/or skillsets. Score! Found two! Always better to have multiple options of equal value to work on.
Back to the reverse engineering. Once I isolated key areas integral to the business, I focus on the various roles connected to that area. I need to work my way down to the very basic, entry level position. How amusing that I discover these “entry level” positions require 1-2 years experience. No matter. I am on a mission. A search through job descriptions helps me fine tune what it is I need to know and do, as well as prerequisites. I know the most difficult part will be convincing the gatekeeper to let me into that first role, which from the looks of it while likely have to be an internship of some sort. OUCH! You have to pay your dues, regardless, where ever you are.
I’ve done the basic career plotting. I need to go back to more targeted networking. This type of networking is more fine-tuned because you have an agenda connected to getting a specific type of experience, or knowledge. I find the more fine tailored the information you are seeking, the more willing people are to giving it. What has this netted me so far? I got an informational interview with a senior executive at a major multinational conglomerate (utilize those alumni connections folks!) and another from a board member of an industry professional group with actual know how in the field I want to break into. From the senior executive, I was able to get invaluable advice and a career retrospective about how they ended up in their position, as well as two other senior executive contacts that I could reach out to using the executive’s recommendation as an introduction. Their experience is more general, but they may be able to provide contact information for someone within the same area I am trying to redirect my career towards. The goal is to create an advice chain that could present me with the right “opportunity” – whatever that is. From the other contact with field experience and academic know how, I am getting a primer on what I need to know in order to break into the field I want to, as well as a meet and greet, and potentially more contacts.
I am just getting started. When it comes to your career, you have to be proactive. Everyone knows there was a paradigm shift with the labor market circa 2008. Those of us who have graduated since that shift, from whatever level of schooling, have to work with what is out there. But I don’t think that means you throw your hands up in the air. If you are not where you want to be, where ever that is, you need to be a risk taker and figure out a way to put yourself where you want to be – even in crappier times. Some folks are lucky and were able to figure out early on where they wanted to be, and maybe that career already had a well documented path. But sometimes you don’t know and it takes you longer to figure it out. Maybe, it is not a well documented path. Maybe, too many people want on that path and the barriers are high. Doesn’t matter. You need to try. Otherwise, you are one of those people who hates your job. Maybe, you are phoning it in or are doing the bare minimum. Or maybe, you are giving 110%, but you are always left drained because the effort to do your best at something you would rather not be doing. Whatever it is, try to shake it up and get to where you want to be.
I am not keen on STARTING OVER. Frankly, I feel like a bit of a dumbass. When you are in your thirties, it’s basically your ego that holds you back from whatever action you need to take to be where you want to be. Well ego, it’s been great knowing you and I know you will be sulking in the corner somewhere, but I have to do me, and hiding behind “it’s the market!” isn’t going to cut it any more. Neither is continuing to go down a path I don’t want that makes my stomache drop just thinking about it.
How convenient then, that it is the end of the year, and that I will be going hard into the new year with A PLAN, meeting new people and putting myself out there with a direction in mind? Awesome timing. Even better when I saw this article about two weeks ago, which pretty much affirmed what I was doing. I don’t know if my new course will pan out the way I want it to, but at least I know I tried. If there is one thing I have picked up on on the tons of studies down with professionals it is that many regret not taking the chance, or making the change – whatever that is. I want to make sure that I am not one of them.