Thinking about changing your career?

Are you dis-satisfied with your career and thinking about making a change? Perhaps you have been in the same job for many years and just want a change or you realize that they profession you chose earlier in life was not what you were passionate about.

If this sounds like you, chances are you:

  1. Want a change
  2. Don’t like some aspect of what you do
  3. Can articulate what you are good at
  4. Have a good idea about what you do not know
  5. Are not sure how to go about figuring it all out

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It is all a bit confusing, because the possibilities are endless and you don’t know where to start.

Here lies the quandary. There are many ways to recast your career. How you do it will be unique to you. Are you taking a sharp right turn by changing some of what you do or how you do it? Or are you taking a 180° turn and re-inventing yourself?

To be successful in either approach, think about whether you can do it alone, with some help from your mentors or if working with a career coach to deliver results. Bottom line, you will work harder than you ever thought with deep thinking, reflection and researching your options that have been narrowed down through the process.

I think that people underestimate how long it takes to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. Let’s be clear – no one can tell you what you should do in a matter of minutes.

Someone may guide you based on career assessment work you have completed. Many of my clients take the Strong Interested Inventory to find possible career fields other than where they are working today.

One approach I use in career coaching is to explore how intersections of your strengths and preferences open up new career opportunities to explore. When you find that sweet spot there is nothing more satisfying.

Just know that no matter how impossible it may seem to get to the place you want to be, you can do it. One step at a time.

How Parents can help their Child’s Career

First of all, kudos to the parents who realize that their child is struggling in their career and want to do something to help them. What you do and how you do it impacts how your child reacts to your help. Depending on the age of your child, they may take advice from you about their career, or not. 

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More often, they are at that age where your relationship is a little awkward. They are striving to be independent and let’s face it; taking advice from their parents doesn’t fit with their perception of independence.  So what do you do?

Parents – avoid giving direct advice

You may have many life lessons to share that would be valuable to your child – I don’t want to discount what you have to offer. Wait for them to ask for it and then give it small doses.

Figure out if you want it more than they do

It is OK to want the best for your children. However, if you want it more than your child you may need to curb your enthusiasm. It’s their career and until they ask for help, they probably are not ready to receive help. You don’t want to be a helicopter parent.

Transitions are a vulnerable time

Let’s think of it from their side, transitions into a career or new life stage is challenging. It’s a vulnerable time in their life – fear of being seen as unsuccessful, a failure, weak or unskillful. They want to be seen as strong and successful in your eyes so coming to you with these concerns is difficult. Even career experts who are parents realize that if the advice comes from someone else, there is a greater chance for success.

Provide the Gift of Resources

One of the best ways you can help your child is to offer support. That support could be in the form of:

  • Sharing resources or articles from the internet (don’t bombard them – a quick note saying you found this interesting is all you have to say)
  • Introductions to people (offer to make the connection but let them initiate the contact)
  • Financial support to work with a career coach (let them make the final decision on who they want to work with)

Bottom Line

Your child has to want to do something about their situation. You may give support financially or with other resources, but they have to be in the driver’s seat on making decisions that affect their career or life transition. If you take away that sense of independent thinking, it will affect their progress towards their goal.

How to find your Employer’s Address

What do you do when you need to find your employer’s address after being fired and they are not responding to any requests for information? Here’s a situation that one reader wrote me about:

I got fired from my job on Jan 3, 2014 due to being sick to many times. I tried to file unemployment and need the employer name and address, the company I work for is owned by another company and I don’t know the address of the company, we never got pay stubs as it was all done direct deposit.

I tried going onto the website to view the paystub and couldn’t get on, I have called our Human Resources department and was given the run around. I have sent emails several times to the parent company with no response. I don’t know what to do? Any help you can give me would help me.

Thank you, C

Response: You probably have a complicated situation and it is going to take some investigation and persistence to find an answer. It is not surprising that your employer is being slow to respond after you have left employment. Here are a few options for you to find an employer’s address:

  • If you have been working for over a year – check your W-2 form from last year. Your ex-employer has an obligation to report your wages and send you a copy. This document should have the information or if you have to wait until the end of January this year, you will receive one for this past year’s earnings.
  • Your bank may have copies of the information from the direct deposit that they can pull and you should find your employer’s address. Check to see if you can see the cancelled checks online before paying a fee for a hard copy of the cancelled check.
  • Your local unemployment office should be able to help you find the employer information too because they have paid into the UE plan – don’t use the automated phone – go down and sit with them and explain your situation.
  • If you received an offer letter, the employer’s address should be included on it.
  • Look for any communication that may have been sent to you by mail or email from the company – you many find your employer’s address on the letterhead.
  • Check with the insurance company under which you are being covered to find your employer’s address.

In conclusion, it is a good idea every time you begin employment with a company to write down their address and contact information. You never know when you’ll need it – even on the update for a resume!

How to write my ex-boss a thank you note for firing me

note-cardAs I was looking for a topic to write about, I decided to check out what people were searching on find Elephants at Work and this caught my eye: how to write my ex-boss a thank you note for firing me.

My first thought was, why would anyone want to write a thank you note when they got fired? Then again, there might be some very good reasons to do it.

You were fired from a job that you hated.

Perhaps being fired was the best thing that happened to you because you were stuck. It is hard to walk away from a job or company that pays the bills even if you hate the work or organization you work for. Perhaps your poor attitude was showing up in your work – let’s face it; your boss did the right thing.

You were fired because you were in over your head.

Sometimes you take a job or get promoted into job that is more than you can handle. It’s easy to see the signs – you may be put on a performance improvement plan or you are so stressed out that everyone around you is telling you the job is more than you can handle.

Hearing those comments may anger you – why doesn’t anyone believe in you or have confidence in what you can do? You don’t want to hear other people say you need to step away from this position or company. You find ways to cope by not listening or ignoring what you hear because deep down, you don’t want to fail.

Once you are fired, you feel like all the pressure is off you and you can finally relax. Now you realize that being fired was the answer.

Write your boss a thank you note for firing me.

Keep your thank you message short and sweet and write it in a way that you ex-boss will believe you are being sincere.

It’s not the time to go into all the details of your life. Just let your ex-boss know that you believe they made the right decision for the company and you. Moving on from that experience has given you the chance to explore opportunities that are better aligned with what you really want to do.

Kudos to the person searched on how to write a thank you note for firing me. It takes a confident person to send it.

How to Professionally Depart from an Employer

This letter – asking how to professionally depart from an employer – came in from a career coaching client who is caught up in an organizational reorganization at his company.

 I have decided to no longer pursue opportunities within (company) and will be formally accepting their generous severance offer effective 12/31/13.

I will be fully engaged in pursuing a new opportunity in 2014.

Was wondering if you might have a few quick links or references on how to professionally depart from my current employer….tidbits on how to handle e-mail, voice mail, and other details with class would be appreciated.

Thanks!

In this situation, the departure is being managed with lots of lead time by the company. Sometimes you are asked to go quickly and in those situations you won’t have the time to leave professionally.

When reorganizations occur and there is a transfer of work to other people, you will probably find time on your hands. Here are some things you can do to transition successfully:

Establish transition dates. Sit down with your boss to discuss transition timing on the projects or clients you are working with.  If there is one person that is taking your work, include them in the meeting so that expectations are clearly understood. If your work is going to multiple sources, create a project plan and outline the key areas and ask your boss to communicate his expectations to each of them.

My rule of thumb – you should be handing off all your work in the last two weeks of your job at the latest.  People have to know who they should go to after you have left. 

Professionally depart from an employerOrganize and clean out your files. Ask the person who is taking over your job, account, clients etc. what they would like to receive and send the files to them. There will be some files that can be disposed of such as old accounts or projects. Take home your personal files – files you brought into the job or files that pertain only to your work performance.

Forward your computer files. Forward files to the people who will be handling the projects or clients that you are no longer going to be responsible for once you leave the company. Make a list of those files that you are uncertain about and ask your boss what you should do with them.

Don’t assume that because there is a long list of cc’s on the email that the new person has access to that information. Forward any personal communication to your personal email account and delete it from the system.

Note: companies can review what you are sending via the internet so make sure the files you send are appropriate. Leave all company confidential materials intact.

Complete performance or interim reviews for staff. Even though you may be leaving, your staff will value your feedback on their performance. Help them with how to transition to their new boss and let them know you are OK with the decision – in fact, you are looking forward to something new!

What to say on voice mail. You may or may not have an opportunity to have voice mail at the company after you leave because the number may be reassigned or shut down. If you the company is going to let you have your voice mail afterward, simple let the caller know – who to talk to in your absence and that you have left the organization and maybe reached at (personal number). If you tell people ahead of time, you probably won’t have calls coming in.

Get your own phone, computer and car. If you are using the company phone, computer and car, expect your access to be curtailed. Even if you brought the phone number with you to this company, you may not be able to leave with it if the company is paying the cell phone bill. Investigate the options so you know if it is time to get a new cell phone number.

Inform your customers/clients/vendors/colleagues/friends about your departure. Use your judgment about when to communicate to others about your departure, if you are unsure, discuss it with your boss. Sometimes your departure is well-known so the issue is how to deal with the customers, clients or vendors.

If you are no longer servicing clients or working on projects, then communicate who is taking it over to help with the transition to the new contact person.

Given that you have a couple of months before you are leaving, make a list of who you need to contact and call them personally. The first one may be tough but it will get easier and you never know, they may have a job lead for you.

Absent time to make personal phone calls, craft a note and send it to your contacts. Develop several templates to use for different situations. Make sure you cc yourself on those communications with your personal email address so you have a record of their information. Let them know who to reach you after your departure – email and phone number.

Use LinkedIn. Make sure you are LinkedIn with your contacts and if not, ask them if they would like to be a part of your network. LinkedIn is a good place to find up-to-date information – email addresses, phone numbers, job titles and company information.

Assess who might serve as positive recommenders of your work and ask if they would be willing to write a recommendation on your behalf. Follow up with a request from LinkedIn and offer some suggestions on what they may include in their recommendation – in other words – make it easy for them.

If you get everything done, it’s time to start your job search. Don’t go drumming up work that will confuse people if you are staying or going. If your boss asks you to do a quick project, by all means work on it. However, your boss has probably already moved on to working with the new person. Use this time to ramp up your job search efforts.

It might feel like you should not be starting your job search at work, but the fact is they have eliminated your position. You have done everything you can for a smooth transition and to professionally depart from an employer, now it is time to focus on what’s next for you.

Science Degree and Liberal Arts: A Career Savvy Move

You don’t hear about it much – combining a science degree and liberal arts minor concentration in college. The fact is this combination can be a career savvy move and set you apart to get that dream job.

Last night my nephew, a freshman at The University of Texas, announced that he was a triple major – math, physics and astronomy on Facebook. I admit – I was a little flippant and asked why not a quad major? I asked that question not to encourage him to step up his overachiever goals in a specific area but to challenge him to stretch differently.

Science Degree and Liberal Arts may be your road to a dream jobMy suggestion was to minor in a Liberal Arts curriculum because that is what will set him apart when he graduates and interviews with companies. One of the major challenges solo track science and technical graduating students face with companies is that they lack social, oral and written skills that show a rounded job applicant.

In fact, parents who I have worked with realize this about their children – always too late. They have invested four years in their education only to find them struggling with the interview process. Here’s why.

Once you pass the first hurdle of meeting with a campus recruiter who verifies that you have their minimum credentials, the interview game ramps up quickly. The next step may be a one-on-one or team interview by phone or at the company. Then there is the last test.

Top notch graduates compete against other graduates in a very visible way. You may be invited to an event where the hiring executives will evaluate your social and oral skills against your peers. If you are a wall flower or handle yourself poorly in social settings, game over. Companies want employees who have the confidence to mingle and work together even in competing situations.

How a Science Degree and Liberal Arts Background Helps Your Career

Then there’s the longer term view of how a liberal arts background can serve your career. Companies have fewer top technical positions than they do business or management positions. When you manage people, your social, oral and written skills will be your primary vehicle for moving up the corporate ladder.

My advice: At the very least, take some liberal arts classes and stretch that right part of the brain.

The Career and Retirement Tango

Perhaps you are about to embark on your second or third phase of your life, one where you want your career and retirement to co-exist. You are not ready to enter full retirement – just yet – because of financial reasons or you yearn to follow your passions and do something completely different.

When faced with this type of decision, advance planning helps ease you into the right ratio of career and retirement. Just as dancing the tango, the chemistry of the dance partners influences how well the dance is executed. Your blend or tango of career and retirement is dependent on each circumstance.

Here are some things you may want to think about when planning for your next phase of life.

What new career do you want? What’s important to you?

Often the hardest question you face is defining what you want to do next. There is a good chance you have interests or are competent at a number of things. Broadly name things you like to do and narrow your list down. Eliminate the choices that require changes you are not willing to make.

Ultimately, the more focused you are on what to do; the easier it will be to execute your plan.

How do you figure out what career choice is best?

Let’s say you have developed a list of career options. Once you have your career list, it’s time to apply filters to the list to decide what career choices stay.

In this case, a filter is a question that may knock that career choice off the list because it requires you to do something or may not offer something that you need during your career and retirement tango. Some filters or questions you may ask are:

  • Are you willing to move?
  • Do you need more education or professional certification?
  • Do you have the time and resources?
  • How many hours a week do you want to work?
  • Are you willing to travel?
  • Are you flexible?
  • Do you want to work for yourself or another company?
  • Do you need to generate a specific income?
  • Are benefits necessary?
  • What level of stress do you want in your career?

Once you have identified what you want to do; develop a plan on how to do it.

State your purpose or strategy for developing a new career that fits into your retirement plans.

Think about the possibilities of why you want a new career or why it is important not to enter into full retirement. Define your purpose and reason for making this career decision. Does your new career have to align with what you are doing? Do you want to branch out and do something completely different? Is there a hobby that you love that could be monetized?

This is the ideal time to explore different careers. When people get stuck, I use the Strong Interest Inventory to help find those areas of interest. The assessment provides data that opens up possible careers that you may not be considering.

Who do I include in my career and retirement decisions?

If you have a spouse or significant other, the choices you make will impact your quality of life. It’s important to discuss what dreams and aspirations you both have for this phase of your life.

Do you agree on the balance of career and retirement? Will traveling get in the way of accomplishing either goal? How will the family support your decision, especially if finances are impacted?

Consider writing down your thoughts to these questions separately and then sharing your answers. This technique will open up the dialogue and identifies the issues where further discussion and compromise is necessary.

Ultimately, the decisions you make will affect how well your career and retirement tango is received.