Repurpose your skills, not learn new ones

Okay, say you have been trapped in a dead-end job that offered no growth potential, advancement in responsibilities or an eventual key to the Executive Washroom, since the beginning of time. An immediate example would be that of AL BUNDY, the perpetual shoe salesman who peeked at 17 when he ran (more or less) 4 touchdowns in a single game. All his life he dreamed of making it big, but felt stagnated by ungrateful children and a wife that emasculated him. If you are a fan of the FOX television show, “Married With Children” then you know of whom I am speaking of. (And if so, give me a Whoooaa Bundy!) If not, hopefully the analogy is not lost on you.

There are many “Bundy” types out there who feel trapped in the day job, but too cautious to start a business of their own. If not that, then they do not know how or if they can switch jobs since they have been doing the same thing for an umpteen amount of time. In actuality, a career transition can be a scary thing as it takes us out of our comfort level. Yet, it is not wholly an impossible task to reinvent yourself for today’s market. (Madonna does it all the time!)

The whole key to a career transition is to develop a unique selling proposition based on what you already know. Instead of teaching an old dog new tricks, show the dog how to do the same tricks a different way. Let me give you a real-life example. I met a woman once who was an Office Administrator/Executive Assistant to a VERY well connected lawyer in Atlanta. If you do business in Atlanta, especially a startup venture, then I guarantee that you know of whom I am speaking of or at the least, know this law firm. Anyway, she reached out to me via a common acquaintance and as a special favor I reviewed her resume and saw a constant stream of “administrivia” (My word! I made it up! It means those duties required and expected from an Administrative Assistant. Patent Pending) She had been in that role for over five years and wanted to do something different with her life besides administrivia. (Hey! That’s the second time that word has been used! It is catching on. Administrivia, administrivia, administrivia…)

One thing recruiters (and employers for that matter) like to do is pigeonhole people based on their resume. If they see on your resume that you have been an accountant for five years, then finance positions are the only gigs they will pitch you. Same goes for techno-geeks, project managers, etc.

These are some of the skills we were able to discern, which were in addition to her typing:

1. Arranging meetings and schedules.
2. Technical support of office equipment
3. Entertaining VIPs
4. Gatekeeper to her employer’s time and potential interests

On the surface, it all sounds like typical Executive Assistant type stuff, right? But check it out! As the Executive Assistant to a well-connected executive, she herself has been well connected, having entertained many other movers and shakers on a first name basis. She could call up VIPs locally and nationwide and they would actually pick up the phone or return her calls! Isn’t this a business developer skill certain companies would find invaluable? I think so! How about all of the out of town meetings she set and arranging his travel schedule? That sounds like a travel agent gig to me. In addition to that, it all suggests someone who is a master of event planning. As she installed and operated the software on the companies’ computers, trained others on how to use said software and considers potential software purchases, she could pursue a position in help desk support, technical training, or even corporate buyer. I also threw in the possibility of being an Executive Recruiter, as she knew so many executives and other such talent that could potentially be interested in new opportunities. So that’s 7 potential career avenues to pursue and possibly more to decide on once she thought a bit more on what she has to offer.

Now you say, what if I am good at so many things and want to do them all? How can I decide? My suggestion is to take that movie line Cuba Gooding, Jr. made famous from the movie Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money!” Figure out which one pays the most and where it pays the most and set your site there. (Unless of course you are independently wealthy and in that case, why are you reading this blog anyway?)

There are websites online that allow you to survey what the average salary is in cities nationwide (Salary.com, for example) and how the industry is doing in cities nationwide (Economy.com/dismal). So pick out what industry is paying the most and where they are paying it. At least, that’s how I would do it. (Smile)

Okay, so you have a new path decided. You cannot stop there; you’re only getting started! Remember, you are a product and nothing sells a product more than testimonials. So towards that end, gather an arsenal of written letters of recommendation and a killer list of references from as many VIPs as possible. After testimonials, the next best thing is to advertise your expertise. Not to worry, there are plenty of ways to do this for free.

However, the most effective way is to write. Write on subjects you have a passion for and how it applies to your new field of interest. Going back to the Administrivia example, she could write a paper of funny anecdotes based on bad travel planning and how to prevent similar circumstances from occurring. She could then send out the article to every travel magazine (as FREE content) she could find and sign it as a “Professional Travel Planner” and an e-mail address for contact. Now everyone that subscribes to the travel magazines that run her free article now have knowledge of her and potentially could contact her.

Okay, I can hear you saying, “I’m not a writer!” Well, I have an alternative for you as well. Become a pointer! What’s that, you ask? Glad you asked that. Once upon a time I was a huge fan of  across an email newsletter called DAVENETICS that spotlights the technology industry in the United States. It was a GREAT newsletter that eventually morphed into a wider coverage of political news events and pop culture. It is now called NEXTDRAFT (www.nextdraft.com) and I highly recommend it (or I would if it were not on hiatus). Anyway, in the beginning Davenetics was a collection of tiny commentaries of stories that Dave Pell (the publisher) found online. For example, if he read an article on Compaq laying off a significant number of people, he would title his comments “Compaq drops the axe.” He would add a witticism akin to, Is Compaq trying to live up to the sound of its name (Compact? Get it?) by reducing the size of its workers? You decide. And at the conclusion of that comment would be a link pointing to the article itself.

Pretty simple hun’h? I think it is genius personified; Davenetics produces this content to people interested in technology. His subscriber base grew to well over 35,000 in a short period of time and these are steady readers (myself included). Now at anytime he could put out a request with his newsletter that says, “Will Work For Money” and a short bio of his skills. Chances are with 35,000 plus subscribers all operating in his field of interest, there are bound to be quite a few job leads there. At the same time, he has established himself as a noted expert in the field of Business Technology. And check this out, what could stop you from listing a short bio on the homepage of your newsletter?  (Isn’t a “bio” nothing more than a really short resme?) Or better yet, have a link to it inside each issue of your newsletter? In this way, you are perpetually sending your resume out without being so obvious about it.

Something to think about, yes? I suspect that my more net savvy readers out there are thinking of doing this with Twitter. If so, knock yourselves out! That would be a better way of implementing this strategy anyway. (Smile)

Good luck in your job search!

Jim

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