“The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
-George Bernard Shaw
Wishing you could do something different, but not sure how to get started?
Sitting at your desk daydreaming about a new career?
You are far from alone. In fact, odds are you may be able to relate to the 76% of American workers who get the “Sunday Night Blues” each week, as described in a 2015 Monster survey.
The very good news? Getting started is less complicated than it may appear.
To get started, go out and “get in the conversation,” as author Barbara Winter puts it.
Maybe you want to make a total career change, or maybe you want growth on your current path. Either way, making a habit of getting into conversations about it with other people out in the world is essential.
It’s not uncommon for us to just internalize our career wishes, but clearly that won’t bring about the change we seek.
More good news: there are lots of fairly easy, often low-cost ways to explore, connect, experiment, and communicate with those who are where we want to be. Or where we think we want to be.
It’s not necessary to have our direction all figured out before we start exploring. The exploration itself can help clarify as we learn what works for us and what doesn’t.
So if you want to change up your career, get out there and start exploring! Here are four tips to help you get in the conversation.
Seek out those who have “been there and done that.”
Have you always wondered what it would be like to be a journalist, tech entrepreneur, or health coach?
Or to be a farmer, sail around the world as a crew member, or participate in urban planning?
Or maybe you want to get to a significant leadership level in your current profession or industry?
Seek out opportunities to hear from and interact with those who have already done so. Google up a list of opportunities to hear them speak or demonstrate their craft.
Attend conferences and participate in workshops focused on your area of interest and mingle, observe, and ask questions. Listen and learn, and share your thoughts and thanks with the presenters as well.
Does your company offer small group chat sessions with members of the leadership/executive team? Sign up, prepare, and ask some smart questions.
Take advantage of opportunities for mentoring, whether through a formal program or informally.
Read, read, and read. Have a role model who’s published books or writes a blog or other articles? Devour what they have to say, and use it as a springboard for further exploration.
As author and speaker Robert Kiyosaki says: “If you want to go somewhere, it is best to find someone who has already been there.”
Get out in the world and get involved with others who share, or would benefit from, your passions.
Volunteer for special projects with your current employer.
Do pro bono work in your community (geographic or professional).
Be active in professional organizations – join committees and help out at meetings or conferences.
Offer to speak or teach a class. Share your expertise while gaining exposure to what others are doing in your field of interest.
Commit to something at least monthly; a one-time event will not get you where you want to go.
“First, you have to be visible in the community. You have to get out there and connect with people,” wrote Dr. Ivan Misner, dubbed the ‘father of modern networking’ by CNN. “It’s not called net-sitting or net-eating. It’s called networking. You have to work at it.”
Use social media wisely and effectively.
As a general guideline, keep in mind this observation from Lisa Horn, a.k.a. The Publicity Gal:
“Everything you post on social media impacts your personal brand. How do you want to be known?”
Whatever other social media you’re on, use LinkedIn to engage with people, professional groups, and companies of interest, and let them interact with you.
LinkedIn is such an established site now that it can be easy to take it for granted. It may have its occasional quirks, but the power of this one site alone is often underestimated. The opportunities to interact, communicate, and connect are endless; here are just a few:
Your LinkedIn Profile: What an incredible opportunity to share who you are, your experience, and your expertise. And to share and evolve your personal brand.
Consider your profile a work portfolio, a place to present your personal brand to the world.
Try not to make it a carbon copy of your resume, and put things in your own words rather than those of your job description. Be sure to include accomplishments, work samples, links to articles you have either written or were mentioned in, and relevant certifications, licenses, and awards.
Include a photo of yourself, and make sure it’s clear, easy to see, and career-appropriate. Would you go to an interview or a networking event in what you’re wearing in the photo? If not, choose a different picture. It doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter, there are some great shots that show lots of personality that are completely business appropriate. Feel free to be creative, but remember, this is a work-related site.
LinkedIn Groups: There’s a LinkedIn group for just about everything – from very specific career niches to broad networking groups – and many have active discussion boards. And don’t forget your company alumni groups; they’re a wonderful way to keep in touch and hear about or share opportunities. If there isn’t a group for your niche or area of interest, consider starting one.
LinkedIn Publishing: Have expertise to share? Sure you do! Share it with the world through articles on LinkedIn, or by sharing posts from your own blog.
Your Connections: As you establish working relationships in your current workplace and connect with new people through professional events, networking, and other business interactions, make a point of connecting with them on LinkedIn. (Tip: Don’t send a lot of invitations willy-nilly to people you don’t know; LinkedIn may block you, thinking it’s spam.)
Make it a two-way conversation.
Best-selling author Seth Godin wrote: “If you show up regularly with generosity, everything else is gonna take care of itself.”
We all get busy, but it’s a great feeling to help someone get to the right person or company, or to answer questions, provide information, and point people in the right direction. Help whenever you can, without the need for something in return.
Allow people to contact you on LinkedIn. This may seem a no-brainer, but there are those who choose to block contact through the site. Since this is a professional networking site, and having a healthy and diverse network is so key to our careers (especially if we want to make a change), it seems like a missed opportunity.
After all, if you went to a live networking event, would you not allow people to talk to you? Seems unlikely. You don’t need to accept every invitation to connect, or respond to “junk mail,” but blocking all contact precludes getting into the conversation through the site.
Congratulate your contacts on new jobs or work anniversaries. If you like something they’ve posted, make a comment, like, or share.
This list just scratches the surface of how to get in the conversation and move your career forward, and perhaps in a fresh new direction, as a result.
Get creative, get out there, and get going!
And don’t delay; in the words of artist Mary Engelbreit, “time flies whether you’re having fun or not.”
Why not head toward the fun?