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Making a Successful Career Transition
Is a job change in your future?
Those who will benefit most from this article will be at one of the four career junctures:
Why brand yourself?
In the book, Now, Discover Your Strength by Buckingham & Clifton, the authors advise you to:
Create an image of yourself in the minds of others and avoid being "pigeonholed” by the limited perceptions of others.
How do others see you?
To understand how others see you, consider how you remember them. Try this: select someone you work with. By simply bringing that person to mind, you have formed a visual image of them.
Typically we recall someone’s appearance, the way they dress, how they groom themselves, the colors and fashions they choose. Once we have the visual image, we elaborate on it by adding motion, remembering the way they talk as well as their body language. These visual cues are part of the “image” we project to others.
Now consider how you feel about the person you selected. Do you enjoy their company? Do you value them in a positive or negative light? Our feelings are inspired by our personal beliefs about others. Without really thinking about it, we form a judgment about that person as a consequence of an interaction or experience. That impression could be formed by something we saw them do or the way they reacted to something we did or said. We formed an “impression” of the individual that will impact how we respond to that person.
Creating your own image and impression
Before you can take charge of your personal image and create the impression you desire on others, you have to decide how you want others to see you. Often we do not consider the impact of decisions that determine our image, such as when we choose our wardrobe, or the impression we make when we speak, by using slang or unprofessional expressions. To take control of how others see you, your task is to create an image and impression in the mind of others that presents you as you choose to be seen and accepted.
Prepare your message
Assessing your strengths
Using an assessment tool before you begin to prepare your message will provide a starting point in your self-critique. You will learn what motivates you and gain a better understanding of why you are good at what you enjoy doing. The analysis itself will provide you with specific terms and phrases that accurately describe how you perform, what you are good at doing, and why you enjoy some tasks more than others.
To choose the best assessment tool for you, talk with your coach or human resources department. Of course, I have several I prefer to use and will gladly help you select the appropriate assessment for you: send a note at http://www.mtmanagement.net/contact.html.
If you prefer, for the price of a book you can complete a personal assessment that is analyzed by gallup international. I often recommend Strength Finders 2.0 by Tom Rath, as an excellent tool that uses the latest gallup research to effectively identify your skills, talent and knowledge.
The elevator speech
There are many advocates of the ‘elevator speech’, that 30-second presentation that we must be able to recite at a moment’s notice, usually during an unexpected meeting.
No matter how good your ‘elevator speech’ is, it is just the start to your self-presentation. You must be able to introduce yourself in greater depth and with clarity while engaging others in a mutually-beneficial conversation.
When I coach senior level executives, we work on what I call a “Thesis Statement”™. A Thesis Statement™ is a concise self-description of less than 100 words that you can use to introduce yourself and begin to develop trust, rapport and empathy with others. It presents your personal theme by identifying your areas of interest and expertise in context of your current job and situation.
Here is an example:
“It is good to meet you. I have been here for about two weeks now. I came from Terva. What impresses me most about the work you do here is the quality and of the analysis and the working environment. I want to join this team. Right now I find the technical aspects requiring code recognition to be innovative and a more efficient process than the alignment factors I used before. I had an opportunity to work on a project that might provide some useful insight into the next phase while I was at Eisenhower University. I am looking forward to learning and enjoying my time here. Any advice you can offer to get me on the right track is always welcome.”
You must speak for yourself: express your passion and dedication. Each of us has our own way of relating to an event and describing our emotions and commitment. While some people are comfortable using expansive terminology, others prefer a more subtle expression of their feelings, opinions and observations. Because this is very subjective, there is no wrong or right – one way may not always be better than another way of stating the very same fact. What is important is that your statement ‘ring true’. You must believe what you say and convey that honesty and commitment in your word choice as well as delivery.
As I repeatedly chant to participants in my seminar: there is a strength and a weakness to everything. I encourage those I coach and mentor to always look for both sides of the story: what are the pro’s of the situation and what are the con’s, meaning any concerns you may have for the event or next steps.
I’ve outlined many of the advantages to creating a brand for yourself, let’s take a minute to review some of the possible concerns: the areas you must watch out for to be certain you don’t go off-course and your presentation proceeds as planned.
Caution: stay in the present!
The caution that we must face is a major one that has ruined the careers, reputations and relationships of many ‘new hires’: whatever you do, please do not tell your new colleagues, associates, bosses and peers what you did and how you did it at your last job.
I recall meeting with a “new hire” that was about to begin his first day with a new firm. He had a rocky history during his short career and this would be his third job in five years. He had been downsized from this first job, which he had enjoyed and which he proudly recalled to anyone who would listen. I wondered if his habit of reliving his prior job had anything to do with the fact that his second position had not lasted a full year.
When we met I asked him to describe his feelings about beginning the new job. His response was to quote the recruiter that had placed him by saying: “this job is mine to lose.”
I stopped him immediately and requested that he repeat that comment several times with a key change in both the wording and passion: “this job is mine to embrace, to learn and to grow as part of a new team.”
We all know that nothing is more annoying for a teammate than to have to listen to someone recall either wistfully or with regret their former job circumstances. No one wants to hear how wonderful your old job was or the way you did things there.
For the most part, the typical response to hearing the glories of an old job is to wonder why the ‘new hire’ left and probably wish he or she was still at the former company. It is interesting how we can screen unpleasant memories: that previous experience may not have been all that great, so let it go. Instead of reliving the past, remind yourself that you are moving forward and seeking to become a respected member of a new team.
Embrace the change and consider each new challenge an opportunity to grow and develop. When you begin to write your thesis statement™, be certain you are using ‘action’ words, not ‘passive’ words. For example, if you want to explain that you worked on a project try composing your sentence to read:
“I actively pursued an analysis of the results by gathering data secured from three years of research.”
Using action words will help your thesis statement™ project your image as well as create an impression on others. It is a good idea to remember that this is their environment; you are the newcomer and it is up to you to learn how they do things.
Use common language
The art of preparing an effective thesis statement is to first understand your audience. You must have a good idea of the other person’s interests, expectations and values: then show how your goals align with theirs. If this is a difficult task for you, I have a soon-to-be released on-line program titled Position Yourself™ that will guide you through the process. For information on the Position Yourself™ program send me at note at http://www.mtmanagement.net/contact.html.
Learning to recognize and address the interests of your audience is vital to successful communications as well as establishing relationships. Communication is only effective when the receiver accepts the message and understands it as it was intended. To be certain the person you are talking to is listening and willing to invest their time to continue to listen to you, you must recognize what is important to them and show that you care about their interests.
Developing rapport and establishing relationships with others requires open, honest communication. Sharing your perspective, history and experience is the first step to building a bond with others.
Many more articles in Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives