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Making a Successful Career Transition
by Lucille Maddalena, Ed.D.

 
   
 
   

Is a job change in your future?

Those who will benefit most from this article will be at one of the four career junctures: 

  • Seeking a promotion.  Are you ready to be promoted or feel you deserve to be better recognized for your work?  If you have been performing a task consistently or a while, it is easy to become “typecast”. It may seem as though invisible limitations are placed on you and you are seen in one role only.  Now is the time to show your many dimensions and let others know your full range of skills and interests.  You will have to take on tasks that others do not expect to see you perform and you must be able to present yourself as fully capable of assuming the new role. Your first step will be to show how the goals you have created for yourself align with the goals of the team, department, division and company.

  • Recently reassigned or relocated. Have you been relocated or re-assigned within your company?  Don't think of it as a problem, consider it an opportunity and make the most of the move to re-establish yourself. Learn to take control of how you build your image within your new division or department by establishing effective work relationships with your team, co-workers and others that will influence your career.  Because new colleagues may not know much about your abilities, it is time to take a leadership role and show what you can do as someone that can inspire and motivate others.

  • A ‘new hire’. If you have recently gone through an on-boarding process, you will benefit from these skills as well.  If you are joining a new company, it is important that you present yourself in the way that you determine best. Working in a new environment and culture, learning the "in's and out's" of your new firm will take a while -- it is best that you know how to introduce yourself to others and to become a member of your new team. You will want to assimilate into the new group, learn the language (including popular abbreviations), and understand the pace of the group, how decisions are made, and what you can do to establish yourself both as a contributor and leader.

  • Moving from technical to managerial role. This is probably the most difficult of the transitions listed.  It is not easy, but you can successfully negotiate the learning curve by paying attention to a few key points in self-branding.  You will need to pay attention to your relationships, how you express yourself, and the image you create.  Assuming the role of manager means that your satisfaction will no longer be from completing the task yourself, but from helping others succeed.  Managing requires a different skill-set than you used to complete a technical assignment: now you have to get the work done through others.  The biggest problem most new managers have is to accept the fact that those reporting to them are often unprepared to do the job as well as the manager can do it -- now your success depends on the success of others.

Why brand yourself?
            
Let's begin to explore self-branding by considering the question: why brand yourself?  The answer is simple: if you don't define yourself, others will define who you are for you -- and you might not like what they have to say about you!

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
              
One of the most difficult things for all of us to do is to describe ourselves.  It is hard to find the right combination of words without appearing to brag or to show false humility. 

Assessing your strengths
              
When you are ready to prepare your own message, I recommend to those I coach that they use an assessment tool for an objective self-evaluation.  Most assessment tools ask you to complete about 100 to 250 questions, from which they will rate your responses to identify trends that indicate your interest, perspective and beliefs.

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.
              
Writing your thesis statement

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
              
Let’s focus on the effort to combine all of the relevant key words and phrases you have identified to form a concise statement that is easy for you to say.  Forming the actual sentences is the real skill as the words you speak must flow in your everyday conversation style. The statement itself must be flexible: you may choose to use only a segment of it with one person, the entire statement with another.

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.


       
   
 
       
   

The Author

Lucille Maddalena

Lucille Maddalena, Ed.D. is an Executive Coach and Management Consultant providing management skill training, team building, meeting facilitation, conflict resolution processes, and group coaching programs. More than 6,000 managers have successfully completed her popular TRANSITIONS TO MANAGEMENT seminars. Her new workshop, TRAIL SETTING & STORY TELLING, guides participants to achieve life and career goals while clearly defining their own legacy through story telling. See Dr. Maddalena's recently published articles on her website or blogs:  www.mtmanagement.net .

 
       
   
 
       
   
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Copyright 2009 by Lucille Maddalena. All rights reserved.

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