Navigating a career crossroads in 11 steps

If someone asked me out of the blue, “What were your career crossroads moments in life”, I would have to give that some thought in order to define those specific times, events and chapters that forced big decisions or adjustments.

For some people, an experience of losing a job that you desperately need and/or enjoy, must be extremely difficult, hopefully the opportunity for a change in work circumstances can also be viewed as exciting, even if tinged with a natural degree of trepidation, no matter what your situation.

I’m at a career crossroads moment at present, although fortunately I’ve been working up to it for the last two years.  Rather than a full-time job, I’ve decided to look for a range of new projects to create a portfolio if possible, however no matter what your situation, I think the requirements to make or contemplate a move, are the same.

There is certainly nothing special, necessarily different nor new about the areas below; in fact they’re super simple and rather bland. The difference just might be that if you make sure you tick them off the list and keep up with them, the next person just might not.

1) Repeat: There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened….

This quote (or partial quote from Jim Lovell, NASA Astronaut) has stuck with me since first reading it in a mag more than 25 years ago and to me, it has real meaning. I guess it’s always the silent starting point in my mind, to get me focused on the real task ahead and in all honesty, it’s best to assume that no one else really cares as much as you do about what’s next.

Working out what move to make next, what will keep us happy, challenged and rewarded for the next 5-10+ years, is not to be underestimated.

Deciding on your next job is a job in itself. Personally, I’d rather not wonder what happened.

2) Talk to the right people – pick up the phone if you need to, ask for advice

I’ve mentioned this in previous articles, however those people that are worth speaking with, will accept your call if you have something relevant to ask, no matter what their job title, net worth or standing in the community. It’s great to get searching (I use LinkedIn or personal contacts), set up catch-ups or just let them know that you’re in the market. It might not happen now but it’s good to just get on the radar. 

3) Buy a book & get scribbling

Grab a blank notebook (or buy a specific ‘Dreams’ book) and reserve the first few pages to list the numbers 1 to whatever down the page, where you can make a note of each of your ideas. Then number the remaining pages with a corresponding number, in order to have a full page available to expand on each idea that you write in those first couple of pages.

Some of those might be:

– A rough idea of what your CV needs to include

– Your passions & purpose

– People that you need to speak with

– Industries that you like

– Hours you’d ideally like or general flexibility

– Brands that you like

– Job types that you think you’re qualified for

– The sorts of perks that you might like (e.g. health care, kiwisaver bonuses…)

– Where you’d like to be in 5 years

– The sort of people you’d ideally like to work with

– Individual ideas for businesses that you might like to start

As you start to fill in this book, you can scan down those first few pages and start to look for some recurring themes, then join some dots as to what is your dream job or close to it and the way that you might hop, skip and jump to get there.

Personally, I’m keen to do various projects and grow another business, so for me when I look down the page, it’s more about different ideas and problems that I’d like to solve, however it still follows the same process.

4) Sort out a CV or Bio

Rather than the traditional ‘I’ve done this and this and this between these years’, I wonder whether it’s better to pick 3-4 key areas/sets of skills or experience that define you, bring out your personality and will set you apart from the next person. This would be the core of the CV and from there you can demonstrate where you’ve gained the experience for each. That way, it also slightly alters the fact that you may have worked in a few places yet gained specific experience vs. simply seeing a list of companies that you’ve worked for down the page in isolation.

There are plenty of websites that make suggestions about the ideal CV. To add to the mix, I’m keen to write a separate article on this one over the next few weeks.

5) Sort out a LinkedIn profile

If you’re not on LinkedIn, I really think it’s worthwhile to get on it, today.

Yes for sure, people will no doubt blah, blah about all of their experience and to be frank, blow it way out of proportion compared with the reality. However it’s no different from the old CV.

It really comes down to communication and how you relate what you think you’ve done and how it might add value to others. It’s a living document, which is fantastic.

If you don’t fancy yourself as a writer, then you can always jump onto Upwork or similar and find someone who is prepared to help you out. Often this can be for under $40 an hour, which is reasonable, given how much this can assist.

Again, there are no doubt plenty of sites that suggest how to write a profile, so I’ll add to that with my two cents worth in an upcoming. My profile is always a work in progress, but they are a living CV.

6) Ask to Connect with the right people on LinkedIn

As you stumble across interesting people out there, search them up on LinkedIn. Once you find them, using your laptop/desktop rather than your phone, request to connect up whilst always using the Note function to send a quick intro message. (This function doesn’t exist on mobile).

In NZ we are fortunate with the ~3 degrees of separation and the fact that people usually want to help, so give that a nudge, think about your short intro as to why you should connect and ask away.

Like you I’m sure, you get many requests each day from people that you don’t know and have no idea why they might feel that they should connect.

Quality connections over quantity – well that’s my mantra at present anyhow. If you have a different one, go for it. Usually, if a person can’t be bothered to add a note as to why they’d like to connect (and I don’t already know them), I don’t connect.

7) Read or listen

This has really changed my outlook and excitement for what’s ahead. It’s also helped with productivity and satisfied a real hunger to again experience what it feels like to learn.

This might sound counter-productive, however sometimes theory rather than on the job is actually pretty useful I think. Just to refresh.

The sort of books and podcasts that I listen to will no doubt not be for everyone however I really enjoy those about successful businesses and how they’ve navigated their course. It’s never ever as easy as it looks of course. Thrown in are a few really good ‘life’ books as well.

However one of the best books I’ve got (a physical copy in this case as you can scribble), which was suggested to me by a recruiter mate a couple of years ago, is This looks at you as a ‘business’.   It’s quite an eye opener and is very compelling. You can simply Google it and download the one pager to be honest, although the book has so much great info in it.

Some other recent books off Audible and also podcasts are – The 5 Second Rule, Own The Day, The Everything Store, Delivering Happiness, Principles, Tim Ferriss, Masters of Scale…the list goes on.

8) Seek out and attend some relevant functions and events

Search these out. Read some LinkedIn posts and follow people who hold events. In many cases, they don’t have to cost anything and are after hours. Check with a local university, community ed programme or industry publications.

It’s not just for the networking opportunities as these are often very tough, nerve wracking, awkward etc. – if you can put yourself out there great, but for me, if you can immerse yourself in it if it’s interesting, then you feel so good learning something new towards your passion.

9) Find & meet up with good recruiters or HR Departments

I’ve got a list of what I’d say are respected recruiters around town, but I’m hesitant to list those here, which is not helpful I realise!

However ask around, look around, find those that are industry specific if possible and make some calls. See who makes you feel like they know what they’re talking about and who will look for your place with a business that fits you best, not just one that delivers them a quick commission.

10) Work out your Value in the marketplace
This can be found in many ways and primarily via the Recruiters that you speak with. Hays Recruitment salary guide is a good start also, but just start asking around and talking to those in the industry of your choice.

11) Time is ticking.  Repeat 1-10

Thanks and good luck out there.

Richard Poole


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