Maybe you’re looking for a new challenge and want to take on more responsibility at work. Maybe there’s an important project you want to take charge of, or certain skills you want to upgrade. Or maybe you’re realizing that it’s time to move on and look for a job somewhere else.
You wouldn’t be alone. The pandemic have sparked a wave of resignations as employees rethink their expectations. In fact, two recent studies found that as high as 40 to 50 percent of workers are thinking about leaving their jobs in the coming year.
Regardless of what your next career move is, transitional periods like this one are usually the perfect time to get entrepreneurial and proactive about your career. Not sure where exactly to start? Here are some ideas to get you going.
Networking sometimes gets a bad rap for being disingenuous. But attending online industry events, asking current employees out for a virtual coffee or simply jumping on a quick informational phone call is a great way to find out about new opportunities and keep on top of industry trends as you mull that next career step.
“Even something as simple as talking to someone at the company about a job posting, asking them for 10 minutes of their time to chat and learn more about their business can make a huge difference,” says Nit Karuna, former head recruiter at Drop, a Toronto-based mobile rewards startup, now at Xero.
If you’re new to networking and the idea of attending a meetup seems intimidating, try approaching someone inside the industry for some help first. “What I’ve seen work really well from attending networking events and meetups myself is teaming up with somebody that you already know from that particular industry,” suggests career coach Elisha Gray. “Having that one person to introduce you to people and create a warm interpersonal connection — i.e. ‘Hey, you’re interested in this, you should have a conversation’ — I found that to be very effective.”
Before reaching out to someone for an informational meeting, find out as much as you can about them and their work ahead of time. Showing genuine curiosity in someone’s business and asking good, researched, even probing questions isn’t just a great way to learn more about your industry. It can also leave a lasting impression.
“At the end of the day, I think most employers are looking for the same thing: someone who’s willing to learn,” points out Karuna. There’s no better way to signal that to a prospective employer than doing your research and coming prepared with good questions.
This emphasis on preparation, research and proactiveness goes double for internal job seekers. “When you’re talking with your manager or your coach, really make them understand your goals,” says Karuna. “Outline what your expectations are and ask them for the tools you need to succeed.”
He brings up the example of a Drop employee who successfully transferred to the analytics team.
“She had already taken it upon herself to start talking to the analytics team, keeping track of what they were working on, and she had already started taking an online data analytics course. She was already putting in the time,” he says.
“Where do I go from here? What should I do next? People usually don’t even give themselves five minutes to actually think about an answer to those questions,” says Grey. But you’d be surprised at how much the world opens up to you when you give yourself the space and time to reflect on your career.
“I don’t think people realize how much what they’ve done at their previous job is actually relatable to new startup roles,” agrees Karuna. Before developing new skills and experiences, make sure you have a really good grasp of the ones you already have under your belt.
“Very often, people don’t really have the vocabulary for describing their leadership skills or leadership style,” says Gray. “What they’ll ask me instead is, ‘How do I get more confidence? How do I get more clarity?’”
Grey suggests that people instead take stock and start thinking about the skills and characteristics they already have to offer a future employer.
“If you’re gunning for a management role and have never been in one, what do you think are the skills or characteristics required for that role? What are your personal values and motivators? And what are the things that you think are most important about leadership or management?”
Grey says that putting all the cards on the table in this way helps candidates be themselves, rather than try to “perform or put on an act based on what they see other people doing, which isn’t really the most authentic expression of themselves.”
This story was originally published in February 2020 and was updated in October 2021.
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