Stepping stones. They’re the essence of our daily lives. You see, in a culture of eight million people, waiting is just not part of the game. We don’t like to wait for our coffee, and we really don’t like to wait for the next rung on the career ladder. Enter: stepping stones.
In a town-hall meeting just this morning, President Obama urged Americans to be patient. Patient for the recovery to take shape. Patient while the job market turns around. Patient while finding an income source.
I equate patient with “wait.” And I dislike waiting.
A friend of mine is in the middle of a job search. Actually, he’s in the middle of a career change. Let’s call him Joe. Joe discovered his new passion for service and has been working diligently to land a career in the federal government. And he’s been at it for more than six months, with not an interview on the books. Now I don’t have to tell you Washingtonians, that’s discouraging. But Joe’s story has an important point worth highlighting: the value of stepping forward in any direction.
- Take a lower-paying job in an adjacent industry. It gives you access to decision makers in your ultimate field. And keeps you fresh on industry trends and connecting peer-to-peer with folks in your target market. Not to mention, it gives you a sense of purpose. So go ahead, sign on with that Not-For-Profit. It may feel like a back-slide in the money department, but in the long-range you’re taking steps forward. You’re simply lining up your ducks and nestling yourself amongst important contacts. You can always go back to that 90K salary.
- Take a role you’re known for and clone it. For those of you that are career changers, this one applies in earnest. Try to change role and industry, and you’d be luckier with this weeks’ lotto ticket. But if you can draw explicit role you’ve previously performed and the one you’re targeting now, the industry gap seems more manageable. Been a high-performing sales professional? Use your negotiation skills and knowledge of the buy-sell process, and go work in procurement for the Feds, or in contracting for a defense supplier. Rule of thumb: change industry or role; not both.
- Ask yourself: What other skills do I have that are valuable? Maybe you used to dance competitively in ballroom exhibition? Or you rowed competitively in college and now volunteer your time for a local high school. Look for opportunities to pull a composite portfolio together. It’ll generate income, and more importantly, give you the flexibility to continue networking with decision makers in your ultimate field.
As you evaluate stepping stones, follow the rule of three: take the long-term view, set clear intentions for your career journey, and say “yes” to every opportunity that crosses your plate. From serving up home-cooking with industry contacts at your local shelter, to volunteering with the local chapter of your industry’s professional organization.
Most of us can’t get from A-B in one step. So cut yourself some slack. Stop placing unrealistic expectations on your shoulders. (It’s a heavy load to bear.) With the energy you free up, you just might have enough gusto to lay down a few interim steps.