In Part 1 of Career Crossroads, we went over 5 steps that will provide clear guideposts for your journey. In the second part of this series, we'll look at how "strategic supporters" will help build a network for success.
Making a personally tailored job search plan doesn’t mean we are “going it alone.” While the decision to make a career change starts on a personal level, the journey itself can and should include a solid support network. Close friends and family come to mind naturally when we think of our supportive circle, but these individuals might not always be the best choices for what we’ll call “strategic support.” Enlisting strategic support will prove the most beneficial on your path to a new career.
What is “strategic support”? It is support driven by purpose first rather than a purely emotional drive. This is not to say that a strategic supporter can’t also share an emotional investment with you, but the former does not allow the emotional connection to derail the end goal. A parent, for example, may be less supportive of a major career shift for their child because they don’t want their child to feel the sting of multiple rejections. The strategic supporter, in the same scenario, would encourage the applicant to continue applying as rejection is a natural part of the process. Some close friends and family might be able to provide that objectivity, but be mindful of any personal bias that may influence their advice.
Part of your support team should be someone who has already traversed the path and come out the other side. Ask the question - am I connected to anyone who has successfully transitioned into a similar career niche? In addition to offering valuable insight into your future career, you may find a promising referral source or a new colleague/friend or champion . At times these sources lead to job offers. Finding a professional connection who will act as champion for you in your career search is invaluable. Far from sending a short email or taking a quick call, a true champion will feel invested in your journey. They want to see you succeed and will tap into their resources in service of your goals. While they will likely not have “champion” in their Linkedin description, you will find this key individual(s) by their actions. Look for those who go beyond a surface-level courtesy call or email. A career champion will not only follow-through, they will follow-up and want to be a part of you reaching your end goal.
With the qualities of a career-oriented support team in mind, the pieces and players will come together. Support may come from unexpected sources - an acquaintance at a non-work related dinner party or an old law school classmate who comes back into your life after falling out of touch. No matter the source, if you are open to finding those supporters, your network will start to take shape.
Lastly, pay it forward. Once you are established in your new career niche, make yourself available to others looking to take the leap. Remember the time when you were in their shoes, and how impactful it was to have a supportive professional in your camp. Taking part in the career shift as a participant and then supporter will only serve the greater professional good.