I just finished a session with a career counseling client, I'll call him Rick. The session embedded a number of principles that might help you in finding a career or landing a job.
Rick is a project manager for a defense contractor. He knows he wants to change employers but is unsure whether he just wants to go to a competitor or make a radical change.
I said, "Okay. Assume you weren't saddled with the ball-and-chain of having to choose something related to your past job and 'transferable skills'. What would you do?"
He replied, "I want to create something." Knowing him, I asked, "Wouldn't you be better off directing the realization of someone else's idea?" He agreed, but he protested, "Don't I have to be more specific than "I want to direct the realization of someone's idea?"
I replied, "It depends on whether the nature of the project matters much to you. If you'd be as happy turning around a struggling plate glass business as creating a beautiful backyard, don't narrow yourself. To do that would be to impose false precision on your job target."
Again he objected: "You're right. It doesn't matter much to me what the project is, but without a focus, no one will hire me." I responded, "You're right--if you try to get hired by answering want ads--That ad, for example on Monster or Craiglist, will be read by countless people, from Azerbaijan to Zambia. So the employer will likely be able to find someone with direct experience."
I continued, "Here's how career changers are most likely to land a job: Make a list of 100 people who know you. They don't even have to love you. Let's take the worst case: a boss who fired you. He might be willing to give you a lead on a better-suited job. And that's the worst case. Chances are that if your list includes your relatives, your parent's and wife's relatives, your friends, your wife's and parents' friends, your past and present coworkers, bosses, customers, and vendors, your haircutter, accountant, lawyer, doctor, church members, co-volunteers, etc., you'll likely get leads to people willing to consider you for a project manager job outside of defense or refer you to someone who might. And you might hear about career areas you never would have thought of in a million years. Last week, I got a call from a client who got a job at a toy company monitoring plush stuffed-animal factories in China."
I ended by saying, "Just tell as many people as possible who know you or someone close to you, "I'm a successful project manager for a Fortune-500 defense contractor but would love to direct projects in a different field. Anyone you think I should talk with?"
We ended the session by discussing how to write a resume, which, as I mentioned, will be useful mainly in applying for positions similar to his current one. I said, "Imagine you're having a beer with your brother who happens to be hiring project managers in the defense industry. What would you say to him that would legitimately impress him, make him think, "Damn, this guy is good," make him want to hire you? That's what you want to put in your resume."
Any questions? Comments?