It’s entirely possible to change lanes in your career. You can and should consider changing sectors, industries and even transferring your skills to a completely different profession.
But how can you do that smartly? And when is the right time to do it? How do you position yourself for a significant change? I’d say you...
We address both of these strategies in this episode (number 71) of The Job Hunting Podcast. I interview Donna Burr, a Partner at Watermark Search International. In addition to being an experienced recruiter in the interim executive management practice helping professionals transition careers day in, day out, Donna herself has successfully changed lanes in her career a few times. From accountancy to human resources, and now as an executive search professional, Donna has cleverly used opportunities to springboard herself into different roles, sectors, and industries.
Listening to this episode, and reading the blog below, is an opportunity to learn from her experience. How did she transition from one profession to another? What tips can you get from her to help you do the same?
In Donna's case, she had a mentor point out to her what her traits or superpowers were, which helped her transfer her skills and develop a new expertise. But you don’t need a mentor to do that. Here are her tips for other ways to find out what your superpowers are:
Once you get the answers to these two questions, look for patterns. Your superpowers will be in the answers. Then, you need to develop a narrative and understanding of what they mean in terms of skills you can transfer to a different workplace.
Be ready to accept the answers you will get. Those superpowers might not be what you expected or wanted to hear. Most likely, it will not be “leadership” or anything grandiose! It would be best if you took the feedback on with interest and curiosity. Listen and spend time reflecting on it; it's what people have seen over a long period of time.
What happens when you have been working in an industry all your life, and now you find there are not many jobs advertised in that industry? You need to start looking for jobs in industries and companies unfamiliar to you, but the job title and the responsibilities are within your skills and experience. How do you position yourself to compete with other candidates who have industry or sector experience?
I asked Donna if some of her decisions to change lanes in her career were driven by a need to find a work-life balance, managing motherhood, and career progression. Her answer was yes: “Time is finite. When you're spending time at something, you're trading it off somewhere else. You need to be consciously aware that you're trading that off. Without a doubt, everybody needs to do their inventory with their partner around their energy and capacity for work.”
Professional women often feel torn between making decisions about motherhood and career advancement. There are many self-doubts and the feeling or expectation that mothers need to step back when their kids are young. There’s also a cultural belief and workplace assumption that they will not be able to manage motherhood and career progression.
“It's two separate conversations: a) whether you're capable for the senior role, and b) how much time, the working arrangement, and the flexibility you need to deliver to that role is a very different question. Work out the boundaries that work for you, be really clear on them, and do not be apologetic for them,” says Donna.
There are two ways to address ageism when job-hunting:
Donna believes the market is slowly bouncing back since November of 2020. The disruption caused by the pandemic in 2020 showed organizations that they can rely on their technology, people, and systems to continue operating under extreme conditions. It wasn't perfect, but the changes we experienced at very short notice, such as a large proportion of the workforce working off-site, showed amazing strength and trust in the systems in place. Donna believes that in 2021, as we bring workers back to the office, we may be able to launch a different proposition in the way we work, operate, and service customers. There is cautious optimism in Melbourne at least, and this is good news for job-hunters.
Donna and I discussed the importance of a great job-hunting routine to speed up results. If you're an executive or a job hunter in transition, be disciplined about your week. You need a reason to get up in the morning, a rhythm to the week. It would be best to read the news, map out those sectors you're interested in and who you need to connect with. You should be looking at your digital profile, your resume and seeking the help that you need. You should be getting out and speaking to people, be it virtually or in-person, if possible. Be disciplined about it. There's no short, quick, fast way to do this.
For some, the job market is still very competitive. It can be frustrating and demoralizing when you're getting knock-backs or just feeling like you're not making progress. Still, be patient, keep the discipline, believe in yourself, surround yourself with people who will help and support you. Donna and I firmly believe that if you do focus on all those things, you'll start seeing conversions, leads, and opportunities coming your way! You have to put in the hard work. No one's more interested in you finding a job than you. It's not the recruiter's job; it's not your friend's job; it's not your network's job to find you a role.
Check below the free tools, resources, and services I offer to support your career. And let’s get to work!
All the best
Donna’s experience and passion for seeing businesses thrive have led her role at Watermark Search International, placing senior executives into interim assignments within companies which can benefit from their vast experience, professional guardianship, and deep specialist skills.
Her background combines 25 years in chartered accounting, assurance & advisory, and human resources partnering with businesses. Early in her journey, she acquired local and global experience across financial services, manufacturing, utilities, and the not-for-profit sectors. She has curiosity, authenticity, and a passion for making things better, which has seen her involved in major transformational and performance work for many corporates. She advocates for purpose-led business management, well-being, and economic empowerment for women.
Donna has been a partner in Watermark’s Interim Management Practice since 2018, deploying senior-level interim executives in both private and public sectors. She focuses on CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIOs, change & turnaround professionals, senior Finance, HR, Operations, Legal & IT executives. She has completed interim management search assignments across various industries, including Financial Services, Government agencies, Peak Member and Regulatory bodies, Not-for-Profit, Healthcare, Energy, and Utilities.
Hello, and welcome! I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also a virtual career coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach professionals in the corporate, non-profit, and public sectors the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress.
If you are 1) an ambitious professional who is keen to develop a robust career plan, 2) looking to find your next job or promotion, or 3) you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the job market so that when you ready and an opportunity arises, you can hit the ground running – then this podcast is for you.
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Renata Bernarde | Job Hunting Expert | Founder, Pantala Academy