By Julia Harris Wexler '84TC, '14BUS of the Columbia Career Coaches Network
The current market is dynamic and changing more rapidly than ever before, due to technology. Regardless of your industry, performance metrics are more sophisticated than ever and those who are contemplating transitioning from one work place to another, or those shifting from their first job to their second (or third), need to keep these criteria top of mind in order to ensure success:
1. Identify your skill set and constantly take steps to increase and optimize your value to an organization. This means knowing where you begin and end: Analytics? Writing? Great with people? Research? Identify your "sweet spot" so you can speak to it with employers.
Once you have identified your talent or skill, take steps to develop it further. Take classes, earn certifications; join groups where like-minded experts share ideas about the latest market trends; find a mentor who is in your field and brilliant; identify companies that value your skills. Then identify WHY your skills are necessary in the current market and by whom. WHERE are you solving problems? WHO needs those problems solved? This is your target audience. Work for companies where your skills are absolutely crucial to the bottom line of the firm. This ensures job stability and promotions.
2. Transitioning from one workplace to another requires analyzing your previous experience carefully. Ask yourself the question that employers will need to know: "What did you make happen?" The answer should flow throughout your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Each step in your career trajectory should represent a challenge you took on, and showcase what you brought to the situation, and exactly what you contributed. What outcomes did you produce? Numbers are what matter most to any industry; how was your performance demonstrated? What did your performance reviews show? Demonstrate your success by simply highlighting what was different after you left, versus prior to you joining.
Stay far away from providing "glittering generalities" in resumes and interviews like, "I am a hard worker, driven, passionate, aggressive, and dedicated." These meaningless self-promoting phrases ring hollow to employers seeking proof of your competence. Employers will need proof of your prior success, just as your first employer looked for proof of your academic success as a litmus test for future performance. Most employers will ask you behavioral interview questions (Google the top 10 and familiarize yourself with the STAR interview technique: situation/task/action/response). Employers look back to your last place or work for evidence of how you will perform next (for them).
3. Trends around data for all industries are the name of the game today. Whatever career you are choosing, you must understand how your performance will be measured, and be confident your skills meet the requirements of the role. Gone are the days where knowing someone can ensure you get hired and stay in place. Networking is just as important as ever for opening doors; but once inside it is rock-solid hard skills that keep you employed.
Understand your industry, the trends shaping your industry, and be sure you are developing the crucial skills to stay relevant. This means reading about machine learning, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and data science as they pertain to your field. Global competition has sharpened every industry (and many have fallen by the wayside: travel/publishing/administrative support) and been replaced by technology. This is just the very beginning of the tsunami that will give rise to "bots" and robotic technology. You will soon be greeted by bots when you enter a bank and perhaps even when you enter a hospital (after being transported there by your self-driving car). Any administrative/clerk function (or online chat feature) will be robots. Think deeply about your industry and how you can hone your skills so that you are ahead of this trend; not behind it. Scary? You bet! So was giving up horses in favor of cars ...
4. Diversity of thought and ideas is key to the survival of any organization. When assessing companies, research their mission statements and values. Take a careful look at those in leadership positions and their policies on wellness and a diverse work force. These are keys to the organization’s overall health. For the generation of millennials, employers fear they are not as loyal as the generation prior. As a result, it is easy to differentiate oneself to employers by evidencing dedication, hard work, and integrity. These three skills are the key to moving up the ladder with any employer.
For the past two decades, Julia Harris-Wexler '84TC, '14BUS has coached entry level, mid-career, and senior level executives on how to strategically manage their career transitions. She completed the Columbia Advanced Coaching Intensive (Columbia Business School and Teachers College), in addition to spending two decades as a senior partner in the executive search industry.
Harris-Wexler helps professionals from all industries to define their professional identity, develop a personal marketing plan, and navigate their way up the career ladder. She works with talent acquisition and human resource departments at top Fortune 500 companies to help staff their human capital needs and brings this expertise to her individual coaching clients. She helps clients navigate the peaks and valleys of their career trajectories using her academic and coaching training, as well as her direct experience interviewing and recruiting more than 1,000 professionals.