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Career Change: Words from the Frontline

Posted by Kathleen Smith

It was brought to our attention a great piece posted on LinkedIn by Steve Yousten on what Steve himself was doing as part of his career change. Steve’s professional transition and challenges are not unlike many of challenges facing our own cleared jobs seekers.  Learn about Steve’s approach to changing his career track, staying motivated and active during his job search below.

In Steve’s own words…

The bulk of my career has been in the military, doing IT and other communication support. I’m working to transition into marketing and other areas of management. To further complicate things, I’m not doing it in Virginia or any of the other places that have a lot of defense contractors, I’m doing it in Oregon. Here’s the roadmap I’m following:

1) Education

I went back to school for my MBA. Other options are certifications like the PMP for project managers or, say, a CCNA for data networks. This says to people that you’ve made the commitment to the career change. It also gives you access to new contacts in the area you’re transitioning to. If you’re going to school, look for internship opportunities to get your foot in the door

2) Networking

Join any local professional organizations in the career you want to move to. This is your best chance to find out about opportunities and to make your case for why someone should hire you.

Informational interviews are a proven tool. Once you have a connection or two, ask one if you can meet them for coffee and talk to them about the industry. Don’t make a pitch for a job, but have a resume handy in case they ask. At the end of the interview, ask if they can refer you to someone else that you can speak with. Send a thank you card the next day. Keep repeating the process. This can take some persistence, though. The people you’re talking to are busy and it can take a huge amount of effort/luck to keep this from sputtering out.

3) Branding

Start selling why you can make it in your new industry. You need to educate employers on what you bring to the game and set yourself up as having unique skills that they need. I’ve started a blog on military leadership and how it can be applied in the business world (at www.slyousten.com). Ideally I’ll get the articles I do into the local business journal, but barring that, professional association newsletters or just running them in the blog are fall-back positions.

From there, I’m going to rework the articles as presentations that I can give at professional association meetings and such. Finally, when I have enough material, I’ll rework and expand it into a book.

4) Stay busy

Find something you can do RIGHT NOW that is related to the industry you want to get into. I’m getting into marketing, so I got elected VP of Public Relations for my Toastmasters club. I’m also doing marketing work on a start-up apparel company. Staying busy accomplishes a couple things: It makes you look proactive. It makes you not look desperate. It gives you something interesting to talk about in interviews and networking events.

Example A (sounds needy):

“Hi Steve. So what have you been up to?”
“Not much. Looking for a job. Have you heard of anything?”

Example B (sounds much better):

“Hi Steve. So what have you been up to?”
“Well, I just did a leadership event for Toastmasters International and I’m working on the club’s July newsletter. And last Saturday I organized a photo shoot for the new clothing line from Privateer. And on Sunday I took the motorcycle out to hit the backroads between 30 and 26 on the way out to the Coast. What’ve you been up to?”

In the first example, you’re really not giving the person anything interesting or engaging to work with, while the second example not only establishes that you can make things happen, it sets up all kinds of follow-up questions–any of which can lead to an opportunity. (I threw in the motorcycle bit because you never know when the guy/girl you’re talking to shares a hobby with you that can be a foot in the door.)

So that’s it. That’s the grand strategy. It hasn’t made me the successful transition yet, but I think it is a sound plan and I’ll let you know how it turns out. Good luck!

Keep up with Steve!

You can view Steve’s LinkedIn profile here and keep up with his progress by visiting his blog at  slyousten.com. Steve, thanks for allowing us to share your story. We wish you the best of success with your next professional endeavor!

This entry was posted on Monday, August 24, 2009 12:13 pm

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