Following a telephone conversation with a panicked Senior Executive this week, I felt compelled to share his story with those who may be in the same situation now or at some point in the future.
The Senior Executive recently left his former employer and was due to start an Executive Outplacement programme with Harmonics in 10 day’s time as part of his exit package. A bespoke programme of outplacement support was developed with his needs in mind and comprehensive pre-work was sent to him to complete in advance of the first session.
But he called this week in a state of blind panic. He had met someone for coffee who told him that he needed to get back on the horse ASAP and not leave a gap in his CV. Their career advice suggested he needed to start job hunting sooner rather than later or he would regret it. This friendly advice led him to this urgent call to bring forward his first session to the following day as he needed to update his CV before the end of the week and start job hunting immediately.
Like many who have faced a job-hunting period, he was in an emotional place. In his early fifties, he had never been out of work before and felt out of control. Trying to speak to him in a logical manner was not working because of his state of fear and panic. He was like a man racing into Harvey Norman before a deadline because he had just heard the advert, “when these jobs are gone, they’re gone!” His friend had put the fear of God into him, that he would never get another job if he didn’t take the first one that came along.
We have fine-tuned the Harmonics Career Transition methodology after working with thousands of people over the last 10 years. It works and it delivers job placement success when practiced. But it is a process and there is an art and a science to how we work. The science piece first. Executive Job Search is very much like the birth of a new baby because it typically takes 9 months from conception to delivery. This man wants a baby in 9 hours not 9 months!
The 9 Month Gap
A nine month career transition might seem like a very long time for an emotional Executive, but finding the right opportunity takes time. It’s important to allow space and time to come to terms with often emotional endings after a long service with one employer. Next, we help them create a new career identity to grow within them first so that they can then communicate this articulately to their network and potential stakeholders in their next career move.
A few years back, during a first Outplacement session, an IT Director demanded that I help him find work in 6 weeks as he didn’t want a gap on his CV. Knowing he had lots of IT project management experience, I asked him if he could deliver a complex 9 month IT project in 6 weeks. He said it wouldn’t be possible as there would be too many variables and stakeholders involved in the project and the client wouldn’t get the results they wanted. Short cuts would not deliver the outcome required. I agreed and shared the similarities in career transition. It is often overlooked that Executive Search projects typically take 6 months, so why would his Executive job search take any less?
Restricted by the Paradigm of the Past
Instead of using the opportunity to take stock, many candidates go back to what they know. They design their future career move from the paradigm of their past role. They are limiting themselves by their own bias, prior experience, former job title, industry sector and career specialism. In career transition, and with more time on their hands, people will meet well-intentioned friends for a catch up coffee to start networking. These coffees turn into multiple career advisory sessions. These friends are all well-meaning but the career advice is clouded by their own bias and likely siloed view of job search. Our methodology at Harmonics brings people through a guided process on what they have to supply, what skills are in demand and bridging the gap between both – but only when we have mapped out the full picture.
100 Yard Dash to Nowhere
Back to my panicked caller. The friend offering career advice had never changed jobs themselves but knew of someone else who had struggled to get a job after they were made redundant. It turned out to be someone with few relevant skills or qualifications so inevitably they found it harder to find a job. We need to be careful who we listen to in life!
I spoke to him about how he needed to make the next move the right move, rather than just another job. His first session would not focus on just his CV but on designing from first principles to create the best outcome for him. This Harmonics Career Transition methodology is a once in a lifetime process, to take stock rather than a CV writing service. In career coaching, we aim to create a Career Destination on the map before we set off at pace in a race to an unknown land. This 100 metre dash video clip from the famous Monty Python sketch team will give you a laugh and an idea of what people can be like when they start out in career transition.
Managing Uncertainty is a Key Trait for Future of Work
Leading and managing through uncertainty is one of the key traits for successful leaders in the future workplace. How he manages through this period of change will serve him well if he listens to his intrinsic motivators and trusts his intuition. Change is a process and it takes time to readjust and re-calibrate our career direction. The gap in your CV is often now viewed by recruiters as someone who took the time to ascertain what they wanted rather than a rapid response to the first job that comes along.
Change is not a straight line and the Bridges Model of Change makes so much sense for those in Career Transition. This quotation from Susan Bridges sums up for me the space we need to give ourselves between endings and letting go of the past before the new can come to life.
“The essence of life takes place in the neutral zone phase of transition. It is in that interim spaciousness that all possibilities, creativity and innovative ideas can come to life and flourish.” —Susan Bridges
Personal Innovation Project
I encourage people to think about their career transition as if they were going to work on an innovation project for an employer wanting to transform the way they do business and re-position for the future. Set your transition up as a Personal Innovation Project and take the time to redesign your future not based on the old principles of the past, but with a blank slate and focused on first principles.
My parting career transition advice
Let nature be your guide and trust the science and methodology of the career transition process. Personal renewal starts with rest, the brain needs sleep to refuel, the baby needs time to grow, the seeds planted in spring can only be harvested in autumn.
Watch this Space
If you are in between jobs or know anybody who would benefit from reading this blog, please share. There is no need to panic; it is just the space you need to create between endings and new beginnings.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not into fighting the old but on creating the new” – Socrates
John Fitzgerald is the Founder of the Harmonics Group. Harmonics specialises in helping organisations plan for change, manage change and support their people through change.
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