THE BLOG
11/25/2011 06:56 pm ET | Updated Jan 25, 2012

How Do I Reframe My Background for a Career Change?

Hi Liz,

In my career search, I have been fortunate to have been invited to interviews and even declined some opportunities (it feels very bold in this current environment, I know). There is demand for the type of work I previously did but I am really trying to focus in a different direction. I have the skills/background and it isn't a completely new direction. Thus far, however, I have not been successful!

Your message to focus on the what pain we solve and what we want to do, etc. really resonates with me and I have participated in your Pain Letter webinar (very helpful) and thank you for your advice on my LinkedIn Headline. Where would you recommend starting to get refocused? I am interested in yours or your team's individual consultation services and also your courses.

I know you have shared this information before and I did try and find it in my emails :) but thank you again for your recommendations!

Karen

Dear Karen,

I'm so glad that you're orienting your job search in the direction you've chosen for yourself, versus repeating what you've already done -- that's boring! We need to find the segue from the "old Julie" to the new one. We need a transition story, in other words. You say that the old and new directions aren't that different -- can you think about what they have in common, not in terms of skills but in pain-terms?

I wrote a Pain Letter (TM) a year or so ago for a woman who had run an animal shelter and was now applying for a job running a Call Center. She had never set foot in a call center before sending that Pain Letter (TM), but she did get the interview (she called me on her way home from the interview to say "Yuck! It was like the Starship Enterprise from hell!") with the Pain Letter (TM). Here's a rough approximation of what we wrote to the VP -- you can see the segue from animal-shelter director to Call Center manager in it:

Dear Joe,

Congratulations on the groundbreaking for your new Call Center in Bloomfield. It's wonderful to see a local firm adding two hundred jobs to the local economy during the worst economic downturn in a generation.

I can imagine that as you get the new call center staffed and online, your team is going to be pressed to hire, train and launch 200 call center agents while creating your call center processes and tools in parallel. When I ran the second-largest animal shelter in the Tristate area, I had the same need to change altitude dozens of times a day, from on-the-ground fire-fighting to high-level strategic planning. This was in environment where 150 animals were adopted every week, and where every activity was interrupted by barks, squeals and dog- or cat-fights... and then there were the animals.

If putting together a fast, nimble call center infrastructure while building an ace team to keep FedEx and your other major accounts happy is high on your radar screen, let's talk when it's convenient.

Best,

Jane

Jane built a frame big enough to include both the animal shelter and the call center, and invited Joe, the hiring manager, to step into the frame with her. He did. See how easy that is? Jane's frame was 'the sorts of management jobs that require one to jump continually throughout the day from tactical problem-solving to high-level planning.'

Notice that Jane doesn't apologize for having no call center experienec. She doesn't talk about transferable skills. She just says "These two assignments are so alike, aren't they?" and Joe's answer was "Of course they are." We flatter the hiring manager when we show the relevance between the "old us" and the "new us" and a smart hiring manager says "Yes, of course I see that relevance."

Jane also doesn't respond to the job ad in any way. The job ad's only value to her (a big one) was that it told her there was some pain and some money together in the same place at the same time. That's all she needed to know. She ignored the long stupid list of bullets in the job ad. She doesn't have any of that stuff and the truth is that a wonderful call center manager wouldn't need any of that stuff. She could do the job with one hand tied behind her back. The irony is that in the end, the company couldn't get Jane because they're too hidebound -- she would have died in that environment.

Jane told a joke in her letter. She figured, "I'm such an 'out there' candidate that I may as well go whole hog and let the guy know I'm a person, and a person with a sense of humor." It worked.

After all, what did she have to lose? What do any of us have to lose, when we're applying for a job? Why not jump out there and be ourselves, totally, and see what happens?

Cheers,

Liz