A Career Makeover ... In 3 Minutes?
Gail Belsky is blogging for AOL Jobs about her quest to find a new job -- and reinvent her career. She will be posting every Monday. In the meantime, feel free to share your suggestions, thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.
As part of my attempt to reinvent my career, I had my first consult with a career coach last week. Marty Nemko, an AOL Jobs blogger, is known for doing three-minute career makeovers. I was on the phone with him for nearly two hours -- despite the fact that both he and I are professional speed-talkers. I was skeptical about what I could gain even in that short amount of time, and surprised by how productive it was.
How a three-minute career makeover begins...
Nemko asked me a series of questions about my skills and interests and, after some revisions, he created a personal "branding" strategy that makes me relevant to other industries besides journalism.
It was like making a wine reduction sauce -- he kept boiling down my responses until the consistency was just right. Based on my key strengths of editing, content development and packaging, Nemko repositioned me as a "storyteller" who takes dead facts and data, and brings them to life.
He also identified some key attributes: "thinks on her feet," "works at a fast pace," "is driven," and "likes to be in charge." I thought he captured me pretty well, and it felt good to have an identity.
Then, came tough questions.
The most revealing part of our session came when he asked what was keeping me from throwing myself headlong into a job search. I had to think for a minute. Beyond the obvious -- the fear of being rejected and feeling utterly worthless -- I realized what I'm really worried about: Losing all control of my time. After 10 years of having total flexibility as a freelancer, the idea of having none is scary.
To which Nemko said: "Millions of people have flexibility. You can have non-negotiables. Ask for what you want."
But what's the game plan?
His encouragement was empowering, but his game plan made my stomach flip. I need to make a list of 20 organizations that I'd like to work at ... and then cold call the boss at each!
I'm supposed to explain my skill-set, and say, "I'm looking for my next project, and I love what your company does. If you think I can be of any help, or if you have any advice for me, I'd like to meet with you."
There is no way I can call up some senior executive who isn't even looking to hire anyone and pitch myself. It feels totally presumptuous. But as Nemko pointed out, all it takes is finding one manager who really needs a corporate storyteller.
If I wait until a job is posted, he added, it's too late.
I agreed to email these people instead of call them, but who knows; maybe I'll find the courage to pick up the phone. Frankly, this entire experience is nerve-wracking, so it would be good to get over myself.
So what is the takeaway?
- Every job hunter needs an elevator speech. I have mine: I'm a storyteller who brings information to life.
- You need to know what you really want: I need some flexibility in whatever job I get.
- And you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone to get it. For me, that means reaching out to strangers to sell myself.
Have you ever cold called a job prospect? How did it work for you? Share your experiences in the section below.
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Gail Belsky is an editor, writer and project manager for online and print. She has held senior positions at Time Inc., Working Mother, and Parents magazine, and has written for such websites as CBS MoneyWatch.com, CNBC.com Health.com, Prevention.com, and WorkReimagined.org. She is the author of The List: 100 Ways to Shake Up Your Life.