Welcome to the "AOL Career Luck Project." Inspired by you, our readers, this new weekly series offers practical advice by showcasing real-life examples of career makeovers. Learn to create your own career luck using the tips and techniques given to project participants. Every Thursday.
Meet Sonya. Like many professionals, she's had a string of career disappointments - and it's making her doubt her ability to be successful.
Does this sound familiar?
Sonya went to college on the assumption it would help her get a better job and a brighter future. She worked hard, and even got an internship in college. Sonya excelled in her internship and was told she would get a job offer upon graduation. But, with less than two weeks until Commencement Day and still no offer, she had to take a job with a company she didn't love, but at least guaranteed employment that would support her.
When first job fails you? Attempt to course correct.
Sonya toiled at her first employer a few years, being moved from department to department. She was commended for her great work, but she couldn't see a satisfying long-term career path with the company and opted to go back to school. While in school, she learned about a different career direction and decided it sounded promising. She graduated and landed a job in the new field, but it required her to move far from her own town - and on her own dime. She made the move, but soon found the situation to be less than ideal. As she became more unhappy, she realized she needed to get back to her hometown, closer to family and friends. So, when a job that was a bit of a step back but could get her home became available, she took it.
Home, but not happy.
Now, Sonya's at least near her support system, but she's feeling defeated. In Sonya's opinion, her peers are all further along than her, both professionally and financially. Furthermore, she's blaming herself for what she thinks is a series of bad choices.
Sonya needs to create her own L.U.C.K.
The solution lies in breaking down her situation as follows...
Locate the Problem - Like many professionals, Sonya "followed the rules" and did what society tells us to do: go to college, find a job, work hard, and you'll find career success. Yet, more often than not, this doesn't work. And, like Sonya, with each attempt to fix the situation, you can find yourself feeling further and further away from your goal of finding career satisfaction. Does that mean Sonya made mistakes? Absolutely not! She was brave and smart to explore other options in hopes of finding a career direction that best suited her. And, while she hasn't yet found her ideal situation, these early career moves have helped Sonya identify what she doesn't want. Now, she just needs a strategy to help her regain her confidence and use what she's learned to finally feel in control of her future.
Watch the video below to hear J.T. advise Sonya on how to get her career back on track.
Uncover the Issues - Sonya is experiencing a crisis of confidence that is causing her to have "analysis paralysis" with respect to her career. She is overwhelmed and fearful another move will set her back further. Sonya is also struggling with networking. In her mind, she doesn't have enough career success to make her credible with other professionals. So, she shies away from networking because she is embarrassed by her situation. Yet, if Sonya doesn't work through these issues, she will not be able to reach her career goals.
Create New Approach - In speaking with Sonya, she says she does like the industry she moved to, and could see herself enjoying a leadership role in it. So, instead of guessing what she should do next, or getting advice from people not qualified to help her, Sonya needs to seek advice and insight from people succeeding in roles similar to the one she aspires to. By gathering the facts via first-hand accounts of what it takes to earn those types of positions, Sonya will gain the confidence and clarity she needs to take the next step.
Know Your Next Steps - Sonya should begin by creating a "top 5" bucket list of companies in her community she most admires in the industry. Sonya also needs to be able to validate why each company earned a spot on her list. To do this, she must be able to recognize what has taught her each company is exceptional. What makes the company the best in the industry and how does she know that? When Sonya can tie her own knowledge and experience to these employers, she is proving to herself that she is a potential fit as an employee.
Next, Sonya will jump online and use social networks like LinkedIn to identify five people at each bucket list company who are in senior roles. The beautiful part about this research is Sonya's ability to review their profiles and learn more about how they reached their current career status. She'll then craft personalized 'request to connect' messages and ask if they would accept her connection. While she may not get them all to accept, if she personalizes the requests properly, she will get at least one or two responses from each company.
Finally, Sonya will follow up with those that agree to connect with her and ask if they would let her conduct an informational interview with them to learn more about how they navigated their career path and what they think Sonya needs to do to eventually earn a similar role. These meetings will help Sonya connect-the-dots on what she needs to do in her career. She'll also make valuable networking connections with people who are in positions of hiring bright young professionals seeking to advance in their industry.
What about Sonya's fear of networking?
In this situation, Sonya needs to recognize that many seasoned professionals love helping younger people in their careers. Mentoring is one of the most rewarding things a successful professional can do. It's a way to give back to the industry. It also helps them grow in their own roles. As they say, "There is no better way to learn something than to teach it." By asking these people for their advice and recognizing them for their success, Sonya will be giving them as much as they give her.
When your career isn't going well, don't give up - get help!
If Sonya follows the above advice, she will not only get her career rolling in the right direction, she'll put it in high-gear! By seeking help in the form of new information and resources, anyone can find the answers they need - that includes you!