7 career tips for when you aren’t sure what position is for you

Don’t have an accidental life or career. Often more planning goes into a summer vacation than a 40-year career or 90-year life. Spend purposeful time creating an actionable plan for your next career move and trade the treadmill to nowhere for a fulfilling career and rewarding life.

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Know your core values

If you are considering making a career change and aren’t sure where to start, start with what you know best. You. Nobody knows you better than YOU. Values are principles or standards of behavior – your judgment on what matters most in life. Examples of values include: Balance, Autonomy, Freedom. Creativity, Listening, Humor, Family etc.

Recommit to your five core values 

your principles or standards on what is so important such that living these values makes you more fulfilled than anything else. Be able to speak to how these align with the values of the prospective companies you are pursuing.


Know Your Transferable Skills

If you want to change roles, especially to a different position or new industry, you need to prove that you have done comparable work on a scope, scale, budget, span of control, project management and complexity basis. You need to know your transferable skills.

Transferable skills fall into the three categories. 

1. Communication

Examples include: speaking effectively, writing concisely, selling, building consensus, facilitating discussions, negotiating, perceiving nonverbal messages, reporting information. Interviewing, editing, inspiring and motivating people to act, developing rapport, listening, training, conflict management, customer service.

2. Organization of Information

Examples include: forecasting and predicting, creating strategy, identifying problems, creating vision, creating solutions, analyzing alternatives, identifying resources, creating and executing plans, defining and measuring process, goal setting, identifying root cause, decision making, budget management, manage change, crisis management.

3. Operation of Systems and Equipment

Examples include: software selection and installation, engineer systems, coordinate equipment interfaces, manage a sound or lighting system, facilities operations, build things, interface technology, engineering, compare systems, commercial and residential real estate construction, repair equipment / machinery / appliances / technology.

Match the prospective job description to these skills and highlight measurable key accomplishments from these skill areas in your cover letters and resumes. Tailor every resume, cover letter, meeting, and interview to the specific position you seek. No blind submissions.

Define Your Signature Strengths

Hiring managers want to know if you can do the job but also want to know if you fit into their culture. Take assessments to be able to speak to your strengths, emotional intelligence, character and personality traits. Show them how you have applied those strengths to accomplish great things.

Knowing your signature strengths helps you to make informed career decisions – especially ones that involve changing industries or roles. When you understand yourself better you will be able to speak to your strengths on interviews and in informal meetings. This builds confidence and executive presence.

If you tend toward being strategic and creative you won’t enjoy a more task specific role and vice versa. On a more finite level if you are more results and analytical you will want to build awareness of noticing emotions in your colleagues thus increasing compassion. These tools help you build your self-awareness therefore elevating your emotional intelligence. There are many online free tools to help you with this. There is a link at the end of this article with more details on all the steps listed here.

Know Your Future Pull

Your ‘Future Pull’ is not your next job but a career position that calls out to you. You feel compelled to do this work because it matters. The issues you address in this role need to be tackled by you and only you. Be able to speak to “Why you?” and “Why now?” What do you want to be known for at the end of your career? What will you want to be said about you at your retirement dinner by a colleague, a family member and a friend?

Start a Company Watch List

Be purposeful in your search. Create a list of organizations that share your values and where you can put your strengths to work. Matching your values and strengths with companies that share them will make a far better fit for your fulfillment than blindly seeking positions just to have a job.

Research salary information and comments on companies made by their employees on Glassdoor. This site holds a wealth of information from people who have held positions you seek in the companies you are interested in.

Google “hot jobs” or “job projections” and see what the latest projections are for the jobs market in the coming year. Take these with a grain of salt as they are often mere guesses. But you will see trends in your research.

Search Google for lists of the largest employers in your city, as well as “best places to work” awards. Sometimes groups like Young Professionals or Chambers of Commerce give annual awards to companies that are choice employers in town.

Don’t forget to include surrounding communities in your keyword search; there might be a great employer just one town over who doesn’t show up when you do your original search.

Research Downtown Associations, Betterment Organizations, local college alumni organizations and Meet-Up Groups especially if you are relocating. Note which organizations have lots of members.

Start a Network List

Let your friends, family and even general acquaintances know about your search and the type of role(s) you are looking for. See if they “know anyone who knows anyone” who might be able to give you some leads on potential employment.

Members of the groups you have researched tend to be community leaders and often have the inside scoop on who’s hiring, even if the posting isn’t public. By learning the names and associations of these individuals, you’ll have a better understanding of who you should get to know. Add these contacts to a “Network List” which will function much like your Watch List.

Do a search on LinkedIn to see if any of your connections have relationships in the companies on your Watch List. Ask for a casual introduction. Don’t make it a sales pitch or pressure them for career leads; just let them know you’re researching new opportunities and want to meet new people during the transition. Don’t randomly ask people to connect. That will turn people away.

Join industry groups on LinkedIn and post relevant content

Employees of companies you are interested in will be far more likely to refer you to open positions if they recognize your name and notice your interest and persistence. However, don’t be too aggressive because you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Try It On

Take your “Watch” and “Network” lists and create a “Top Five Companies List” of people and companies you know of that fit each Industry. Include social networks when doing this such as LinkedIn. Search company names and notice in your network who is already working in those companies who you know.

Call or set up a meeting with people you know from these companies. Ask them if they can share insight into the culture there. Don’t ask them to recommend you. Allow them to suggest that to you based on your interest in THEM and THEIR COMPANY.

Join a MeetUp group in the industry that interests you

Develop relationships. Ask if you can job shadow for a day. Get to know leaders. Volunteer there.

Search opportunities on online jobs boards such as Indeed, ZipRecruiter and Idealist or set up a ‘daily agent’ to notify you when a position comes available with your keywords.

Volunteer for a non-profit organization in a line of work that interests you

They are always seeking volunteers. This is a great place to try out a new skill and build experience for your resume.

Offer to freelance for a company you are interested in working for so that they may ‘try you on’ before they buy. Show them how they can gain the value of your expertise without the costs of employing you full time.

Update each resume and cover letter for each position you seek

Position your key strengths and transferable skills

Get a free e-book with detail on all of these steps: Eight Tips to Find the Right Industry and Position for Your Next Career Move at https://www.maryleegannon.com/Change-Careers .