The One Question to Ask Yourself if You Think You Should Change Careers

I won’t exaggerate. It does not happen every day, but at least once a week I get a phone call from someone considering changing careers. As we chat it becomes clear that their problem is not their career but rather their job.

There’s a difference. If you basically like what you do but don’t like your boss or colleagues, you want a new job. If you like what you do but want to do more, and there is no room for growth with your current employer, you want a new job. (In that case, you actually need a new job!) But if you really don’t like what you are doing, despite the fact that you like your boss and colleagues, then it may be time for a new career.

That’s a major step. You will have to learn new things, maybe even go back to school. You could require a license or certification. And, no less importantly, you may need to create an entirely new network. This is not buying a new car or changing your appearance!

When you have issues with your job, it is good to talk to friends and family. They can help. They can listen. They can advise. But when the topic is changing careers, friends and family may let their feelings get in the way. They are rightly concerned about your finances. After all, a new career means starting over and starting over usually means a much lower salary. They care about you and don’t want you to end up loosing what you have worked so hard to achieve. And they may be right!

Some people, including career counselors, will suggest that you take an aptitude test to determine what you are good at. Nonsense! It’s a waste of money. If you actually want to take a test, ask the counselor what test she recommends and then go to their website and take it yourself. You’ll save time and money and won’t feel like a total idiot since you will be wasting less time and less money if you had used her services. (Usually all that happens is that the counselor sends you a link to the test and then the company sends her the link. She then calls you and, basically, reads you the results.)

The fact is, you know what you want to do, you just don’t know it! So sit down, alone, in a comfortable chair, without any distractions, and ask yourself one simple question: When you are working, doing your job, what do you daydream about?

Once you have that answer you may know what your next career will be. To find out, most friends and most family members will be of no help. As stated above, they are going to let their personal feelings get in the way. Instead of encouraging you, which means encouraging you to take a risk, they will encourage you to play it safe. That’s when you go to a career counselor. Because a career counselor can help you answer the next question, Can you make an actual career out of what you daydream about?

Previously I have written, and said at my public presentations, that when choosing a career counselor to help you conduct an effective job search you should always ask one question: How many people have you hired and fired? If they have not hired or fired anyone, then, for them, career counseling is an academic pursuit. You don’t need theory you need experience and they can’t provide it.

The same is true when it comes to choosing a career counselor to help with a new career. The one question to ask them is: Have you ever changed careers? If not, then, again, all they can do is to tell you what they have read in books and articles. You need someone who can hone in on the real issues career changers face and then, together, decide if that is really what you want. If they have not been through it, they won’t know what to ask (unless they read the right books which, after all, you can read on your own saving yourself time and money!).

The good news about changing careers, as opposed to jobs, is that you can actually change careers while keeping your current job. You can test it out and see if you like it before taking the plunge and quitting that job about which your friends and family are so concerned. Which means they will not be negative influences since there is nothing for them to be negative about. There’s no risk – which is obviously the same situation if you want to change careers because you lost your job.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

On “women’s problems,” enemas and choosing a career counselor

I was recently reminded that this month marks the thirtieth anniversary of my having had major surgery. I spent 27 days in the hospital. It was an experience, to say the least.

A number of years ago a colleague was going to the hospital for surgery. When I asked our supervisor what she was having, he said, “women’s problems,” which abruptly ended the conversation. None of my business. None of his!

She knew that I knew she was going into the hospital so I went over and wished her well. We were rather friendly so I asked if it would be alright to visit her. She said it would be but I should call the hospital first.

A week later I phoned the hospital and got permission to visit. When I arrived she was surrounded by colleagues, friends and family…and her doctor. I immediately knew what was going on. All of her visitors were telling her she looked well. Asked how she was feeling. Reassured her. Said all the right things. Basically did everything a patient does not want done.

I walked straight to her bedside, said, “Hi” and asked the doctor if he was her doctor. He said he was. I then looked closely at her nose. Using my finger as a pointer I said, to the doctor, “You do great work. I don’t see a scar and I can’t even see any swelling. Remarkable! But, if I may offer one criticism, personally, I would have chopped a bit more off.” Without missing a beat he replied, “It’s a judgment call. It’s easier to chop more off later than to add on.” “Good point,” I responded. I then looked at my colleague and said, “See you back at work.” I gave her a gentle pat on the shoulder, shook hands with the doctor, and left. That was it.

By the time I got to work the next day the rumor mill was hard at work. Everyone knew about my “disgraceful” behavior. I just laughed it off. I could not have cared less.

A few of us were in the lobby when she returned. She ignored everyone and came straight to me. For the first time ever, she gave me a hug and a kiss. Everyone saw and everyone heard what she said: “I can’t thank you enough. How did you know what to say?”

The answer was simple: I had been a patient and knew what she wanted to hear and how she wanted to be treated.

A couple of years later a friend called me. His grandfather was going to have heart surgery. He, the grandfather, was very nervous and they, the family, were worried about his state of mind. He asked me to drop by.

I did. I walked into my friend’s apartment. He introduced me to his grandfather. I whispered in his ear. He smiled. Slapped me on the back. And I left without saying a word to my friend or anyone else.

When I got home my phone was ringing.

What did you say to my grandfather? When you left, he got up, took his meds, and went to bed. Usually we have to fight with him. What did you say?

I figured all of you were telling him that today the surgery is not a big deal and he should not worry. Well, for him it is a big deal and he has the right to worry. So I told him it was big deal and he had the right to worry.

But what exactly did you tell him?

Nothing that begins with an enema is every any fun!

People who have not had an experience that someone else is going through usually want to be nice. They think they are saying and doing the right things. But, in truth, they are not. They are usually saying and doing the exact opposite of what the person they care about wants. And, because of that, it does not work and can lead to frustration.

I have noted previously that when choosing a career counselor the first question to ask is, “Have you ever hired and fired people?” If not, then the counselor’s approach is purely academic. That’s not what a job seeker needs.

Of late, I have come to the conclusion that other questions have to be asked:

Have you ever been unemployed? For how long? How did you get your next job?

Have you ever been faced with having to sell your home?

Have you ever had to choose between paying for medication and buying food or paying the rent?

In other words, before hiring a career counselor make sure that they have personally experienced what you are experiencing. If they haven’t, you can probably find better ways to spend your money.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

I got fired because I am pretty!

Well, not exactly.

A young woman phoned me asking for advice.  She had been fired.  As with all young people fired for the first time, she believed that she would never get another job.  Her career was over before it even began.

This is called being human.  I have had older workers come to me with equal panic and frustration believing that their careers were over because they too were fired.  In those case, for the most part, I was able to reassure them that they were not “fired” but rather only “laid off.”  There’s a big difference, but I’ll leave that for a future post.

Let’s get back to our young woman.

I asked her what happened and this is basically what she said:

It was just like in high school.  All the boys would hang around me between classes and at events.  I liked the attention.  And it continued in college.  But at work it got me into trouble and I got fired.

Nothing new here.  We have all witnessed this ourselves.  I still see it at so-called “professional” networking events.

I asked her what she said to the guys at the office.  She told me that she told them that she had work to do and didn’t have the time.  They would then ask her out.  She told them she had a boy friend.

Then I asked what the boss had said to her.  She told me that the boss had said she was not getting her work done because she was spending too much time socializing.  She had not been hired to socialize.  She was then fired.

She had only been on the job three months.

First, I explained that I was not an employment attorney.  There may be grounds for legal actions because it could constitute sexual harassment or a hostile work environment depending on a number of things including corporate policy and whether or not she followed the policy in filing a complaint.  I advised she consult with a qualified attorney.

Second, even if she has grounds for legal action, right now she needs work and she therefore needs a good explanation of what happened.

I told her to simply tell the truth: “Guys were hanging around my desk.  I told them I had work to do.  They still came over.  When they asked me out I said I had a boy friend.  They would still come over.  The boss saw it, though that I was socializing and fired me.”

So far so good.  But now, I told her, she had to show that she learned from the experience, knew what she had done wrong, and would not do it again.

“My mistake was not going to my boss.  Impression is reality so the boss did not know what was really happening.  I should have asked for advice and direction.  If it ever happens again, that is what I will do.”

For the record, if the boss had been aware of what was actually happening, the riot act should have been read to the male employees and if they did not leave the woman alone they (the men) should have all been fired.

I have every confidence this young woman will have little difficulty finding work.  Good employers like people who admit their mistakes, learn from them and make no excuses.  I know because I have gotten jobs for people who have been fired for far more serious errors in judgement.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

A good cry may cost you a job offer but get you a career

Henry Kissinger had two rules. The first, which I understood, was that he would never bring “too many” Jews with him into President Nixon’s Oval Office. The second, which I also understood, was that if someone handed him a report he would write on it something like, “Too long!” The next version would be “Not focused!” And it would continue until that frustrated author would say, “Mr. Secretary, this is the best I can do.” To which Kissinger would reply, “Now I’ll read it!”

That is what happens when you are a writer. It happens when you are a writer of reports for a Henry Kissinger and it also happens when you are a speech writer. Whatever you write is going to be edited. The first draft will never survive. And if you want to be an author, you have to be ready for rejection.

As many of you know, I have been victimized for helping women get job offers because I had the nerve to suggest that their unique engagement rings may have been the reason they were not getting job offers. A curious thing has started to happen. Women have started to thank me. One in particular was a young woman who I had met many years ago. And I had made her cry.

She was fresh out of journalism school. She wanted to be a corporate speech writer. I had a client looking for a speech writer. We set up an appointment and I told her that, in addition to sending me her resume, she also had to send me a one-page essay on why she should be considered for the job. She did.

I have well over 100 peer-reviewed publications. My Master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation were both published by highly respected publishers. I have had articles and reviews published in journals around the world. In other words, my professors and faceless editors have cut my works to shreds. I know how to do it and I did it to this young woman.

When I handed her back her essay, there was not a phrase, punctuation, sentence, paragraph, word or thought that I had not put red pen to. She took one look at it, teared up and then the tears started to flow.

It took a couple of minutes for her to calm done but then I explained what I had done. I told her that the essay was actually pretty good, but that being a speech writer meant having to learn the person for whom you are writing. It has to sound like their words, not yours. So you have to learn how to handle criticism and criticism that is not always diplomatically conveyed.

She was obviously not yet suited for the job. She was smart enough to know it. She thanked me and today I found out that she is now a successful speech writer.

Just because at one point in your career you are not yet ready for your dream job, does not mean you never will be ready. Knowledge is not everything; sometimes experience is even more important. That is equally true for someone fresh out of college as it is for a more seasoned professional looking to change careers.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

March Career Counseling Special

With the impact of the Affordable Care Act becoming a daily reality for job seekers, it is important for everyone in the Career Counseling industry to do what they can to help job seekers.  I call on my fellow career counselors to join me in reducing their prices in the coming month:

During March I will be discounting the price of my full-service career counseling package by $100.  For only $150 clients will receive:

  • A 2-hour face-to-face or Skype consultation (depending on their location)
  • Career evaluation/Job performance assessment
  • Job search plan review
  • Networking assistance
  • Resume critique
  • Cover letter critique
  • Interview preparation and review
  • Unlimited phone or e-mail consultations UNTIL YOU GET YOUR NEXT JOB!

To book your session visit http://www.hsstaffing.com/special.html.

And don’t forget, if you have a question about your career or job search, call in to Career Counseling Live! on Bruce Hurwitz Presents, every Sunday morning at 9 AM Eastern.  The phone number is 646-478-3302.

How to turn one or two books into a $100 Macy’s gift card

I’m pleased to announce the impending publication of my new book Success! As Employee or Entrepreneur.  Purchase a copy before February 1 and be entered to win a $100 gift card.  I’m offering a 30% pre-publication discount on Success! and my previous book, A Hooker’s Guide to Getting a Job.  Buy both and get a 40% discount.  Click here for details!   And check out the Library page on my relaunched website.  You’ll find hundreds of free articles, video and audio files on all aspects of a job search.  Good luck!

No One Ever Throws Away a Book

When you own a business you are blessed, on a daily basis, by salespeople trying to sell you every conceivable good and services.   High on the list are promotional items: pens, pads of paper, magnets, calendars.  In other words, junk.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good junk.  And if you have a booth at a trade show, it’s the only way to attract people to your table – unless, of course, you have hired an attractive woman!  Sad, but true…

In any event, I guarantee you that no one has ever gotten a client because of a pen!  True, the client may have found the pen and so had no difficulty locating the phone number.  But placing a call, or sending an e-mail, is an opening, not a close.  You want the close!

The best way to get the close is to give a prospect something that screams, “I AM AN EXPERT!” and what screams the loudest in a book.

Of course, today, thanks to marvelous technology, anyone can self-publish.  But “self-publishing” is just a fancy term for printing.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Historically many people have been highly successful self-publishing.  But it’s rare and the truth is, when you self-publish a book you are really just printing a very large brochure.  Again, nothing wrong with that.  It’s not immoral, unethical or deceitful.  But since no one approved the book, it’s also not a source of credibility.

There’s a way around that, other than the traditional publishing route which can literally take years – and you can forget about earning any money from royalties!

To learn how, join me and marketing consultant Gil Effron, from The Growth Team, for our joint presentation, How to Write a Book, Publish a Book, and Make it the Focal Point of Your Marketing Activities.  Part of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce’s MarketingWeekNYC,TM the workshop will take place Tuesday, July 16, from 10:00 to 11:00 AM at Grace Corporate Park, 255 West 36th Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY.  Pre-registration is required:  http://www.hsstaffing.com/Career_Counseling.html.  Limited space.  Register early!

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