How to Change Careers at Any Age – Part 5

This is the final part of a five-part series about changing careers – and more importantly how to change careers successfully at any age. The final important piece of the puzzle is learning how to add and demonstrate value right away in your new role.

It is important to remember that your career change does not end when you have secured your first role. In order to be truly successful in your new role with your new employer, and indeed in the long-term, you need to add value early. This is especially true for career changers. Fortunately, you already have everything you need to do this and more.

Set yourself up to add value early in your new role – the first 90 days are critical

When you make a career change, you are like a sprinter in a 100m race: your job is to sprint past the finish line to improve your chances of success. Sprinters are taught this because if they ease up before the finish line, there is always a chance that someone else will come along and overtake them. Obviously, nobody is going to come and steamroller over you in your career change, but the concept still holds.

With any new hire, and especially with new hires who have recently changed careers, the manager and employer of that recently hired person are looking for reassurance that they made the right decision in hiring them. I can tell you from my own experiences, that as a hiring manager you form opinions about employees from the interview phase, and then you keep an eye out for signs that you are right during the initial employment phases. That is until you have sufficiently figured out what motivates the new person and how you can create an environment to get them using their strengths regularly.

It is up to you to demonstrate to your new manager that they made the right decision in hiring you

Until you have built up sufficient trust (i.e. you have proved to them you can walk the walk) with your new manager/leader that you are indeed actually how you presented yourself (or even better) during your interview stage, then the task at hand is on you to give them ample amounts of evidence to support your case.

So how could you do this? Here are some tactics you can use:

  • Remeber your strengths – whatever the age you make your career change, and no matter the circumstances, one way you can absolutely be guaranteed to add value is by using your strengths in your new role. This will always work in your favor because your strengths will not change from job to job, so you can really rely on them and use them whatever you are facing to generate success and add value. Plus by focusing on the strengths you already have, the huge amount of knowledge about your new role, the new employer and new way of doing things will not seem as daunting (or at least that is the theory).
  • Communicate, communicate and then communicate – At the beginning of your time in a new role, you know very little about the preferences of your new manager/leader. And yet, this time is critical for you to establish trust. Make sure in your early meetings that you clearly try to establish their communication preferences. The goal is to come away with a clear sense of how best you can deliver the ‘proof’ that you are indeed amazing. Things like: Do they want you to include them on all emails? Do they want a weekly summary of your activities and progress? Would they prefer regular touch bases?
  • Key players – Any time you are in a new environment, with people you have not met, it is critical to understand who the key players are (i.e. decision makers and ‘leaders’). This is because your success, certainly in the longer term, is likely not going to be just dependent on your ability to impress your immediate manager. You should be thinking in broader terms, and be aiming to impress a wider audience of key players. Start by getting a list early on from your manager, and people that they put you in contact with. You can begin the ball rolling, by simply asking your new manager who he/she would like you to meet with. When you meet with those initial people, be sure to ask them who they advise you to meet with. Before long you will have a long list to work through. In this week’s additional insight on our FB page, I talk through a strategy to focus this effort for maximum results.
  • Framework for impact – In order to help you focus on delivering value in the short-term, I recommend using a structured approach to improve your chances of adding and getting released for your early value. Something like a 30-60-90 framework, which outlines the tasks and outcomes that you are planning to complete with 30, 60 and 90 days. The basic premise is that you want to build up sufficient knowledge of your new role, the key players and the state of the business in the beginning; so that you can make an assessment of what action you should take to improve performance, and then end with widely sharing your actual plan for action. If you have not read the book The First 90 Days, I highly recommend it.

In summary, I cannot stress the importance of adding value early. It will quickly give you confidence in your abilities at what can be a mentally challenging time. Further, it will give your new employer confidence in you and start to build up the vital trust that you will need to continue to be successful.

Good luck!

Image by Ed Webster.

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