Baranello: How to take that next step on the career ladder

Career turns are not always about reinvention or starting over.

Diane Baranello
Diane Baranello

Mid-career and looking for your next big opportunity? Are you up for the challenge? Not everyone is. These are murky waters for many who are taken by surprise – "I never thought they’d let me go. I just got a raise" – or seize the opportunity to move their career in another direction – "I was so tired of doing what I’d always done so I took the package and now what?"

It can feel like navigating white water and losing your paddle. What to do? Don’t panic, start planning.

Begin by making an enemies list. Those stops and stalls that get in the way of successfully and swiftly moving your career in another direction: procrastination, inertia, or lack of focus. Ask yourself: Am I making excuses instead of progress? Am I clear on what I have to offer? Do I have a vision, but not the drive to make it come to life? Have I defined what success means to me?

Career turns are not always about reinvention or starting over. The biggest mistake mid-career pros make is losing confidence in what they’ve achieved and not leveraging their experience. Stop competing with Gen Next and start promoting yourself as confident, connected, and open to change.

If you don’t like your story, change it, and take command of your brand. Here are five challenges you should set yourself before embarking on a change.

1: Does your brand have distinction? Stop copying what everyone else is doing and saying and find your own voice. Develop a point of view in your industry and seek out opportunities to present it.

It’s not simply what you think, but why. Take a risk. Challenge someone with an opposing viewpoint to debate your position. If that makes you uncomfortable, great. You’re beginning to push your boundaries.

2: How have you expanded your platform, skills, and knowledge? It’s easy to be left behind by social media, new leaders, and different voices in the industry. What are you doing to keep up? If you’re serious about transitioning your career, you need to put sweat equity into your business plan. Attend conferences that attract successful people, upgrade your skills, join a professional organization, or volunteer to help with or speak at an event that will attract people doing what you aspire to do. Be strategic about where you spend your most precious currency, your time.

3: Are you a power connector at networking events? Seek out opportunities to help someone solve a problem, connect with those who will add value, or create a power circle of key relationships.

When you meet new people, ask what they’re working on and what they need. Meeting needs is a powerful way to build long-lasting relationships and the best way to form partnerships is through engagement. Ending a conversation with a follow-up ensures the connection continues.

4: For seasoned professionals, expertise and mastery are two strategic differentiators. Are these assets in your portfolio? Leverage your experience as a thought leader and unlock opportunities to present state-of-the-art thinking and garner attention with your ability to become an authority in your field. This is another way to increase your visibility and viability and amplify your message with other influencers.

5: Have you mastered the art of the ask? It often feels easier to give than receive and, yet, there’s an abundance of untapped help surrounding us. As we approach a career turning point, we can’t see around the next curve. We can ask for a helping hand, professional advice, an introduction, an opportunity, a seat at the table. If your relationship is new, it’s best to begin small and be specific.

How will this make a difference in your job search, your ability to advance, or to showcase your talents? Be sure to express an abundance of gratitude and follow with a thank you note written with sincerity and an offer: "How may I help you in return?"

Finally, maintain a brand of distinction, hone your ability to articulate your message with enthusiasm and honesty, give more than you receive, and you will stand up to any challenge that comes your way. 

Diane Baranello is principal of Coaching for Distinction.

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