What's the most important step you can take when you're thinking about returning to work? It may not be what you think. Carol speaks with career coach, Carroll Welch.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3, 2, 1 iRelaunch. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO of iRelaunch. We bring you the most effective career reentry products and services. In each episode of 3, 2, 1, iRelaunch, we'll be speaking with guest experts in the career reentry space to help make your transition back to work smooth and successful.
Today's topic is, 'The Key Step you Cannot Skip to Relaunch your Career Successfully.' Today, we are speaking with Carol Welch of Carol Welch Consulting. Carol is a certified coach with the International Coach Federation and a former practicing attorney. Carol supports and advises professionals in all fields on career development reentry and transition issues. Carol is also an iRelaunch Boot Camp coach. Hi Carol, thank you for being with us today.
Carol Welch: Thank you for having me.
Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm very excited to be having this conversation with you today, because one of the bigger pitfalls that I find with people who are relaunching their careers is that they want to jump right into the resume writing, interview prep part of the process, because it feels like you're really accomplishing something if you're focusing on those concrete tasks. But we really think that there are some preliminary key steps that people have to take to start their relaunch, that even before they get into resumes, interviews and the rest of those job search tactics, and I wanted to talk to you about what some of those steps are. So can you just talk a little bit about how you advise people who are at the beginning of this process, about these important steps?
Carol Welch: Absolutely. And you are so right. It seems to me that relaunchers and reentry people want to really dive in and get busy with tactical things like resumes and cover letters and preparing for interviews. And all of that is important and certainly has its place in the relaunch process, but there's also a more sort of fundamental and foundational piece that needs to be dealt with before you put yourself out there in the job market.
And it's basically a process of taking inventory, taking stock of who you are, and what you have to offer. It's an introspective self-assessment process, and when I suggest to some relaunchers that they really need to do this as the foundation of their job search, some of them have actually said to me, "I don't have time or luxury to do that. I really need to get a job." But I really encourage them to conduct a self-assessment process because it really has a practical purpose in a job search.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes. I completely agree. And I think one of the reasons people are hesitant to dive into that process is it's really hard, and there are parts of it that feel overwhelming. And it's hard to figure out the starting point and ending point and to understand what the goals are that you get at the end. But it feels to me that the ultimate goal is you want to get clarity on exactly what you want to do. And that process can be really different at the moment of relaunch than it was much earlier in your career.
So can you just break down for us some of the components of going through this career assessment process, so people understand what they should be thinking about and the end goal?
Carol Welch: Absolutely. and you're correct that it's actually the tough part of the process, because it's some deep, introspective, thoughtful work.
And for many people who have gone from one career to another, or perhaps from a career directly to staying home and raising a family, or caring for parents or doing something else, they never got to hit the pause button and really think about some of the issues that are part of the self-assessment process.
And before I move into what they are, I just wanted to tell you that when you do hit the job market, you need to tell a prospective employer very clearly and succinctly and articulately what you have to offer and bring to the table, both in terms of your skills and who you are as a person.
And if you haven't thought that through really carefully and developed the language around that, you're going to show up in the job market as not a very compelling candidate, because you didn't do that work in advance. Some other reasons why conducting a self-assessment is really important is that it will give you clarity on what your skills are and you won't go barking up all the wrong trees in your job search. You'll know much more clearly having conducted a self-assessment, what types of jobs you are well-qualified and suited for and which ones you aren't. So you won't waste a lot of time in your job search, hunting down things you know, that you would not otherwise if you hadn't conducted this process. You'll also know what your trade-offs are.
Part of the self-assessment process is getting very clear on what's important to you about work. What are your motivated skills? What do you love being good at that you want to do in your next role? What do you have to bring to the table? And, what's a non-negotiable for you, what are some things that you do not want to have present in your relaunch position?
So, those are just some of the reasons why it's really important to conduct this process. And back to your question, so one of the fundamental things that you assess in yourself as part of the self-assessment process are your skills. What can you do when you go to apply for a job, that employer has some need or want or headache, and it's your job to tell them how you can solve that problem, or alleviate that headache. And the way you can do that is by offering your skills. So whether they are raising money or researching, or solving problems or organizing things or negotiating, you need to very clearly and articulately talk about what your skills are. If you're relaunching into an area that's somewhat different than what you've done in the past, you have another job to do, which is you need to connect the dots for the prospective employer on how your utilizing those skills in the past at another employer or for another client or customer, how your using those skills in the past can be relevant in this position that you are pursuing now.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Carol, let me just jump in there for a second. So when you're saying to go through this process of figuring out your skills, are there some formal career assessment tools that you recommend people use, or is it simply a matter of asking yourself what you love doing the most and are best at? How do people figure out what their best skills are?
Carol Welch: First of all, certainly you're going to sit down and reflect on and take stock of all the work that you've done in the past. And as I know, iRelaunch really encourages relaunchers to not discount or dilute the value of community experiences, volunteer experiences that they've been involved in during their time away from the paid work world.
So what you're going to do is stand back and take a look at all the skills that you've developed, both in paid and unpaid context, and really get clear on what those skills are and how you've used those skills to have impact, to add value to different employers, organizations, customers, clients. And then the next step would be to think about which of those skills do you love using, which ones do you really love being good at? And those will be the telling pieces of where you may want to be heading, or what you're going to target in your relaunch job search.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Got it. Okay. Thank you. I'm sorry, I interrupted you. So you were just talking about the first piece was to identify these skills, but then, there are other pieces of the self assessment process. What are some of the other pieces that people have to be thinking about?
Carol Welch: Absolutely. Your values, a lot of people go from day to day and they work hard, but they don't think about what their work-related values are, and these are different than skills. In Boot Camp I, we did a lot of work around work-related values and drivers. And basically these are the things that make work rewarding for you. Values are essentially emotionally-driven things that, sometimes it's clear why a certain value is important to a person, and sometimes it's not clear, but they are your values and if they're important to you, that's all that matters.
Some examples of work-related values are working for something that has a positive social impact, or the need to have work that has intellectual challenge or, perhaps it is a need to be part of a team, perhaps it is to make a certain amount of money. People have all different sorts of work-related values and drivers.
And before you hit the job market as a relauncher, it's important to really get clear on what your work-related values are. Why do you want to work? And what about work is important to you?
Carol Fishman Cohen: Got it. Thank you. And I love those examples. It really helps me and I'm sure our listeners visualize and think about what the word 'values' means because it's normally, I would say, pretty hard to define.
So, one thing that you were talking about was people doing this kind of re-examination. When you're relaunching your career, you have this moment in time where you've been able to really step back and reflect on whether you were even on the right career path to begin with.
And we sometimes at iRelaunch think about how people almost accidentally fall into their first careers either by falling into some major in school and taking a job in a related field. And if they get a second job in that same field, the next thing you know, you've got a career and then they're just focused on the career and it's not until they take their career break, that they have a chance to reflect on whether that was the right career path for themselves.
Or, maybe they were fulfilling someone's expectations like their parents and their career break allows them to step back and think about how they want to do something completely different. When you're thinking about the next pieces of the process, do they relate to that situation where you're in that period of reflection?
And, now you're thinking about, do I go back to exactly what I left, something related, or relaunch in an entirely different direction?
Carol Welch: Absolutely. That pause button and that sort of break where you are just about to relaunch and you're thinking about all of these things, really affords for a lot of people a very special opportunity to take a second bite at their career apple and, maybe more thoughtfully and purposefully and mindfully pursue something that is meaningful to them and resonates with them in a way that maybe their first job or career out of grad school or law school or business school didn't. A lot of people get on a path and they put one foot in front of the other. And whether it's because they had loans, or had certain other issues of using their degree, or prestige, or whatever, they go down a road that maybe they didn't fully intend to, but they enjoy the work and it's fine. When you're about to relaunch, you really have this wonderful opportunity to step back and really think about pursuing work that is maybe more meaningful to you or includes more of your work-related values that perhaps were not present in past positions that you've had.
And in my own work with hundreds of relaunchers, I've seen them draw upon personal experiences, sometimes things that they've done through their children, their families, and their communities, through non-profit work, or through other part-time, paid positions that they want to grow into a full-time role.
I've really seen people find opportunities for figuring out areas to pursue that maybe they never had a chance to consider before.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So Carol, can you talk about some other components of this process that people should be considering? I believe that you had told me originally there were four different pieces.
There were skills, values, and then two others.
Carol Welch: Yes. A couple of the other pieces of the self assessment process are personality. It's important to reflect on, and you might think, what does that have to do with my professional life or what does it matter what my personality is like as I begin to relaunch myself? It does matter. If you are looking to relaunch yourself into an employment venue or in an area where certain personality traits are highly valued, maybe, being entrepreneurial or being particularly team oriented or, being even extremely optimistic, or being very comfortable working alone and in a solitary environment. These are important things for you to know about yourself as you go out there to begin your relaunch, because again, as I said earlier, perhaps your personality is well suited for a particular area or perhaps it's not, but this is information that it's important to know about yourself before you hit the job market.
And then the other area was your interests, for relaunchers who really know they want to return, but they're at somewhat of a loss as to what that area for their career is going to be, we career coaches and counselors will often ask, "What are you interested in? What do you read when you open the Sunday paper? What kinds of things matter to you or get you excited or engaged?" And those are really fundamental questions and it doesn't necessarily mean that the answer to what job you should have next is in those questions, but the answers to those questions can certainly be very telling about where a person can begin to look to relaunch themselves.
Carol Fishman Cohen: What do you think about the Herminia Ibarra, Working Identity approach, where she recommends that it's really for career transitioners, whether or not you've taken a career break, but for people who are exploring a brand new field to try to find opportunities where maybe you can shadow someone who's doing a role that you might aspire to, or possibly take on what we call a strategic volunteering role, where you try out that new career without taking the step of getting a paid job in it.
Carol Welch: I think it's fantastic. And I'm glad you brought up Herminia Ibarra, because her book Working Identity, I think, is one of the best career transition books out there.
And, the concept that you're talking about, that she covers in the book is all about career transition and that includes relaunching. It's an incredibly experiential process. It's not something that you do from behind your computer screen or your laptop at night.
Learning about where you should be relaunching yourself or transitioning yourself career-wise is something that you figure out by going out in the world and having conversations with people, or shadowing people at their jobs, or going to a class or a conference or a program or a lecture. You begin to be able to visualize yourself more in that field or in that employment venue or in that industry. And that really helps you to have a vision of yourself in that area and propels you forward. So I think that's a really important concept for career transition and relaunching.
Carol Fishman Cohen: We also talk about the concept of strategic volunteering, which is essentially taking on volunteer roles that are in line with your career goals in part to do this kind of trying out.
An example I like to use is, if you want to manage construction projects, maybe you take on a weekend build for Habitat for Humanity. But I just wanted to point out a few resources, www.Idealist.org, www.Volunteermatch.org, are two websites that are essentially global databases of volunteer opportunities.
And then there's also www.Catchafire.org, which is more project-based volunteer opportunities ,and many of them are remote. So just to give people a few resources, if they're thinking about trying out a new career direction and want to use strategic volunteering to help them in that process.
Carol, I wanted to ask you a little bit about certain tools, career assessment tools, and which ones happen to be your personal favorites? I know that in Back on the Career Track and iRelaunch in our Boot Camps, we use the Job Building Blocks Worksheet, which is a tool that we created as a way of looking at each of your significant prior work and volunteer experiences, breaking them into components, identifying which of those components you love the most and are best at, extracting them, putting them in a pile and then examining that pile of extracted components and building back up a new career path for yourself...which you can do on your own, or with a group of trusted friends and family, or with a boot camp group or with a career coach.
But there are other, established career assessment tools. And I was just interested in hearing your opinion on which ones you think are particularly effective.
Carol Welch: Okay. There are a lot of assessments out there and depending on which part of the self assessment process you are seeking support in, there could very well be a good assessment out there for you to take.
For example, if you were looking for some information and support about your personality, your psychological preferences, Myers-Briggs would be a great assessment for you. if you were not sure about what your skills, competencies and abilities were, there's something called the Highland Battery assessment and that could be helpful.
If you are not sure about what you're interested in, some people don't know what they like or what they feel strongly about. The Strong Interest Inventory could help you with that. There's another one called DISC, D, I, S, C. And that measures, it's a behavioral assessment, it measures different behaviors.
So basically if you were to figure out what part of your self assessment process you maybe are struggling with or need support with, you could find online a particular assessment. And some of them you can actually take online, some offer some sort of test drives and portions of them for free and others you need to pay for.
And then you could receive an online report for whatever the fee was that you paid. Certain coaches are certified to administer these tests. So if you found a coach who was certified to administer, for example, Myers-Briggs, you could see that coach in person and take that test and then get the results.
For other people who perhaps are not looking for an actual assessment, but they feel that they need support in this process, many people overlook their college or graduate or professional school career services offices, and the counselors in those offices are there to support alumni. And they're often very well equipped to help guide you through some of these pieces of the self-assessment process, or at least direct you to some really good resources.
Some other things, I always recommend that people have a sort of a personal board of advisors, some few close friends or past colleagues who know them well and can give them honest and objective feedback on some of these things. So certainly, talking with people who support you in your relaunch process, could really be helpful in getting some clarity around some of these components of the self assessment process.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent. Thank you so much for such a comprehensive review. For example, if I was interested in taking Myers-Briggs, just to recap, I could look that up online, pay directly, and then I take an online Myers-Briggs survey, and does it take an hour? Does it take three hours? Do you have to do it all at once? How does that work?
Carol Welch: Yes, you can go online and I believe that there are different versions of the Myers-Briggs. Some are more extensive than others, but, there are questions that are set up in a way that are designed to measure how you would respond, or what is more appealing to you or more attractive to you in various scenarios.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And then once you get the results, then there is a way to correlate those results with certain types of jobs? Or then is that like a whole new analysis that you have to do?
Carol Welch: I think that's where, if you are looking to take the results of something like that even further, a Myers-Briggs certified coach could help guide you toward certain either types of careers and for example, in the case of lawyer, certain practice areas where people who generally or frequently have those designations that the Myers-Briggs produces, where those people tend to either gravitate for work or tend to find success.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So if you're an extrovert and you have certain other qualities, they might say you should be a litigator or something like that? We have seen over the years, alumni career services departments get very developed.
Some alumni career services departments have elaborate offerings. Some even include coaches that, not only do they help you access these career assessment tools at a discounted rate or sometimes free, but a few schools will offer coaches to help you interpret them. So definitely make sure that you check in with your alma mater to see what kind of services they offer. That's extremely helpful.
Carol, can you talk about if someone hires a coach one-on-one, what is that process like? Where does the coach start? And let's say a person ends up with results that show that there are two options that they could pursue that are really different, but they're pretty strongly interested in both. Do you advise a person in that situation to move forward on both fronts or to ultimately eliminate one?
Carol Welch: When I meet with a client who is looking to begin a career transition or a relaunch, and they have a couple of possible job search tracks, I absolutely encourage them to conduct thoughtful, thorough job searches along each of the tracks. I find in my experience that most people can't, it becomes a bit unwieldy if you have more than I would say three job search tracks, particularly if they are very unrelated to each other and require very separate types of strategic volunteering, or separate types of networking, but absolutely.
There's no reason why, if you have interest in a couple of different areas, why you shouldn't conduct job searches under each. And like a lot of things in life, sometimes as you proceed along your separate job search tracks, you may begin to feel that search track A is more interesting to you and probably the one that you liked better, but perhaps an opportunity presents itself in track B and then, that would be a rich problem to have, but you'd have to decide whether you want it to take that. It's like many things, it's timing and a bit of luck. But there's no reason why you need to decide on one single job search track.
In fact, I think it's wiser to have a couple.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And then just a technical question about coaching. Do you work with people only in person, or does coaching sometimes start with one meeting in person and then it's on the phone or through Skype afterward? Or how does that part of it proceed?
Carol Welch: I work with people either in person or by telephone or by Skype, depending upon where they are.
And generally, so say for example, a person came to me and they were looking to begin a relaunch process and they felt like they needed some support. We would begin by really looking at whatever shape their resume might be in. We would walk through their career background and the work that I do with a lot of relaunchers includes fleshing out and parsing through their non-paid work, skills and experiences so that they can be highlighted on their resume in a compelling and valuable way. But, I like to really get to know a client first and I like to talk through a lot of the self-assessment components that I talked about earlier and then, support them in developing a focused and sensible job search strategy. That includes very specific action items that are well thought out and really targeted rather than all over the place.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So it sounds to me, Carol, like the coaching can really be effective, whether it's face-to-face in person or whether it's over the phone or Skype. Is that accurate?
Carol Welch: Absolutely.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Great. It's interesting because at iRelaunch, we have two different boot camps, and Carol's been involved in both. These boot camps are in two categories. Boot Camp I is Assessing Career Options and Boot Camp II is Job Search Tactics.
So the way we divide the process up, we spend four weeks, an entire boot camp on assessing career options, because we think it's that important in the process to figure out exactly what you want to do to get that clarity. And that you can't even move on to the second part of the process, which is our Boot Camp II, Job Search Tactics, which is essentially, conveying to an employer, through the language that you use on your resume and also in your interviews on how you can add the most value. But we really feel like those processes are sequential, and that you can't even dive into that, developing language and materials, conveying your full value until you figured out exactly what you want to do.
Carol Welch: Absolutely.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So Carol in closing, I want to ask you a question that we like to ask all of our podcast guests, and it's, what is your favorite piece of relaunch advice? Even if you're repeating something that we already discussed on today's podcast, I'm interested in hearing. What is your favorite piece of advice for relaunchers?
Carol Welch: Absolutely. and my favorite bit of advice actually relates to what we've been talking about today. And that is, I would like to say that I think relaunchers should resist that urge to dive in at 90 miles an hour, and take the time to conduct a thorough, in-depth self-assessment process because I guarantee you that you will show up in the job market as a more compelling and confident candidate when you know exactly who you are, and that includes the good, the bad and the ugly, and what you have to offer and bring to the table.
Carol Fishman Cohen: I love that piece of advice. Thank you so much, Carol. And thank you for being with us today.
Carol Welch: Thank you very much.
Carol Fishman Cohen: If you have any comments or questions, please email us at email@example.com. That's I R E L A U N C H.com, and be sure to visit our website www.iRelaunch.com.