Opportunistic interviewing and serendipity
Weathering the storm and defining the moment

Super Mario transitions--how do I jump into a new career?

For those who have been climbing the ladder of success for a long time, but now it is leaning against the wrong mountain.


Maybe the hottest topic since the financial events of last month. Hundreds of thousands of people laid off are pounding the pavement. Many of them vowing not to stay in the professional vertical that just ejected/rejected them. They are now sitting at the kitchen table looking at a wide variety of options. Passion, what you want, the shape of your resume and the vitality of your network all play big roles. Like the iconic video game star Super Mario, jumping onto moving platforms in different venues, is now the challenge. Are my skills transferable? And to what? And then again what do I want. Always seems to come full circle, doesn't it? :) After going from non-profit to for-profit to non-profit to for-profit to non-profit, I get asked how did I do this. By the way, non-profit is much harder and i will go back to for-profit when I want an easier job! What I have learned is that a solid track record of achievement and a strong skillset are needed in government, business, non-profit, Universities, Foundations, start-ups, big companies and small businesses. I would say emphatically that the only thing that prevents you from platform hopping is you! And maybe your resume. A career shift to a new world requires an understanding of the needs of that world, the lexicon, the cultural differences etc. I have deterred thousands of people from going into non-profit work because they could not make the mental shift to the non-profit culture--a culture where the goals, outcomes are hard to measure, where strict business models do not always apply. Not even mentioning the lack of resources and the absence of an IT department! :)

Once you have selected a new platform or two to explore--platforms that you have serious interest in, then you have to engage the network and find sources and resources at those employers or in those industries to get a handle on how your story can be translated to be relevant there.

A few recent examples: Talked to a government employee who said he wanted to go into marketing. Yet the word marketing did not appear on his resume--"because we don't call it marketing". After listening to him, he was indeed a marketer and we injected the "m" word in appropriate places throughout his documents, including marketing deliverables that were meaningful to the business world. He used his network to get in the door of a major entertainment company and was hired. Talked to this very impressive woman with an MBA from Wharton and terrific marketing expertise. She had more recently earned a PhD in History from Berkeley. She just loves History--I know, kinda random. She wanted a marketing job. I advised her to take the PhD off her resume. She was more than taken aback. I told her it was a marketing test. ;) She relented. The hypothesis was firms were intimidated by the PhD and did not want a "Dr." working for them. Almost immediately she was interviewed and hired. Lastly, a referral who spent almost his whole career in real estate, a very successful career mind you, but now wanting to jump to a new platform. We worked on re-fashioning his background to be less real estate focused and put more attention on his skills, management, and achievements. Engaging his network, he is getting interviews now, no job yet. Of course, I am relaying success stories, but they are models of adaptability to become more transferable.

Basic stuff here. Career ladders, career escalators--where you just climb and ride your way to the top are relics of the past. Platform jumping is now a required sport in the career game of life, especially when industries and seemingly invincible brand names just disappear. I have always believed that you will have 4-7 careers in your lifetime! Your skills, background, and your story may be transferable, but only if you translate them into the language and culture of the new world you seek---and engage your network!

Thanks for reading. John

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