Break Out Comfort Zone
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When It’s Time for Something New

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I’ve been doing the same job for a while, and although I am not unhappy, I think it may be time to start looking for something new—maybe in the association world. How do I take my skills to the next level and move into a new arena?

A: It can be really intimidating to move out of your comfort zone. You probably are handling a lot of your current work without much thinking since you’ve been there for a while. I hear you saying that your current job isn’t as challenging or fulfilling as you would like it to be.

I am a firm believer in knowing your strengths and building on them, so the first step I would suggest is to write down what you think your strengths are. If you aren’t sure, you can use an assessment like Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath (the book includes a unique code for accessing the quick online tool).

Once you know your strengths and how you can best use then, do some research on organizations where you think you could make a contribution.

To transition from one field to another or to make the move from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit sector, you need skills that are transferable. Most organizations are looking for people who know how to work with others, who have good communication skills, and who have a track record of success.

Once you know your strengths and how you can best use them, do some research on organizations where you think you could make a contribution. If you’re interested in working in an association, look for ones with missions that interest you. Come up with a list of 20-30 organizations (or as many as you can), and then spend some time on their websites to learn about their culture, mission, and values. Go on LinkedIn and find people you know who have jobs in those organizations (or who know someone who does), and ask them what it’s like to work there.

Now that you’re clear on what skills you have to offer a new employer and you’ve done your research on organizations to target, update your resume (although many organizations now don’t require resumes—they either allow you to import your LinkedIn profile or ask you to complete their online application). Your resume is not intended to share everything you’ve ever done in your career—it should be designed to showcase your strengths in order to get you an interview.

Since you want to take your skills into a new arena, spend some time thinking of examples of how your strengths would transfer to that new field.

A transition like this will take some time and effort. But if you keep at it, you will make the move you want. Good luck!

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

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