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Career transition approach needs fine tuning

By Joan Lloyd

Question:

I've worked in manufacturing for a good part of my career, but have always wanted to join corporate America as a professional. I have been going back to school on and off since 1980, when I graduated high school. My last manufacturing position, after 13 years, ended with a company where I moved into a marketing role.

I was downsized a little after 9/11. The company did pay for my schooling at a university, where I graduated with a bachelor's in Organization and Leadership (a course of study designed to achieve middle to upper management status within an organization). After downsizing, I didn't have my degree complete, yet worked as a loan officer (straight commission, self-employed) for the last three years.

I completed my bachelor's degree in 2003. I'm looking to narrow down the list of about eight different positions that I would enjoy. The type of industry I'd like I haven't been so specific on.

I've been looking to network with other professionals and have been told to ask friends, neighbors, etc. if they have any connections. The friends, neighbors and family members kind of leave me in a blank. I don't know anyone with any substantial leads. I guess I am back to networking professionals.

I am also kind of dismayed and sometimes a little mad with the process of hiring, interviewing and the like. I feel I have a lot to offer an organization and feel I should be recognized. I have a little money left in the bank, but owe $100,000 in bills. I have to get a career on track. I'm trying to do my due diligence, but I need some help finding a promising, good paying career.

Answer:

I admire you for your persistence and congratulate you for getting your degree. While a degree is no guaranteed ticket to a middle or upper management job, it is a basic

requirement for many jobs.

Making a transition from a manufacturing position to a staff/professional position can be difficult. Some of the steps you have taken have been very good, but others need fine- tuning.

For example, the fact that your former employer moved you into a marketing position can be very useful on your resume. It should be played up as much as possible. Also, your self-employment as a loan officer should be another good source of results to put on your resume. Both of these professional positions suggest that you have many good interpersonal and sales skills that can qualify you for many positions.

But I think you may be getting frustrated in your networking because your approach is broad and scattered, rather than strategic and customized. For instance, you may be making the mistake of simply asking friends and neighbors, "Who do you know who's looking for someone…" This is not likely to yield much more than a blank look and a shrug.

Instead, start a two-phased networking system. The first phase is to narrow down the fields of interest to two or three. The second is to tunnel into each field and network with people in that field.

During the first phase, group the eight positions you identify into categories, such as sales-related, marketing-related, etc. If possible, try to find a creative bridge between the jobs and industries you already have some experience in, such as marketing in a bank, or sales for a manufacturing firm. As you begin to narrow down these possibilities, you are ready to start targeted networking.

Instead of asking, "Who do you know?" ask, "Do you have any relatives or friends who are in sales?" or "Who is your banker?" or, "Do you have a marketing director in your company?" Then ask if they would mind if you called that person and asked for some advice on your job search. Assure them you won't ask for a job.

When you call, mention the name of the referring person and be brief and specific about what you want from them. If you call with a vague, broad request for help or contacts, you won't get either. Instead, be strategic with each person. For instance, ask if the sales director would mind looking over your resume to see if he can see any "red flags." Or, ask the marketing executive in a manufacturing company how to position your 13 years of manufacturing on your resume, so it will be seen as an asset when seeking a marketing position.

You say that you have a lot to offer an organization and feel you should be recognized. That's not how it works. They don't know anything about you; it's your job to show them. For instance, you probably shouldn't submit a chronological resume. A functional resume is a better format for you to tell your story. Play up your skills and accomplishments that fit the job you are going after and minimize or leave off the work history that detracts. Customize your resumes to fit—don't submit a one-size-fits-all resume.

"Strategic and customized" should be your mantra. Abandon generic networking and start writing resumes that are packed with results that relate to the job you want, and you'll start fielding multiple offers before you know it.