Breaking into a new field can be tough. Past experience, expertise and skills can be overlooked even with added schooling because many employers find it difficult to relate the old with the new. This can lead to being passed over or only being offered jobs related to your previous work.
I learned this lesson first-hand when I made the move from banking to corporate communications. Breaking into a new field is a lot like being successful in life. The trick is to remain positive and to never give up. Special guest speaker Garth Rowan at the IABC/Calgary November luncheon said it best: in order to be successful in whatever you do, you need to think like an Olympic athlete.
Garth Rowan is a specialist in media, crisis and risk communications. He has worked with many of North America’s leading companies, spent ten years doing international news reporting, and has worked with a number of international foundations and charities like The Kids Cancer Foundation and The Alberta Children’s Hospital. His charitable work lead him to helping some of Canada’s Winter Olympic athletes. He spent time watching them train and talking to them about their goals. During this time, he began to formulate ideas on what made Olympic athletes different from regular people. What he found was a combination of passion, visualization, mindful practice, strong support networks, focus, confidence, energy levels and coaching.
Focus and Chimp Management
They say that looking for a job is a full-time job and that was my experience. Between networking, cold calling and following up, it takes a lot of work and a lot of patience to get yourself hired. You may face ignored emails, rejection and disappointment but it is how you react to these things that is the difference between success and failure. You could get angry and let the “chimp” (your emotions) run wild or you could keep the focus on your goals and follow another lead. Learning to manage the chimp, and remaining focused can be the difference between success—Olympic Gold and fourth place.
Confidence and Positive Self-Talk
So you haven’t let chimp win, and you are throwing off the “no’s” with ease. Your next step is to remain confident and to keep up the positive self-talk. Garth believed that if athletes didn’t push themselves out of the “awful” stage then they would never succeed. He said that to be at the top means that you have already failed 20,000 times and not given up. That is what breaking into a new field entails. It only takes one ‘yes’ to move forward, but you may have to face hundreds of ‘no’s’ to get there. Athletes have no room for negativity and neither should you. Remain positive by reminding yourself that you can and will succeed, that your skills and abilities are strong and useful and that you are worth hiring.
Part of being able to remain positive and managing the chimp is keeping a strong and positive support network of friends, family and coaches. Athletes surround themselves with positive people because they can’t afford to have negative influences or energy around them. A support network lets you focus on your goals and eliminate distractions. They remind you to believe in yourself and your abilities, and sometimes hearing it reaffirmed by someone else is really all the push you need in order to continue.
Olympic athletes don’t need to worry because they have people in their corner—and so should you. Your family, friends, mentors and colleagues can be essential to your job search (and may even endorse you on LinkedIn!) This support can come in many forms. For example, your support network can be on the lookout for opportunities in the places they work, they can be your references and they can even let you live at home while you look (thanks Mum!) With all of these people ‘in your corner,’ you will succeed not only because you believe it, but also because others believe it as well.
Putting it all together
Garth Rowan reminded me that despite unanswered emails, unreturned phone calls and unsuccessful interviews, I needed to remain positive, remain focused on my task and surround myself with a strong network of family and friends. I reached out to mentors who coached me to be better, to avoid the chimp, and to never give up! As Garth said in his presentation, “Bad days are good days that haven’t been reframed yet.”