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Planning for Your Career Pivot
Have you ever noticed that moment when you're thinking of making some kind of change in your life—you cross a “point of no return” in your brain? As soon as you’ve made up your mind that you can't go back or can't undo that big decision, there’s a new kind of pressure to step out into an unknown space and actually make the change. It can be a scary feeling that holds many people back in their career journey. This was true long before “pivot” became a big buzzword, and it’s something many are still struggling with now. In a Career Conversations webinar, we spoke with award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, and coach Kea Meyers Duggan about this topic. Kea is an expert on overcoming fear to make a career pivot, and she has worked with hundreds of driven professionals around the world to help them manage their fears and move toward the work they love by breaking down their vision into realistic steps. Most people don’t wake up one day and start to apply for a job in a completely different industry, role, or functionality. First, they begin to notice things that are making them unhappy, and then they likely imagine how things might be different. And then wonder what first steps to take to move toward their goals. And often ask themselves, “How do I make sure I do this right and end up somewhere I’m really happy instead of dealing with the same problems? What do I do if it doesn't work out?”  If you’ve been asking yourself any of these questions, you’re in a place of growth and can leverage Kea’s advice to help determine your next moves for a successful career pivot.

Two Types Of Career Pivots

A career pivot isn’t always a complete shift into a different job function and industry. The first thing you’ll need to figure out is what kind of pivot you’re craving. It may be a lateral move or what’s called a “lane change pivot,” which means a slight shift to a similar position where a lot of your skills will be transferable. For example, you might move from a marketing role at a company to something similar at a consulting firm. A slight pivot like this will require a bit of networking and preparation but no extensive research or rethinking your professional identity. The other type of pivot is what Kea calls a “highway pivot,” where there might be some transferable skills, but you’re doing a 180-degree turn to a different job function or industry. It’s more like going from being a teacher to being an accountant. In this case, you’ll have a lot more to think about: How will you present yourself on a resume? Which skills are transferable, and how can you highlight them? How do you start to get the necessary experience?

Why People End Up In The Same Situation They Left 

Remember that scary “point of no return?” That feeling of urgency to get out of your current situation is often what causes people to recreate the situation they were trying to leave. We're constantly pushing forward and very rarely spend enough time with painful feelings to get a good understanding of what drove them. When you identify what’s causing stress, creating overwhelm, what tasks you don’t enjoy, and why, you can begin to reverse engineer what the opposite of that environment would be. In addition to the red flags, you want to look out for green flags.  For those who aren’t so quick to make a change, fear can paralyze them from exploring their options. They may wonder, “Am I too old to do this? Am I too far down the path? What happens if I start over for fear of losing status? What will other people think, and will it really make me happy?” Thinking about all the steps it will take, and the support you will need to get from Point A to Point B can shut everything down quickly. So instead, focus on getting a clear picture of what you do and don’t want and make small changes in your current situation while you work on finding the position you’ll really love. Your new vision can help propel you forward as you search for the right fit.

Lay the Groundwork for Your Career Pivot

1. Get clear on what’s happening now.

Before exploring what's next, don’t overlook the value of naming what's happening right now. Consider asking yourself:
  • What is it that you want to leave? 
  • What kind of exploration and experimentation do you still need to do before you feel confident about the next step? 
  • What gets you excited when other people ask for your help?
  • What brings you joy at work?
Focus on what brings you joy to help keep your energy up and save yourself from making a decision that will leave you in a similar situation down the road.

2. Identify your needs and desires for your pivot.

As you start to define your ideal situation, you’ll need to consider your zone of brilliance: the combination of things that you're really good at and things that you really enjoy doing. Ask yourself, “what do I like to help people with, and what do I love to talk about?” Many professionals don’t have this figured out, and you can ask some of your close friends or mentors for their opinion, but your new target for your next career move is something you’ll need to determine for yourself. It isn’t necessarily about the role but how you want to feel and what fulfills you. What kinds of people do you want to work with, and what environment do you want to work in every day? 

3. Talk to others and make connections.

Once you’ve completed the first two steps, you probably have some ideas to bounce off other people or questions about potential directions you might take. Start those you trust as they will inevitably know someone, and as the saying goes, “it’s all in who you know.” It’s okay if you’re still fine-tuning the details of what you want. If all you have is I'm really looking for a role that allows me to do this, and I can work with these types of people, you’re off to a great start. Eventually, connecting with a career coach or mentor who can help you narrow down your ideas will be essential. But articulating your thoughts and talking about possibilities is a vital part of this process.

Build Relationships While You’re Exploring

Kea mentioned success after success of people who changed careers to find happiness later in life, who got a great introduction just by mentioning that she was curious about becoming a voiceover artist on a networking call, and even a story or two of her own. Before Kea became a coach, she was able to identify a few things that she really enjoyed in her previous role. She saw a friend who was making a pivot into coaching, and even though she wasn’t sure if it was the right move, she invited that friend to coffee to talk about it. As Kea shared what she was looking for in a new position, her friend reassured her that coaching fit the bill perfectly. One of the challenges you may still face with a highway pivot is a long list of required skills and familiarity with specific software that many employers desire. Kea’s advice is to bypass the 20th-century way of applying, filling out applications without building a relationship first, and attempt to build a relationship with someone who's on the inside, who knows you, who knows your ability to ramp things up quickly and can help you sell your transferable skills. Whenever possible, find someone who has a bit of seniority or credibility to vouch for you. Finally, don’t forget that learning by doing is still learning. It takes a lot of time to really get to know yourself, and it’s okay if you’re not there yet. Failure is an opportunity to learn; the only time you really fail is when you don’t get up and try again.  Need more inspiration? Watch the Replay for more insights and take a look at our upcoming events!
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Getting Creative With Employee Handbooks
Do you know how many employees have actually read your employee handbook? Or opened it, for that matter? According to a GuideSpark benefit survey from 2014, 50% of millennials (folks born after 1980) didn’t read their employee handbook, and 36% don't even know where it is anymore. 33% of young boomers (folks in their fifties or sixties) didn't read their handbook, and out of the 23% that did read it, 25% didn’t find it helpful. 11% of employees didn't even open their handbooks.  Our director of talent and operations Kristen McConnell spoke with Jen Lowrance, founder of Storybridge Creations, about her innovative new approach to employee handbook design. Jen has worked in HR for 20 years, so she has watched trends evolve over the course of her career that has caused this problem. She believes that the slow death of the employee handbook may be contributing to some of the issues we are seeing with workplace culture, disengagement, and turnover.  Jen shared some insights on the new kind of employee handbook revolutionizing the way that new hires read about their employer and company policies: the graphic novel format. Keep reading to discover the power and potential of this visual medium in the workplace.

The Changing Role of Employee Handbooks 

A comprehensive employee handbook has always been a key tool for impactful onboarding and wayfinding. It’s a new employee’s first introduction to company policies: it presents critical information on the company they have just joined and informs them about company values, what’s important to the company and what behaviors are valued there. It becomes a reference document of sorts for established employees to check when they have questions. And of course, it provides employer protection against legal actions that employees may take. Because HR is typically responsible for creating and maintaining employee handbooks, we know that there’s always room for improvement—and it’s a task that often gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. We also know that even the most up-to-date and well-written employee handbooks can be neglected and forgotten by busy employees, leading to conflicts and problems that eventually result in termination. So what’s going wrong? Why are so many bright and talented professionals ignoring their guide to a great employee experience? You’ve probably heard that the average human attention span is getting shorter: as of 2000 it was at 15 seconds, and today it has dropped to 8.25 seconds—less than the 9-second attention span of a goldfish. Combined with lower literacy rates, American employees are just not as equipped to comprehend and retain the information in traditional handbooks the way their predecessors were twenty years ago. The average American reads at about a seventh to eighth-grade level, and 14% have below basic literacy levels. If accessing information is too hard and the value is not immediately apparent, in cases like employee policies, then employees are going to move on without engaging. In addition to being a reference guide on the policies, systems, values, and behaviors that make up your company culture, the employee handbook now has to convey that information in a way that today’s employees can understand and appreciate.

Why Graphic Novels?

It may seem like the comic book is a bit too unorthodox for professional settings. But classrooms and school libraries are increasingly turning to graphic novels to help capture the attention of young readers. The same visual elements that help young students read and understand are also why social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have exploded: they help us absorb more information, faster. Lowrance describes the graphic novel format as somewhere in-between text and animated video formats; it can still be a quick reference that allows you to find the information you need right away, but it’s also more engaging and easier to absorb than blocks of text. Illustrated handbooks are helping meet new demands for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. While this format is more accessible for a wide range of reading abilities, it also creates an opportunity to represent diverse employees and show how they fit into company culture through nonverbal cues in images and storytelling. It’s much easier to show in pictures how your company embraces all people for the talent that they bring and how those behaviors show up in real interactions. Specific situations like sexual harassment and microaggressions can also be communicated more clearly in a narrative that shows an individual’s experience. Adding that element can resonate deeply with new employees, building trust and familiarity with your company culture at the same time. The biggest reason to incorporate illustrations in employee handbooks is simply that employees are more likely to read them. 

Working with Storybridge

Not every company will benefit from doing a full handbook in graphic novel format. Lowrance recognizes the importance of keeping legal language intact and creating something that appeals to your existing culture. It may be wise to supplement your traditional handbook with a few illustrations in key sections where they will make the most impact, such as your company’s origin story, DEI policy, or anything your organization is struggling with. Storybridge can help with any and all aspects of the handbook creation process, and Lowrance encourages clients to mine their own resources first to see if you have illustrators on your team or anyone who can help structure the handbook and determine what would work best in graphic novel format. Before agreeing to work with someone like Lowrance on an innovative new handbook, it’s important to get executives on board and plan the change management aspects of introducing this tool to your employees. Let them know it’s coming well in advance and build excitement so they are prepared to start using the new guide right away. It may take several months to develop a full handbook, so sometimes it makes sense to break it up into separate issues like a serialized comic book that you would publish monthly. In HR, we get to see a lot of things behind the scenes that other employees don’t: specifically, what happens when policies and procedures are not followed or enforced. The employee handbook is an opportunity to show why these policies matter in a compelling way, how they show up in the workplace and how following these guidelines directly creates a great employee experience. And handbooks are just the beginning; Lowrance believes this new format also has potential applications with training and talent attraction.  Watch the full video of this Mulberry Conversation here and stay tuned for more exciting innovations in HR! If your company is looking to onboard an HR team that can update your onboarding process for today’s talent, let’s get in touch!
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Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
Imposter syndrome seems to impact everyone at some point in their career. Michelle Obama started publicly talking about her experience with imposter syndrome as early as 2018, and many other celebrities have joined the conversation since then. But the idea isn’t new—the first research on imposter syndrome was published over 40 years ago in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Ament Imes. Recent discussions about imposter syndrome have been focused on professional and career success, such as whether or not it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy that holds you back from achieving your true potential. We spoke with Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin about the renewed interest in this phenomenon, which isn’t a diagnostic condition, but an adaptive response that differs from person to person. For example, women tend to be counterphobic, moving toward their fears and getting preoccupied with them. On the other hand, men with impostor syndrome tend only to take on positions they know they will succeed in, where they won’t be triggered, so they get fewer opportunities to take risks and grow than their counterparts. Research has been inconclusive about which gender experiences imposter syndrome more, and there seems to be no difference between generational groups or socioeconomic status.  Although there’s no “cure” for imposter syndrome, individuals can control its effects on their own lives by educating themselves and learning to recognize their symptoms. Keep reading to find out how to tell if you are suffering from a bout of imposter syndrome, how it might be affecting your job search and career, and what you can do to overcome it.

Key Signs Of Imposter Syndrome

According to Dr. Orbé-Austin, imposter syndrome is when you are highly skilled and have accomplishments, credentials, and experience but fail to internalize those experiences. The result is feeling constantly afraid that you might be found out as a fraud or incompetent. Your response to performance anxiety and perfectionism can affect your work performance: most people with impostor syndrome either procrastinate or over-perform, self-sabotaging or working in short spurts of overworking to cover up the perceived fraudulence. Either way, obsessing over your performance or dealing with the cycle of procrastination is exhausting, and you end up with fewer opportunities for real quality assurance. While imposter syndrome may be triggered by things like social media and experiences at work, research has shown that it’s actually caused by our earliest experiences in life. The roles you play in your family may make you more likely to develop this phenomenon. 
  • The intelligent one: is seen as naturally gifted, naturally skilled. Everything had to come easy, so when things didn't come easy for you, it seemed like proof that you weren’t as smart as everyone thought.
  • The hardworking one: wasn’t seen as naturally gifted and experienced success due to grinding and working hard. You never saw that you had natural gifts, talents, and skills but perceived that you'd always have to work harder than others.
  • The survivor: one who received little to no affirmation of being gifted or hardworking from parents. The things you accomplished and obtained were about surviving, getting out, or getting away from something.
  • The fourth type: This one isn’t as much about the child’s role, but co-dependent or narcissistic parental figures and issues with anger and conflict management issues in the family are also correlated with imposter syndrome.
Sounding familiar? The Imposter Phenomenon Scale is a reliable assessment you can take online to determine if what you’re feeling is imposter syndrome.

How Imposter Syndrome May Be Impacting Your Job Search

People with imposter syndrome tend to have less understanding of what's out there in the job market and the roles they are qualified to do. They don't value their transferable skills as much, and they have a hard time crafting a narrative to make a case for how they can bring those transferable skills to a related position. They become preoccupied with the skills they don’t have rather than leveraging the ones they do. There is some difference between men and women regarding the positions they feel confident enough to apply for: men will apply for positions when they meet at least 60% of the qualifications, but most women won’t apply for a job unless they are 100% qualified. In reality, meeting every qualification often means a candidate is overqualified. Having 60% of the desired skills and experience is closer to what hiring managers expect Suffering from impostor syndrome may result in some setbacks on the job after you’re hired: you may have trouble internalizing your accomplishments and therefore underestimate your value to an organization or where you fit on a particular team. We often see this with professionals who are anxious that their education might not match up to others in their field who went to more prestigious schools. One of the most significant disadvantages is lower pay from a lack of salary negotiation. Even though it may be an uncomfortable conversation, broaching the top doesn’t mean you will lose the job offer. Salary negotiation is a very ordinary and necessary part of the process, and the important thing is to make sure you’re being treated fairly and following appropriate rules of engagement.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Recovering from imposter syndrome isn’t a matter of one big “aha” moment or a change of perspective, and it doesn’t go away as we age. It’s about “turning down the volume” of the voices, making you second-guess yourself. It’s also essential to determine what’s appropriate for your level of growth in your field and what will take more experience and development. You can learn to recognize the effects of imposter syndrome on your life and develop skills that minimize its influence. You have the power to choose a different behavior when you feel symptoms rise.  Try these tips to stop imposter syndrome in its tracks:
  • Take the Imposter Phenomenon Scale assessment and identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors imposter syndrome may be causing you.
  • Spend time thinking about the options you have in your career or in life, and remind yourself often that you can make choices.
  • If you want to make a significant change, dedicate time to sitting with your feelings, figuring out what’s best for you, and making a strategic plan. Give yourself time to make progress.
  • Talk about your symptoms with mentors and coworkers and ask for accountability, especially if your boss’s management style is triggering for you.
  • Take the journey with a group of others in an Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Masterclass.
  • Get a coach, especially if there are financial considerations involved.
Based on her experience helping individuals with imposter syndrome, Dr. Orbé-Austin emphasizes that working with others in a group setting to recognize imposter syndrome, share experiences and keep each other accountable is the most effective way to make lasting change. She and her partner Rich Orbé-Austin administered the Imposter Phenomenon Scale to their masterclass participants. The group saw a 30% change over 14 weeks that stayed consistent when tested again three months later.  Watch or listen to our conversation with Dr. Orbé-Austin and read her book, Own Your Greatness: Overcome Impostor Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt, and Succeed in Life.  We’re always happy to talk with candidates about your skills and what positions might be a great fit! Get in touch with us today.
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