Empower your Professional Pause: 5 Career Exercises to Boost Marketability and Strengthen Professional Trajectory while Out of Work
With 22 million out of work and nearly 14% of moms considering stepping away from work due to childcare needs, many moms have an unforeseen professional pause reassess their career and professional self prior to their next step. Here are 5 powerful strategies and resources to help continue strengthening your professional awareness and make clearer career decisions while on a work pause.
#1 DIY 360 Review
When a job ends it can throw a ratchet in your career plans and destabilizes your professional confidence. A DIY 360 Review will facilitate a pow-wow amongst your closest professional allies to gain a comprehensive scope of your professional strengths from the outside-in and build a clear picture of what it’s like to work with you. We are all critical of ourselves in the workplace, asking a variety of trusted professionals how they see you will build your confidence and lend verbiage to support your job search documents. 360 Reviews are used a lot in corporate settings to assess a candidate for promotion or explore an employee’s work to aid improvements. It’s usually anonymous and filled with a lot of questions. We’ll use the concept and modify the execution; here’s how you’ll do it:
· Request responses
Type and send 2-3 questions to 2 people you’ve reported to; employer, director, manager. Another two questions to 2-3 peers that have worked alongside you. Finally, send questions to 2-3 professionals that have worked for you or in a different department. Use the sample template (found in the right column of this webpage) or links to explore possible questions. Take into consideration your next step and build questions that will be useful in your acquisition of it. For example: If you want to move up from a PR Associate to a Communications Manager, you might ask your past work teams how you led projects, strategized long term plans, or built relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
· Read and Digest Feedback
Take a day or two to sit with your responses, feel good about the good. Comb through their responses and pick up on any trends. Evaluate their experience collaborating with you or reporting to you. Respond with any questions or clarifications you need.
· Weave Feedback into your Resume, LinkedIn and Interview Responses
Integrate the feedback into your job search documents. The easiest places will be your career summary in your resume and your LinkedIn profile. This is pertinent information in both because your future employer wants to know what it’s like to work with you. Through this exercise, you can share who you are professionally and answer confidently in an interview with direct quotes (added bonus!).
#2 Strengths Assessment
Gallup’s Strengths Assessment totally changed my life. The theory behind the assessment is: celebrate your strengths and don’t waste your time feeling like you’re not enough because everyone has a unique toolkit to bring to the table. It completely shifted how I work and how I see others in the workplace. The assessment costs $20 and you’ll receive a detailed report of your results. It is time and money well spent. With the results, you’ll be better equipped to articulate why you are a strong candidate for ANY position.
#3 Job crafting
What do you like about your current or last job? Have you ever taken the time to dissect all the pieces of your role and analyze what you enjoy and don’t; what aspects increase your energy and what zaps it? Job crafting provides the framework to use the results of these questions to build out a more satisfying career.
Amy Wrzesniewski and her colleagues researched many working people in a myriad of industries for years and found that if you find meaning and interest in your work then you are more likely to be engaged and experience more fulfillment. It seems like common sense but most of us just take a job and do it. We don’t take the time to analyze the job and build it into something better for us and our company.
I personally used job crafting in a past job; working in career services constantly prompts me to ask myself the same questions I inquire in others. While working in higher-ed career services, I realized that I loved working with students, reviewing resumes, and educating the university’s faculty on career-focused curriculum integration. I could do those things all day and it would make me very happy. But I had another piece to my job in alumni which required event planning and lots of coordinating. This work overwhelmed me and try as I might I just couldn’t connect with the value in it. I was motivated or engaged. I talked to my boss. I requested to step away from that work and do more of the things I enjoyed. My analysis also helped me to build in new partnerships with other departments to work as a liaison which produced more of an impact for student services. Through my job crafting practice and its validation by my boss, my work improved and my commitment to it skyrocketed. Taking time in your work pause to look at your job and think about what you love and how you can do more of it is a powerful practice that is sure to pay off for the rest of your career.
#4 Possible Lives Chart
Your career options are limitless. Possible Lives mapping helps you to explore your options in an organized and thought-provoking manner. For moms, there are many factors that you’ll need to build into your map to cultivate a holistic picture: What will childcare look like in this role? What will it take to get there? What’s the family budget impact of this decision? This idea comes from Dr. Kate Brook’s work with students at Vanderbilt University; she eventually created an entire space in the career services building to allow students to explore their options through possible lives mapping and others.
To jump in-start with 3-5 possible job titles that you are interested in, and the one you’re currently in should be included. From here you’ll draw a circle around each job title and draw several lines coming from it. These lines are for facts about the position building a possible life with that role. For example: If you’re currently a teacher or considering it you will surround the circle with individual lines and words like: summer’s off, parent communication, grading, lesson planning, and public/private/charter. There will be many lines for each possible job. As you go through think about each one and how that will play into your life. This process alone may help to illuminate some options.
The second step is to write a typical day scenario. You’ll think about who you will interact with, what projects you’ll potentially work on, possible companies and their locations, who your team and leadership will be. Allowing your mind to walk in the shoes of possible roles is a way to make a clearer decision moving forward. Give yourself some time and lots of paper to play with your possible lives.
#5 Career Accomplishments Journaling
How can you move forward if you haven’t looked at where you have been? In this journaling exercise, you’ll go through each position you’ve had since you were able to work and write your accomplishments and joys. I recommend created a two-column list to write this down. I ask clients about their accomplishments a lot and most of the time thoughts jump to official awards or certificates earned, but that is just the top of the accomplishment iceberg. Write down projects that you have helped to complete, how your work saved money, strategies you came up with to make work more efficient, and ways you positively impacted work culture. Joys will answer-what were your best day in this role? What are you most proud of?
You’ll use this information to find trends of what you’ve done well and what you have enjoyed. This will play into your jobcrafting work; you will look for jobs that include the work that has afforded accomplishment and joy or request to include more of in your current role. You’ll also use these accomplishments to bolster your resume and interview responses. Voicing your accomplishments will display to your future employer that you will continue a legacy of achievement.
Mama, I hope you will take some time to step back and see the big picture of your professional life. The practice of knowing yourself and what you want out of your career is powerful for you, your family, and your next organization. It’s in your hands-let it be good.
Please email or text if you have any questions or would like to book a session to work through these points together. I’m here for ya, mama 😊