Career Planning for 2010: The Fear Factor – Part 3 of 4

This week, we are discussing the impact of fears on career planning.  We are addressing this topic because moving past our fears and developing the courage and resilience to make things happen are key to success for socio-eco innovators (SEIs).

As mentioned in my previous posts,  Pain > Fears ==> Career Move

My goal is not to increase your pain, but to help you lower your fears.   By helping you evaluate as objectively as possible the true risks of your next career move, I hope to help you realize that the status quo of not following your passions might actually cost you more intellectually, emotionally, and sometimes financially than making a career move.

In previous posts, the following fears were discussed:

Fear #1:  There are no jobs! – See my take in part 1 of this series.

Fear #2:  How am I going to meet my financial obligations? – See my take in part 2 of this series.

Today, let's focus on Fear #3:  I have done this for so long, who will hear me for a different type of career?

When you have been doing things a certain way for what seems to be a long time, it is difficult to envision that you could be doing something else.  I am a brain scientist turned career coach, not exactly the most obvious career move.  From my experience and the experience of professionals that successfully made a career switch, there are more recruiters willing to consider you than you might think.  The length of you job search will depend on current market conditions as well as how you formulate your professional brand (i.e. why you are the best they can hire for a specific career) based on three key points:  Passion, transferable skills and being pleasantly persistent.


  • WHAT IS PASSION?  Passion lies at the intersection between our intellect and emotions.  The emotions that arise from our beliefs that we must achieve a goal (or do the right thing) fuel our intellect that in turns will find ways to creatively address the challenges we are facing.  Think about passionate SEIs such as Mohammed Yunus (Grameen Bank), Wendy Kopp (Teach For America), or Greg Allgood (Children's Safe Drinking Water Program at Procter & Gamble).  All three demonstrated a passion and drive that led to big impacts by either building new organizations or creating a new program within an existing organization.
  • HOW TO CONVEY YOUR PASSION - Think about what you care about, what you want to address.  Create a profile on justmeans and start following like-minded members to learn more about what good work they are doing and how they got started.  Read about their passion and good work will help you formulate your own message about your passions and future good work.  By clearly highlighting how your passion fit the mission and values of a company, you will tremendously increase your chances to emerge as the candidate of choice in your next job search.  In his latest book 'MOJO", Marshall Goldsmith makes excellent recommendations on how to integrate and cultivate passion in one's work and beyond.

Transferable skills

  • WHAT ARE THEY? Transferable skills are skills you learned in one context and can use in a different context.  For example, you can have learned how to analyze accounting data and are now using your analytical skills to make decisions about how to best reduce your business unit’s carbon emissions.
  • HOW TO CONVEY YOUR TRANSFERABLE SKILLS – Many career switchers are unaware of their transferable skills.   If you are unclear about your transferable skills, I would recommend the transferable skills section on  In addition, review the skill sets listed on job postings that you are interested in, and enlist a group of colleagues, friends or a career coach to help you formulate the transferable skills that you bring to the table that are a good match for that opportunity.   In addition, connect with professionals who successfully made the transition you want to make.  For example, my mentor connected me with a brain scientist turned career coach, who in turn connected me to other brain scientists turned career coaches.  Listening to their stories was of tremendous help in understanding my transferable skills.  Next, integrate your passion and your relevant transferable skills into a purpose statement.   When sending your tailored cover letter and resume, clearly highlighting how your passion and transferable skills fit the mission and values of a company as well as the ideal candidate described in the job description.  As compared with candidates that send a generic cover letter and resume for every job they apply for, these steps will tremendously increase your chances to emerge as the candidate of choice in your job search.

Being plesantly persistent

  • WHAT IS IT?  Highlighting your passion and transferable skills will definitely help.  In addition, when making a career move, you will need to go the extra mile to convince recruiters that you are the best candidate they can find for the job they are hiring for.   Being pleasantly persistent means keeping in touch with recruiters while demonstrating that you are listening and re-strategizing based on feedback.  Now, there is a fine line between being persistent and being stubborn.  If you keep asking the same questions, and don’t change your message based on the feedback you received, your stubbornness might quickly lead you to become the person whose name recruiters dread seeing in their email mailbox (or whose voice they don’t want to hear on the phone).
  • WHAT CAN YOU DO?  Your motto here comes from John Johnson’s autobiography – Succeeding against the odds: ‘Don’t get mad, get smart!’  The more you gather feedback from multiple recruiters and networking contacts, the more you will refine your value proposition and gain confidence that you can succeed in reaching your career goals.  Confidence and persistence, along with passion and transferable skills are your formula for success when it comes to a career move.  Granted, receiving constructive feedback is often discouraging.   Hearing a recruiter or networking contact tell you that you might not make it is not the most uplifting of experiences!  However, Don’t get mad, get smart! Ask the person for tips on how you can improve your competitiveness.  Also keep in mind that one piece of feedback is not evidence.  Take the feedback and tips, and ask more people.  If you hear that same feedback and tips from 3 or more different people, then the market is trying to help you by telling you that you need to change something.  Being pleasantly persistent yet agile and able to re-strategize based on what the market is telling you is going to enable you to get to your goal faster.

In sum, putting an excellent purpose statement that integrates your passions with your transferable skills and demonstrating pleasant persistence is likely to lead to new contacts and job opportunities faster than you might anticipate.  This is true whether you want to make a career move within your current organization, if you want to move to another organization, or if you want to switch industries or careers.  The more you talk with others, the more you will realize that you are likely to not be the first one who is attempting this career move.  Talking with professionals who successfully made the career move you are attempting is sure to build your confidence and give you concrete steps to conquer your fears and reach your career goals.

In our final post of the Fear Factor series, we'll talk about Fear #4:  What will my family/spouse/friends/mentors say?

As always, my goal is simple:  Help you amplify your impact and accelerate your learning as you build your career plan as a socio-eco innovator who does Business -  Better. I look forward to receiving your questions and to addressing them in future posts!

Photo Credit: MLM