Much like professionals in many other areas, social workers go through career transitions. Due to the expansive and malleable nature of the social work profession this movement would appear, to the untransitioned professional, to be a small task. However this task is large, heavy and has a steep learning curve.
As a social worker there are many career options and due to the wide range of areas social workers can work (hospitals, schools, government, legislature, etc) we become specialized in a particular field to be able to really sink our teeth into the work and help the clients we set out to serve. However, what do we do when we need a change? When we know there is more we can offer the world in a different context?
Well, there are options: 1. Volunteer in area you are interested in transitioning to. 2. Create responsibilities for yourself in your current role to exemplify the skills you are longing to utilize 3. Change your resume to a more functional style so it shines on your skills instead of your experience 4. Apply for alternative positions.
Well, speaking from a seasoned one through four-er to perhaps another, I have done all of these things.
It has been about 10 weeks that I have been looking for employment and learning the ins and outs of intentional networking. There has been 10 weeks of meetings, endless job applications, networking events, talking to anyone that would listen about who I am and what I am capable of and filling my days with activities that I love (crafts, friends, cooking, writing).
In the last 10 weeks I have come to realize a few things.
1. Avoid career transitions during the holidays.
People are scrambling to complete last-minute tasks and get their Christmas shopping done. Not a great time to hassle HR.
2. Create a clear picture of what you want and stay focused.
This rule applies to both daily activities but more so to networking conversations. In addition to creating daily to-do lists, hone down on your goals. If you are juggling a few ideas, like I was (program manager, volunteer coordinator, yoga instructor, career counselor, life coach) focus on one a day until you start to become more focused. When you speak of all of these potentials it confuses people and makes you feel a bit of a hot mess (this results in a deflated ego).
Before you show up at networking meetings, conferences and parties, intentionally decide which hat you will wear for that event. This will give the person you are speaking with an impression that you are clear and not “all over the map” – trust me, I have made this mistake far too many times. If you do not take this advice you will leave wondering if you made any real worth while connections. Not a great feeling.
3. You are always networking.
Customize and carry your business cards around with you. If you are anything like me than the conversations you have with people will naturally flow to topics about humanity. Approach every outing as a possibility. For example, I went to a music show and met someone there that works in a company I admire. We have since become friends and are always talking “shop” (jobs, conferences, connections). Each new or old relationship you foster is essentially networking. Remember that.
4. Do the things you love while you have the time.
This is a part of self care. During my 10 weeks in transition I have attended conferences, learned how to sew, done more crafts projects than in the past year, became a Board Member, made new friends, deepened my yoga practice and started this blog! People ask me what I do all day and when I tell them they are shocked. I consider myself the most productive semi-unemployed person alive!
4. Find inspirations to be in the present moment.
Transitioning is hard, really hard. Enlist your friends and family in on your experience. We are born interpersonal beings. Stay connected- it will make a huge difference. However, I will admit that there were times I felt lost and so small despite my supports. Finding inspirations really helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. Walks, blogs, quotes, nature, you name it. Find inspirations anywhere you can, smile, breathe and be present with your bad ass self!
This blog helped me a ton.
5. Remember that transitions are a temporary state of being.
The world quiets down eventually. Stillness, silence and the mundane feeling of waking up earlier than you want Monday through Friday will soon be at your door. Embrace and have gratitude for the days you can read a book in the park on a Wednesday afternoon. Life moves quickly. This is your time to just be.