Insights from one who’s Been There, Done That

Geri Ramsay Blog #3_ZGWhen taking a trip into the unknown, it can be helpful to hear from someone who’s been there and returned to tell the tale. Following are excerpts from an interview with Zoe Grams, fresh on the heels of a career transition where, one year out of university, she drove her passions for the written word, communications and the arts not only to a firm of her choosing but also from Glasgow to Vancouver. Now, six years on, Zoe Grams continues to blaze her unique path as Principal of ZG Communications, a highly successful marketing consultancy working with publishers, not for profits, and other socially conscious organizations.

While Zoe’s insights are those of a young professional, they’re relevant for anyone preparing for or in the midst of career transition.

What surprised you most about your career transition process?
In essence: I was surprised just how sensitive the steering wheel was once I decided to use it! I was shocked, and delighted, to receive such openness and positive feedback from other professionals in the industry. My scepticism about the possibility of generating mutually rewarding conversations just by asking for them soon faded. By having the courage to ask for support, I received it.

What assumptions did you bring to this process?
As a recent graduate, I entered the process fighting the mentality that one should “take what you are given,” assuming I would need to settle for a job that didn’t reflect my ultimate goals or my values. During my time at University I grew accustomed to hearing about talented young people ‘doing time’ (prison undertones acknowledged) at an unfulfilling job before getting their shot at their true passion. I didn’t expect to be able to control my career, or to create a path, so purposefully.

How would you recommend young professionals approach the challenges of career transition?
Be prepared to spend time and emotional energy. Your transition can be challenging and draining. Keep a keen focus on what you want to achieve – in the short and long term – and use that as your compass, especially when times are difficult and you’re offered a compromise (“Well, I’ll just do it for a year.”) It becomes much easier to commit fully to the process – and the associated workload – when you can see how it will contribute to who you want to be in the long term. Speak to people who know your strengths and will remind you of them regularly. Find a mentor who will support you throughout the process and help you stay the course.

And remember: it will be worth it.

What have you learned through this process that you would like to pass along?
1) Short answer? Do what you love. Wherever possible, make decisions about your career based on what fulfils you and what makes you happy. Six years later, this is the piece of advice I value most. The projects I immersed myself in out of passion continue to be my favourite – and have also led to the greatest career opportunities.

2) When starting your transition process, fully consider what work you enjoy doing, and when you are happiest in the day-to-day. By cementing an understanding of the tasks that you realistically like doing, you will find it much easier to decide which career opportunities you want to explore.

3) It’s cliché because it’s true: avoid comparing yourself to others. Others’ strengths don’t detract from yours (even if you are competing for roles), and another’s pitfall or failure may not be your own in the future. It’s almost impossible to stop this comparison, but do so during those inner, dark-night-of-the-soul moments, not when creating strategies for career development.

4) Think of where you want to be in 5, 10, 15 years. What do you want to be known for? Think of where you want your community or industry to be in 5, 10, 15 years. How can you contribute to this? Envisioning your ideal future can help you set goals to eventually reach your big picture plans.

5) Be patient. Don’t ‘sell out.’ Give yourself enough time for the seeds you plant to grow. My transition and move to Canada took five months overall with half the time spent in preparations. Set things up so that you don’t have to compromise on a less than ideal role.

Packing for Career Transition: A Checklist

Geri Ramsay Blog #2

Just as we plan our vacations, thinking about where in the world we want to go and when, our budget and what to bring, so do we want to plan for a smooth, enjoyable and successful career transition.

In the last post, I suggested a couple of items be left behind on this journey. When it comes to uncompromising career transitions, there isn’t room for any expectations or assumptions around what is or is not possible. They’ll only weight you down and hold you back from creating a truly fulfilling opportunity. On this trip, you’ll want to travel light. And on that note, let the internal judge and critic know they can’t come either!

To aid you in efficiently packing for career transition, we’re providing you with an at-a-glance checklist so you can have everything in order and only what you need.

    • Vision Goggles: During the first leg of your transition journey, you’ll be spending a good bit of time up in the air building your “castle” and crystallizing your inspired, blue sky vision of success. We’ll go deeper into visioning in coming posts and these special goggles will keep your mind focused squarely on where you’re going and why it’s essential to go there.
    • A Pair of Champions: For those of you who aren’t travelling with an executive coach, it’s highly recommended you stuff two objective and agenda-free champions of the highest quality into your carry-on. These will be your accountability partners, they’ll help you hone your messaging, hold the bar high and keep you from wavering on your vision. Make sure they’re durable all-weather champions.
    • A Trusted & Respected Guide: Along the way, you’ll want an expert who knows you and what you’re up to, the lay of the land, and how to navigate its terrain so you can give your vision legs. You’ll want this person to be a possibility thinker unhampered by convention – a “how can we get you there” ally. This can be a well-travelled expert in your chosen field, an open-minded and unbiased recruiter, or anyone you know who has your best interests at heart and a wealth of relevant experience.
    • Mettle: You’ll want to pack every ounce of mettle you can lay your hands on. Taking a stand for an uncompromising career transition and creating opportunities fully aligned with who you are and what you value takes conviction and courage. We’ll talk soon about creating a career vision so compelling that it sustains your mettle but in the meantime, start stocking up and let those champions know you’re reserving theirs too!
    • An Open Mind: Last but certainly not least, your open mind will make an ideal travelling companion. You will be learning a great deal on this journey and your curious mind will allow you to see yourself, the landscape and its opportunities from a fresh perspective.

Once you’ve got these bags packed, you’ll be ready to embark on discovering your career vision. Before we take off, I’ll be sharing in the next post insights from a young professional who has taken this journey so you’ll have the benefit of her experience.

What A Photo Request and Career Transitions Have In Common

Geri Ramsay Blog #1In this series, you’ll find useful insights and a step by step approach to navigating uncompromising career transitions and creating opportunities aligned with your personal vision of success.

I’ll be sharing inside knowledge of the North American employment landscape, gained over 25 years in recruitment and executive coaching, that will empower you to successfully drive your career and make the difference you want to make.

To kick things off, I’m going to share a short anecdote about this work of art, “Expedition to the East Pole”, by the celebrated German artist Matthias Jung, and how it came to hang on the Geri Ramsay website. It tracks squarely with a key insight into the employment landscape and the mindset you’ll want to bring to your process.

After spending what seemed an eternity pouring over stock photo sites and finding little inspiration, ‘the one’ came through an unlikely source – an article in The Guardian featuring Matthias Jung’s surreal homes.

“Expedition to the East Pole” was an inconvenient piece to love. Copyrighted and with no evident means of acquiring the picture for use online, I had a choice – either pursue it or move on. Choosing the former, I reached out to Mr. Jung by email, sharing my appreciation of his work, how his piece aligned with what I’m up to, providing him a mock up of the site and requesting permission to buy the image.

Then I sat back, fingers crossed and breath held although the consensus was that I might pass out well before receiving a response from an artist the calibre of Matthias Jung and, in the unlikely event I did, I would surely be in for complicated process and a big bill.

Well, within 48 hours I had a reply – one of thanks for taking the time to write and of permission, for a nominal sum, to use the image for business purposes. What followed was a heartwarming exchange about the piece and how the proceeds would go towards baby rompers for his soon-to-be-born first child.

The simplicity of this transaction surprised many, just as this key insight may surprise you: when it comes to the employment landscape, the opportunities are much more plentiful than you may think. One of the most productive things you can do for your career transition is to suspend any assumptions or expectations around what you think is or is not possible. Within organizations are many “Matthias Jungs” who will appreciate and welcome your interest.

In the next post, we’ll be taking a look at what you’ll want to pack along and what else you’ll want to leave behind on this journey of career transition. For those of you who are interested in the surreal houses of Matthias Jung, you’ll find them at his website.