In this week's episode, Billy and Brian talk to career coach Dr. Dawn Graham about:
--why people in their midlife years switch careers
--the career-switch process (and how damn frustrating it can be!)
--how job-hunting has changed over the years
--how we need to rebrand ourselves during the job search (especially if we're a non-traditional applicant)
--the importance of networking (and how to network better if you're an introvert)
--cheesecake, Halloween, and ketchup
Dr. Dawn Marie Graham, PhD is one of the nation’s leading career coaches. She is the Career Director for the MBA Program for Executives at The Wharton School, where she counsels business leaders on making strategic career choices. A licensed psychologist and former corporate recruiter, she hosts SiriusXM Radio’s popular weekly call-in show Dr. Dawn on Careers and is a regular contributor to Forbes. She is also the author of Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success. Check out her TEDTalk "Your Next Job Is One Conversation Away" as well!
Like what you heard from Dr. Dawn Graham? Contact her at:
Thank you for listening to the Mindful Midlife Crisis!
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Topics you want us to cover?
"Like" and "Follow" us on Facebook: The Mindful Midlife Crisis Podcast
Please leave us a 5-Star Review! Doing so helps other people looking for a podcast like ours find it!
We hope you enjoy this week’s episode! If this episode resonates with you, please share it with your friends and family. If you’re really feeling gracious, you can make a donation to https://www.buymeacoffee.com/MMCpodcast. Your donations will be used to cover all of our production costs.
If we have money left over after covering our fees, we will make a donation to the Livin Foundation, which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote a positive outlook on life, reduce the stigma associated with depression/mental illness, and ultimately prevent suicide through various activities, events, & outreach.
Support the show
Thank you for taking the time to listen to The Mindful Midlife Crisis podcast. We hope you enjoy this week’s episode. If this episode resonates with you, please share it with your family and friends. We will do our best to put out new content every Wednesday to get you over the midweek hump. If you want episodes to be downloaded automatically to your phone each week, all you need to do is hit the checkmark, Subscribe, Like, or Follow button, depending on what podcast format you’re using. While you’re at it, feel free to leave our show a quick five-star review with a few kind words so more people like you can easily find our show. If you’re really enjoying the show and you want to help us out, feel free to make a donation to www.buymeacoffee.com/MMCpodcast. You can also access the link in our show notes. We use the money from these donations to pay whatever expenses we incur from producing the show, but, ultimately, we record this show for you so if you keep listening, we’ll keep recording and releasing new episodes each week regardless. If you’d like to contact us or if you have suggestions about what you’d like us to discuss on future episodes, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Instagram at @Mindful_Midlife_Crisis. Be sure to check out the show notes for links to the articles and resources we referenced throughout the show. Thanks again for listening. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Enjoy the show.
Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life second half. Join your hosts, Billy and Brian, a couple of average dudes who will serve as your armchair life coaches as we share our life experiences, both the good and the bad, in an effort to help us all better understand how we can enjoy and make the most of the life we have left to live in a more meaningful way. Take a deep breath, embrace the present, and journey with us through The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I’m your host, Billy, and, as always, I’m joined by my good friend, Brian on the Bass. Brian, how you doing over there, man?
Brian: I’m primed today.
Billy: Prime, like Amazon Prime?
Brian: Prime, like A1. At the beginning of the list, primary.
Brian: I think prime is short for primary, is it not?
Billy: It is, it is. Hopefully, you’re not like A1 steak sauce because that is terrible.
Brian: You don’t like A1 steak sauce?
Billy: You want to know what? I like ketchup with my steak.
Brian: Get out! What?
Billy: Yeah, I’m that guy. I’m sorry.
Brian: That’s crazy. I usually don’t eat steak sauce unless the piece of meat is bad and then, like if you get a good piece of meat, you don’t need steak sauce, but if it’s questionable or some weird flavors, that’s when you hit the A1.
Billy: Oh, okay. Yeah, I just douse it in ketchup. I’m totally — I grew up on a farm, I’m a total hick. So, we are working with some new software this time around, Brian, and considering our history with recording remotely with new software, this could be an adventure but we tested it out. Hopefully, everything is going well. And we’re excited here because we get to have Dr. Dawn Graham on the show today. Dr. Dawn is the author of Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success. She is also the host of the SiriusXM show, Dr. Dawn on Careers, which you can also listen to wherever you get your podcasts. You can also YouTube her TED Talk, Your Next Job Is One Conversation Away and we hope that today’s conversation is that one conversation away from switching your career if that’s what you so desire. So, Dawn, thank you very much for being here. How are you doing today?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, I’m great. I don’t eat meat but I do love ketchup. I will say, I will put ketchup on just about anything.
Billy: It was funny, as we were talking, I know you’re a vegetarian so I’m like, I wonder how Dawn is feeling about all this steak talk right now.
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, I’m feeling like I just need to find a food so I could put ketchup on it. That’s all.
Billy: Oh, what would be a food that, I mean, you’ll put ketchup on any food?
Dr. Dawn: No, I mean, come on, Billy.
Billy: What’s your favorite food to put ketchup on?
Dr. Dawn: French fries.
Billy: I also know you’re a big cheesecake fan. I imagine that there’s no ketchup cheesecake that you enjoy.
Dr. Dawn: Yes. See, no, that doesn’t work. Doesn’t work, doesn’t work, but —
Brian: I don’t know, that seems —
Dr. Dawn: — I haven’t tried it.
Brian: That might work. I bet you a skillful chef could make that work.
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, no, I could see it because cheesecake is only one step away from cheese which is something that would be on a burger if you, in my case, a black bean burger, and it could work so, Brian, I like the way you think.
Billy: I like this six degrees of Kevin bacon cheeseburger that we have going on right here. Well played. Well played. All right, Dawn, so we like to have our guests introduce themselves by sharing the 10 roles they play in their life, so what are the 10 roles that you play in your life?
Dr. Dawn: Yes, and I’m kind of sad now that I did not put anything about ketchup on there but here we go. Job seeker advocate, grateful daughter, spoiling kitty mom, Halloween lover, introvert, Jersey girl, change maker, muse, a lifelong learner, and avid traveler.
Billy: All right, so we want to get to the three that you’re most looking forward to in the second half of your life but Jersey, girl can you talk about being a Jersey girl?
Dr. Dawn: You don’t talk about being a Jersey girl, you just are. You just are. Yeah, so I am from New Jersey where we talk about the shore, where we eat pork roll, when I used to eat pork roll, when I used to eat meat, where we have subs, not hoagies. So lots of lots of very specifics. The world of jug handles, for those of you who don’t know what a jug handle is, that’s Jersey.
Brian: So I’ve got to ask what all the listeners are probably thinking, do you know Kevin Smith and when’s the last time you’ve seen him? He’s also from Jersey, I believe. So you guys got to know each other, right? It’s not that big of a place.
Dr. Dawn: It’s a small state, it is. You tend to run into people.
Billy: I also know that you are a huge Halloween lover. Can you explain to our audience just how far your love for Halloween goes?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, it goes pretty far, it really does, but I think growing up, since my birthday is in October, I thought everyone was a huge Halloween lover, that everyone celebrated their birthday by carving pumpkins and watching scary movies and turns out that’s not the case and I’m not quite sure why but that is why I’m a Halloween lover because my birthday has always revolved around things with Halloween and even though it didn’t make my top three, I would say that my mission, maybe my encore career will be to open a haunted house.
Billy: Oh, that would be wild.
Brian: Actually, a friend of mine does that. They get on the news every year. They call it Toonies Haunted House and they really go all out. I mean, they do their entire garage as a maze. Their yard is decorated, the backyard, the front yard, the house. I mean, it’s really crazy the lengths they go to but he feels the same way you do.
Dr. Dawn: I need to meet this friend, Brian.
Brian: Most definitely you do. He’s really into — his wife too, both of them, the couple are just mad about it.
Dr. Dawn: I need to meet these people. These are my people.
Billy: Do they live in Anoka, the Halloween capital of the world?
Brian: No, actually, he lives in Andover, which is really close to Anoka, the Halloween capital of the world.
Billy: It is very close. Dawn, have you been to Anoka, Halloween capital of the world?
Dr. Dawn: It’s funny you say that because when I lived in Minnesota and I told people I loved Halloween, that’s what everybody said, “Why don’t you live in Anoka?” But I, to this day, do you not know why Anoka is the Halloween capital of the world.
Brian: I don’t think really any of us know.
Billy: I agree with you.
Dr. Dawn: How’d that happen?
Brian: You know what, they needed the tourism around that week in the fall, it was just a little light for ’em so they’re like, “What are we gonna do?”
Dr. Dawn: I guess, because, for the life of me, that’s not where I would have picked. Lovely, lovely, but I don’t get the connection.
Billy: Space Needle at Serum’s just wasn’t bringing in the tourists like they needed. So, the three roles that you’re most looking forward to, let’s start here with avid traveler. That’s one of the most common answers that people say that they’re most looking forward to. So, where have you been? Where do you want to go?
Dr. Dawn: Yes. So, I’m very excited to say that pre-pandemic, I finally hit all seven continents. So, I got to Antarctica, which was the last one on my list. And — I see your face, I don’t know what face that is, Billy.
Billy: That is awesome that you’ve been to Antarctica, because my goal is to paddleboard off the coast of every continent so I’m jealous that you’ve been to Antarctica and I actually forgot I knew that you had been to Antarctica. What was it about Antarctica that just blew you away?
Dr. Dawn: I mean, it’s like being on another planet. It’s so uninhabited except by penguins. There are more penguins there than I’ve ever seen in my life, but I did get to kayak, I did get to climb on the ice, it was phenomenal. I think the other thing that actually is interesting about the trip that really didn’t have anything to do with Antarctica itself, we had absolutely zero, and I mean zero internet for two weeks, so here we are, 130 random people from all over the globe, on a very small ship that, I wouldn’t call it luxury but had bathrooms, so we had no internet and it just became this amazing melting pot of different cultures and people. And we would play board games at night and have baking contests and door decorating contests and it just was the most amazing experience to not have internet for two weeks and to really get to know the people who you’re in this boat with. So, that was the best part for me.
Billy: In the first couple of days, were you a little panicky about not having internet, about not being able to check emails or was it refreshing right off the bat?
Dr. Dawn: Refreshing, period. I’ve read four books in this time while doing all these other things. Me and my roommate actually won the door decorating competition, thank you, first place, so we took it pretty seriously.
Billy: I’m sure your Halloween love came into play there.
Dr. Dawn: Well, I was there over the holidays so it was more of a Christmas theme for us but now that you say that, I’m a little regretful because I think I could have done some amazing things.
Billy: So, where do you want to go next then? Since you’ve hit all the continents, what’s on the list for you?
Dr. Dawn: Well, who better to ask where you should go than people who are in Antarctica, because people who are in Antarctica are clearly travel lovers and so every single person I asked independently said the same place. Do you want to guess where they said? Any guesses?
Billy: What continent?
Dr. Dawn: Well, if I say that —
Brian: Oh, Australia. Sounds like Australia.
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, New Zealand, specifically. So I definitely would love to take a month or six weeks and just do New Zealand.
Billy: Oh, that would be wild. When you travel, you go big, Dawn. We like that. We like that.
Dr. Dawn: I do go big. I do go big. And I’m excited for travel to reopen on a much bigger basis soon because —
Brian: Isn’t everybody?
Billy: Yeah, yeah, very much so. So, you have traveled all over, you said that you read four books on this trip. Obviously, you’re a lifelong learner, which is one of the other roles that you’re most looking forward to. Talk about, what is it about lifelong learning that you’re so passionate about? What are you looking to continue to seek out in the second half of your life?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, I think like anybody who loves learning and is curious, you realize the more you learn, the less you know, and there’s just so much to uncover. For my radio show, I read a book a week because usually my guests have a book and so I read it in preparation, which has been amazing because it’s sometimes things I wouldn’t have picked up off the shelf and the connections you make when you read outside your interest area, because we tend to have a very, very narrow interest area, but when you’re reading these books that are from people from different backgrounds, different cultures, different industries, it’s just amazing the way the brain makes connections between all of these disciplines and makes you realize that the more you consume, the more connections you make and then this is how things are created in the world. So, I just love that feeling, that feeling of finding those connections.
Billy: It’s funny that you talk about reading a book to prepare for your guests because that’s what I have found myself doing whenever one of our guests has a book and it’s — you’re right, it probably is something that you wouldn’t pick up off the shelf normally but it’s amazing to hear what these experiences are and what knowledge they possess and what advice they can share and how you can transform your own life just using that perspective and shifting your mindset around those things. And you also said that you’re most looking forward to being a change maker and that’s a big part of what you do in terms of helping people shift out or switch out of their careers. So, talk more about that.
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, so for the past seven years, I’ve been at the Wharton School helping the executive MBAs make career changes and, hence, my book, Switchers, and my brand as somebody who’s out there on LinkedIn putting out career advice, and I think that does make an amazing ripple effect is people realize they have capabilities that they didn’t see before or they see themselves in a new way and competent in different areas but they’ve been so attached to a label that they couldn’t see those before so that right there is why I do what I do because it’s an amazing experience to watch somebody get that aha moment, but I think for the next phase of my life, one of the things I’ve realized is that the hiring process is certainly broken in the sense that getting a job is hard, changing careers is really hard and trying to get in front of the decision makers and demonstrate that you are the candidate of choice is something that, I think it’s like 2 percent of people who apply online actually get an interview. It’s really, really low. So, you see this amazing aha in people when you work with them as a career coach but you also see this devastation as they’re going through the process of getting ghosted or feeling like they had a great interview but never hearing anything again or feeling like this is the job and it all falls apart at the end so what I want to do in terms of changing for the second part of my career, change the system. I really want the system to be more job seeker friendly, more talent friendly, to not look at this as some big competition but to make, as I say in my TED talk, the job search a social process where we’re all helping each other and moving people around and I think it’s possible and I think that employers are going to see that talent is something they’re going to really need to focus on, especially now post-pandemic, and so I think there’s going to be an opening for a lot of changes in how we assess, analyze, move people around and really that’s going to change, hopefully, the way the job search processes for the job seeker for good.
Billy: And you yourself are going through a job switch, correct?
Dr. Dawn: That is true. So, I am leaving my position at the Wharton School after seven and a half years and I am going into professional services as the talent director for the US practice and I think that’s step one on this new journey is to really be in the mix, especially this year as we’re hearing about the great reshuffle and how people don’t want to go back into the office and companies are struggling to hire talent in certain industries so I think it’s going to be a really exciting year and I want to be in the middle of it because I think this is a start of some really big changes in the world of talent and I just can’t wait to see them.
Billy: Well, we’re excited for you and we’re going to take a quick break here and then when we come back, we’re going to continue talking to Dr. Dawn Graham about how you can successfully switch your career. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. If you’re enjoying what you’ve heard so far, please do us a favor and hit the Subscribe button. Also, giving our show a quick five-star review with a few kind words helps us on our quest to reach the top of the podcast charts. Finally, since you can’t make a mixtape for your friends and loved ones like you used to do, share this podcast with them instead. We hope our experiences resonate with others and inspire people to live their best lives. Thanks again. And now, let’s take a minute to be present with our breath.
If you’re listening somewhere safe and quiet, close your eyes and slowly inhale for four, three, two, one. Hold for seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Slowly exhale for eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Let’s do that one more time. Inhale for four, three, two, one. Hold for seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Slowly exhale for eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Go ahead and open your eyes. You feel better? We certainly hope so. And now, back to the show.
Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with Career Coach Dr. Dawn Graham. She is the author of the book Switchers and that’s what we’re talking about today is for those of you out there who may be interested in making that big old career switch and one of the reasons we wanted to talk to you, Dawn, is because I remember sitting in my classroom one day and I overheard one of the business teachers next door to me say something to the effect of people between the ages of 38 and 45 are oftentimes looking to switch careers and that’s who’s listening to the show are people between the ages of 38 and 50, right around there. So, I’m wondering, based on your research as a career coach and the demographics of the people that you work with, is there any validity with what that guy is saying? And if so, why are people in that age demographic seeking new careers, considering that’s essentially them starting over?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, no, and I love the idea of putting it into that box but I’m going to tell you, that box is going to get blown up because it’s going to be all ages now, but I think the reason that it was put into that age group initially is because that’s a time of life when, for many people, things are changing around their relationships, their family, and they’re getting more reflective, in touch with their values, and they’re starting to see like, “Wow, I got into my career because of happenstance,” which is super common. People get into their career because they’re following maybe what their parents wanted them to do or what their friends were doing at the time or somebody offered them a job, they took it and it just took off from there and they start to realize, “Wow, how did I even get here? And is this really what I wanna be doing?” So I think that’s why that age group tends to be focused on and, of course, a lot of people early in their career make a lot of different changes and that’s normal so people don’t look at it as really switching, it’s just what you do when you’re early in your career. But this is going to be the case for all age groups now. Switchers are going to become the new normal, so much so that switching is not even going to be associated with it. It’s not even going to be a label because the traditional career trajectories are basically going away. There’s mergers in terms of industries, you had finance and tech, now you have fintech. There are new industries coming up. I mean, if you think about the cannabis industry in the US, this is something that you can’t find somebody who has 10 years of experience as a bud tender because it didn’t exist so you have to be a switcher to get into that, you have to look at your transferable skills, and so I think this is just going to continue. There’s obviously jobs that are being taken over by automation and so those jobs are going to go away and those people are going to be learning and bringing their transferable skills to do different things. So, I find that that either by choice or by force, people are going to be switchers and that’s going to be very common at any stage and at all stages and it’s exciting but I think we all need to prepare for that because that means we all need to stop identifying by our current title or label or field because, really, the waters are getting muddied and we need to be very versatile and agile to keep up with it.
Brian: So have you seen, I’m on a tangent a little bit, but have you seen in the general marketplace that people who are younger in their careers or just starting their careers are expecting advancement a lot more quickly now, it seems like then, so I wonder if that tails into the switchers thing, you know what I mean? People are looking for advancement much more quickly now than traditionally speaking. I mean, can you speak to that at all?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, I think that certainly certain generations have been labeled as they want to move up, they want promotions, they want this, but I think what they’re really looking for is they want to be getting something out of the contract, the work contract. They know the world is changing, they are very tech savvy, and they see things happening so quickly that they know that if they’re not learning, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a formal promotion or a raise, but if they’re not learning, if they’re not growing, if they’re not taking on more responsibility, they’re going to be left behind. They’re actually smart for seeing that because many of us, and I guess what we’re calling our — what are we calling ourselves, we’re having a midlife crisis, our second half of life. I mean, we don’t want to look at that. We want things to just stay the same, we don’t love ambiguity, and we maybe grew up in the middle of that tech age where we had one foot in it but not both and so I think they’re smart by saying, “Hey, what am I learning here? How am I growing? And if I’m not seeing that, I’m gonna move somewhere where I can get that.” So it’s interesting because it is sort of labeled, “I want promotions, I want more money,” but at the end of the day, I think what it really is is they recognize how fast the market is moving and the economy is shifting and they don’t want to get left behind.
Billy: Are colleges then going to have to shift away from majors or what role do you see colleges playing in preparing people for maybe holding three, four, or five different careers and switching through them? Or do you think that that’s going to have to be more on the individual to gain that knowledge?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, so what I see happening and what I think should be happening are two different things. So, I will tell you what needs to happen. So, first and foremost, education is not going to be a one-time event like it has been. It’s not going to be go to college for four years and that’s going to sustain you. The new career cycle is very much on ramps and off ramps to education and that might mean education that you get your certifications in the evening, it might be that you leave the job force to get trained in a completely new career. It’s going to vary but, yeah, that one-stop shop is not going to cut it any longer and, in fact, there’s a lot of research out there that something like 90 percent of colleges feel they’re preparing students for the workforce and only 11 percent of employers agree so there’s clearly something missing there and what I think colleges need to be doing, Brandon Busteed does a lot of work in this, but in addition to the coursework, they need to be having more applied work. Now, some students do internships but many don’t and they need to be doing that. The other thing that’s becoming new to the college area is universities partnering with places like Google or Apple or other companies that offer these tech certificates and actually merging it with their classes so students don’t only get a degree and an internship but they now have this legit industry certification that can help them to be successful. And the sad part is if you’re not coming out with these things, again, you’re not going to be looked at as competitive and a lot of universities aren’t pushing them. They’re not — I mean, even career centers, I won’t even get off on this tangent but most career centers, and if you ask students why did they go to school, it’s so I can get a good job and get good pay, most career centers are in the basement of buildings and are very understaffed. So that all has to change, in my opinion.
Billy: And in your book, you actually caution switchers about going back to school because you say that, okay, is what you want to switch into, is a degree necessary for that or can you acquire that through a certification or through another program or through other experience?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, and I’ll clarify that. I say if you’re going to make a switch, a degree isn’t the best first step and it’s because it costs a lot of money, it takes a lot of time, and until you really try on the career, you don’t really want to dedicate one or two years and maybe $30,000, $40,000 to something that you’re not 100 percent sure you really want to do or that you really need that degree because I think what people do is they try to avoid the difficult job search and the difficult rebranding, they’re like, “I’m gonna go to school and school is gonna solve all the problems,” and it’s not, you’re going to come out, you’re going to have an equally difficult job search because you’re going to say, “Well, now I have a degree in X,” and the employer is going to say, “Well, what applied experience do you have?” and unless the program is very applied, and some of them are so that might be an option, but unless it’s very applied, you’re not going to get where you want to be. So I say be careful about choosing education as a first step because I’ve seen people go through two years, come out, and hate the job because it wasn’t the same as what they’re doing in the classroom. So you just have to look at the entire picture and not take the structured answer, which I know everyone wants to take the structured answers because, as humans, we want structure and we don’t want ambiguity but be careful about that.
Billy: So we’ll take a step back here because one of the first questions you ask in your book is are you a switcher and then you focus on what you call the four R’s. So, can you explain what the four R’s are? And what do you want switchers to think about before diving into this switching process?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, so I have to admit, I had to go back and look at this portion of my book. Thank you for making me do that. That section of the book, which is really in the introduction, was the last part I wrote and there’s a reason for that. It’s really about mindset and as I was getting feedback on the book, one of the things I heard over and over is, “Hey, it’s hard to be a switcher,” and, “Hey, this isn’t fair,” and what I realized was that if you’re not in the right mindset to take on this process, it doesn’t matter how many tips or roadmaps or examples I give you as a coach, you’re not going to get there because you’re going to get in your own way. So, the four R’s was really a way for me to say, “Hey, let’s get into the mindset of success here if you want to do this and you have to know that these things are real.” So, one, you have to take responsibility. You have to have this internal locus of control, not this external one where you feel like everything happens to you or it’s just luck. You have to know that you can change the course of your future. Reality is that the job search sucks. It sucks when you’re a traditional candidate, it really sucks when you’re a switcher because you’re going to get rejected, people aren’t going to understand what you do or how you fit. And it is. It’s unfair and it stinks but that’s the process and you can fight the process or you can use that energy to get where you want to go. Risk, anything that’s change is risk but, in my opinion, if you stay stagnant, that’s even riskier so you have to weigh those risks. Yes, it’s scary. The unknown is very, very scary, but staying stagnant, as a lot of people have realized over the last two years, can be very scary in a different way. And then the last one is resilience and I think that one speaks for itself. If you’re making any kind of change in your life, resilience is going to be a part of it because it’s not going to go exactly as you hoped, nothing ever does, so you need to be expecting that and prepared for that and not let it drag you down.
Billy: It’s interesting that you mentioned those four R’s because that’s actually what this season is going to focus on quite a bit. We’re having John Wessinger come in and talk about our relationship with risk and every single person coming in this season is going to be talking about how we can build resilience. And you’ve mentioned a couple of times just how much the job search sucks, especially when you’re a non-traditional candidate, so what are some pitfalls that switchers fall into and how do you help them avoid those pitfalls?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, so we’ve already talked about one which is choosing school as your first option and just delaying the job search for two years thinking it’s going to be easier at the end. That’s certainly one. I think a big one is failing to rebrand and I know that that’s a big topic but a lot of people, especially, again, in the US, our title, our company, that’s our identity, and this is where I put my psychologist hat on, I’m a licensed psychologist, that goes into the book because it’s such a critical part of the job search process, but our identities are really ingrained in us. It’s the first thing we say after we say our name when we introduce ourselves. And it’s critical for a switcher to stop doing that because if I’m an attorney and I want to switch into fintech, when I say, “Well, yeah, I’m an attorney but…” basically, I’m saying I’m not what you want but you should roll the dice on me anyway. So we really need to do the heavy lifting of rebranding ourselves as the answer to the hiring managers’ biggest problems. And most of us have lots of transferable skills and things that align so we just need to strip those labels and see ourselves in a new way. And let me tell you, that’s really hard to do. It’s not something you could do overnight, it’s not something you could ask a resume writer just rewrite because it’s not going to feel right, it’s a process. You have to take the time to start seeing yourself in a different way. And the book has a lot of exercises to go through to do that but it’s a piece by piece but it has to integrate through how you introduce yourself, how you show up online and the social proof you have out there, how you write your resume, how you answer interview questions, because you need to be seen as relevant to your new audience. And so what’s most impressive in your past, what got you here may not be what’s most relevant to get you there, and making that shift, it creates a vulnerability that most of us don’t want to deal with so that’s one of the biggest things that trip up switchers is they don’t go through that process of rebranding so that a hiring manager can see the value in their context, in their language.
Brian: So that rebranding, just to put it a different way, you should highlight the skills that they want to see and not necessarily the ones you’ve been honing over the course of your career.
Dr. Dawn: Exactly. You got it, Brian. And it’s tough to do because, let’s just face it, if you have a skill that you’re super excited about and you’re very proud of, to drop that down to the lower part of the list for a skill that maybe you haven’t done in six or seven years or maybe it’s something you never really got fully into, that’s really hard to do. I mean, it is hard but that’s why I say you’ve got to go through that process. You’ve got to start seeing yourself in that new way.
Brian: Plus, you don’t know what you don’t know so I could see where that would put up a bit of a roadblock, yeah.
Billy: Do you suggest people reach out to friends and colleagues and ask them to help with the rebranding process? Like, “Hey, how do you guys see me in this role?” or, “How do you see me just in everyday life and how do those characteristics, how do those traits translate into this job posting that I’m taking a look at?”
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, no, I love the idea of talking to people because you can do so much research online but, eventually, you have to try things on and you have to see what fits and that’s my motto, clarity comes through action. When you take a step forward, your perspective changes and then you’ll see the next step and the next step. So, yes, you have to be vulnerable, you have to reach out. You have to look at a couple of things. First, you have to reflect on your strengths, your superpowers, “What am I good at? What do I bring to the table?” and not just in your current job but very broadly. Then you have to look at the market. What does your audience want? What are their current problems and how do the strengths you’ve just identified solve those problems and which of the strengths, maybe they’re not your top strengths but maybe they’re your middle strengths? And then how can you really put those together to build your brand? And a lot of times, your network, your friends, your family can see things in you that you don’t see because they’re looking at you from different lenses and different perspective so I think that’s a great strategy to reach out to people who know you and say, “Hey, what are my top three strengths and what’s something that I could improve on?” and then start applying that to the industries that you’re looking at because, chances are, you’re going to find things out about yourself that you didn’t know. And the reason for that is because sometimes we are so good at something, we just assume everybody else is good at it too. And it’s like Halloween, I just thought everybody loves Halloween until you start getting a bigger perspective. So it’s a fun exercise and one that I encourage people to do, especially if they’re looking to make a switch.
Billy: That’s why we like to ask people what 10 roles they play in their life because once they get through the first three or four generic responses, then it really gets deeper into who they are as an individual that separates them from everybody else and it’s always fun to see people come up with super creative responses and I think you have super creative responses to the 10 roles that you have and you can see just your depth of knowledge about how you brand yourself shows just even in those 10 roles. So, kudos to you, Dawn.
Dr. Dawn: Thank you. I don’t have anything about Halloween on my LinkedIn, though.
Billy: So you talk about how change isn’t linear and it’s important to map out your career search so can you elaborate on that?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, I think that’s one of the newer concepts to the career cycle that has evolved in the last few decades is that we used to think of a career as a ladder and now it’s jumping from ladder to ladder, stepping back to learn skills to be on the ladder that you want and I think that’s one of the hallmarks of a switcher is there’s a lot of ways to be a switcher, you can make an industry and function change in one fell swoop but that’s hard. So, a lot of people don’t want to make the sacrifices that go along with that, which might mean a step back in salary or a relocation. So you could do a stepping stone switch and a lot of people are doing that. You maybe make a functional move in your current company for a few years and then take that functional knowledge and move into the industry that you want. And so there’s a lot of different ways to move around the chessboard on this path and I would tell people that sometimes you’re going to make a mistake, sometimes you’re going to try something out and it’s not going to work. Does that mean that the world’s ended? No, it means that you’ve moved forward and you take that knowledge and that experience with you to where you go next and it’s something you wouldn’t have known had you not tried it. So I think we really need to be open about not moving in a linear path but more of a path that makes sense in the moment and that can be diagonal, zigzag, back, forward. Because it really depends on your values and what’s important to you and what’s going on in your life so there’s going to be a lot of things that impact your career. And, in some ways, you could look at it as, “Well, that stinks,” but in other ways, you could say, “Well, that’s kind of exciting,” because it takes the pressure off and allows you to do the things you enjoy.
Billy: So how do you help a switcher reframe when they have to take a step back or they have to take a diagonal step another way that they wanted to go a different way?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, so one of my phrases in the book is, “If you’re not ready to lose, you’re not ready to switch,” and the reason I say that, I know it sounds a little bit dark, but any change comes with gains, losses, and things that stay the same and there’s a concept called loss aversion, I’m putting my psychologist hat back on, loss aversion is a very powerful process that humans have used to survive. So, basically, if you think about survival, we didn’t want to die so we always weight losses greater than gains and this has really taken root in our psychological processes and we face the world this way. So if you find 20 bucks in your pocket tomorrow, you’re going to be pretty psyched, you’ll be like, “Sweet, I might buy myself some lunch, maybe I’ll take my friend to lunch,” but if you lose $20 that you know you had in your pocket, you’re going to drive yourself nuts for like the next six months looking for that $20. It’s just the way it works. And so when it comes to a job switch, people get excited about it but then they tend to focus so much on the things they’re losing, whether that’s a pay cut or whether that’s their cushy office or whether that’s the leadership title that they had that starts to override all of the gains which could be, wow, very motivating and exciting career or getting on the right ladder to where you’ll get back to that salary in a couple of years. So, I really encourage people to make sure you’re being balanced in that because the mind is automatically going to weight those losses to the point where you feel like it’s maybe not worth it anymore and really ignore the fact that there’s all these good things happening and that these losses may be temporary.
Billy: So you talked a little bit about this earlier how job hunting and career switching has changed over the last few years. How has COVID changed the landscape of the career switch? You talked a little bit about that. But then what are some things that people are still doing that are outdated and they need to stop doing and what should they do instead?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, I mean, the one I’m going to say is going to be a big one and, maybe not stop but maybe shift how you spend your time. So, applying online is really, really something that doesn’t work, not to mention for a traditional job seeker who has the right skills but it very much makes it difficult for a switcher because of the process. The process is there’s an applicant tracking system, that applicant tracking system is looking for matches on certain things, whether that’s education, whether that’s salary, whether that’s titles or keywords or things like that, and, as a switcher, you may not have those types of things and so even in the regular job search, you have a, I think it’s 2 percent chance of getting an interview versus when you network, that number goes up astronomically. So, what I would say is if you are in a job search, particularly if you’re a switcher, you really need to focus on using and engaging your network. And I know that’s another big scary topic because that just sounds like an easy answer, “Oh, okay, I’ll network and that’s gonna work for me,” but I know it’s not as easy as that but it is really, really demoralizing to apply to job after job that you know in your heart you can do but the fact is that you may not get through the applicant tracking system, you may find that there’s an internal candidate who is going to get the job all along and you never had a shot. You’d be shocked at how much that happens. Or they already filled the job or changed their mind about the job and you’re applying to these jobs that don’t even exist. So, I really think one thing that people should change is how they approach the market and look at it as a situation where if you see a company you’re interested in and they have roles you’re interested in, see who you can meet, see who you can get to know, see who you can get to shepherd your resume to the decision makers. And even if you do apply online, then go through that process as well. Find somebody who is in the company or who knows somebody who can shepherd that resume just to make sure it gets looked at and maybe that will increase your chances to get an interview.
Billy: Well, I want to take a little bit deeper dive into that aspect of networking so let’s take a quick break and then when we come back, we’re going to continue talking to Dr. Dawn Graham about switching careers. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Thanks for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We will do our best to put out new content every Wednesday to help get you over the midweek hump. If you’d like to contact us or if you have suggestions about what you’d like us to discuss, feel free to email us at email@example.com or follow us on Instagram at @mindful_midlife_crisis. Check out the show notes for links to the articles and resources we reference throughout the show. Oh, and don’t forget to show yourself some love every now and then too. And now, back to the show.
Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here talking to Dr. Dawn Graham about switching careers and we’re going to take a little bit deeper dive into networking. So, recently, we had Shannon Essler-Petty who is a professor over at the College of Saint Ben’s and she was talking about the importance of making connections with students before trying to really teach them anything and, Dawn, I think you’re are the one who taught me your network equals your net worth. So, can you explain what you mean by that?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah. So I did my dissertation on networking because I think it’s that important. And I’ll tell you, the reason it was that important is because I actually got laid off from my job 20 years ago, Arthur Andersen and Enron, there’s a movie about it, if you’re interested in the specifics, but I got caught up in that —
Brian: Oh, wow, so you were in that whole fallout?
Dr. Dawn: I was. I didn’t shred anything and I just feel the need to say that.
Brian: Yeah, which is why we’re not talking to you from the state pen, probably.
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, yeah. Well, 20 years, they would have let me out by now. Maybe. No, but I am an introvert and I had no idea how to do a job search and I applied online and it wasn’t until I started talking to people, I mean, because I didn’t want people to know, every time I said I was part of Arthur Andersen, people would say, “Did you do the shredding?” and I’m like, “Come on. Come on.” So I didn’t really want to talk to anybody but it made me realize once I started to, that’s when I started getting opportunities and that was my epiphany of, okay, I’m an introvert and networking is maybe not natural to me but I need to figure out how to do this if I want to create opportunities. And that’s the basic truth. If you network, if you build relationships, if you have conversations, you’re going to have more information, more opportunities and that’s not just in the job search, that’s in life. You just getting more stuff coming your way. So, that’s really where my love of networking came from. I did my dissertation on how introverts and extroverts approach it differently and what I would say is, in the job search, the job search itself is very relational. If you’re a hiring manager and you think about who you want to hire, you want to hire somebody you trust. Yes, you want them to be competent but there’s certain things you can’t train somebody to do and there’s other things you can train them to do, which is why a lot of hiring managers look to their referral systems when they’re looking to hire because if somebody tells you, “Hey, this person doesn’t have the exact experience but they are hardworking and they roll up their sleeves, they dive in, they’re very resourceful, you won’t regret hiring this person,” chances are, that person is going to get the job even over somebody who might have perfect experience because that’s just paper. That’s just paper. This is a testimonial. So I think this is where switchers can really find a lot of benefit is starting to branch out, starting to network, starting to get to know people who can be their ambassadors in this process.
Brian: So is this fair to say, this is how it dawned on me as far as networking goes, there is a limit to the amount of work that I can perform but there is no limit to the amount of work I can perform through my network. So, in order to multiply things, you have to have a strong network and nothing gets done without somebody talking to somebody else. So, that came into focus for me, just like you, it dawned on me like, “Oh my gosh, to do my job better, it should be part of my job to get out and talk to people,” and that’s why.
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, and that right there, you said it so well but I have to point out that I like the pun that you used as well.
Billy: It wasn’t lost on me either.
Dr. Dawn: That was very creative.
Brian: Thank you.
Dr. Dawn: Yeah.
Billy: Do you find though that because you’re in sales, that’s why you’re pushed to network?
Brian: Everything is sales, Billy. There’s nothing that’s not sales, whether it be internal, external, you are selling all the time whether you know it or not done.
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, so a lot of people have trouble with the word “sell” and I know what you’re saying, Brian, you are promoting or emoting or putting out a brand all the time and that’s how I would rephrase it, you’re always making an impression. You’re always making an impression on people whether you’re intending to get something from them or not so I would think you need to really be thinking about that. You’re always making an impression and if you build trust and you’re cooperative and you’re likeable, then the research shows that you are going to get more information. People are going to be more open with you. In the workplace, you’re going to get more promotions or advancements or opportunities. You are going to get forgiven more. I mean, think about the person who shows up late all the time and is just really annoying and they do something and you’re automatically annoyed but the person who you really like does the same thing and you’re like, “Oh, that’s just so and so.” I mean, it’s just the way the world works that people are always evaluating you so I think when people hear the word “sell,” they think, trying to get something, trying to create an exchange, trying to use somebody or extract something, and so I just want to make that clarification that that’s the piece I would strip out of that.
Billy: So then how do we build our networks that increase our net worth without coming off as opportunistic?
Dr. Dawn: So I think you have to look at it as a lot of people associate it with the job search. They say, “Okay, I’m in a job search, now I need to network,” but I call it building ambassadors and ambassadors have two things. One, they’re willing to spend their social capital on you so they’re willing to make an introduction or they’re willing to give you a referral or they’re willing to give you information. And, two, they know what your brand is. They know the value you bring to the market. And what I would say is that, while a lot of people go out and look to strangers to start to create ambassadors and they throw all this, “Here’s what I’m good at, here are my strengths, this is why you should talk to me and pay attention,” I think you should do it the other way. I think you should look at the people you already know, the people you’ve already built a relationship with, your friends, family, community, alumni network, former colleagues, dormant contacts maybe you haven’t talked to in a while, and make sure they know what your goals are, make sure they know what you’re looking to do, because we really underestimate the fact that everybody’s on social media now, everybody has different contacts, everybody’s getting different information and if you can be easy to help, meaning you can be very specific about how they can help you, “Hey, Brian, I’m really into Halloween and I recognize you have some friends who I should meet. Would you be willing to introduce me?” But if I never said that, Brian has no idea how he can help me. So I think that’s the flip we need to do is instead of going out and trying to meet all these strangers, start with the people you know, make sure they know and understand your goals, and then see where that leads. It’ll lead to a warm introduction and then maybe it’ll lead to another piece of information that can help and maybe they’ll say, “Well, I know somebody who can give you a referral,” so that’s the flip I want to see people do.
Billy: So then how do you do that when you haven’t spoken to that person or connected with that person in years or maybe decades and then they have an opportunity or they work at a company that you’re interested in and then you don’t want to come off like, “Hey, I’m only reaching out to you because this opportunity awaits”?
Dr. Dawn: I know you’re going to edit this out but isn’t that how I got here?
Brian: See, I was going to say the answer to that is cheesecake. We offer cheesecake, bam, you’re in.
Billy: No, Dawn, I have made sure that I text you like every so often just to see how you’re doing because I’m always curious. No.
Dr. Dawn: Who is this?
Billy: I feel that — damn it, now I’m on the defensive. I feel like I’ve done a good job of sometimes maintaining our friendship despite the fact that you live in Philadelphia now. This is your Jersey girl BS coming through right now putting me on the spot.
Dr. Dawn: Okay, okay, but my point being is that you build a relationship and just because you don’t talk every day, which is really common, people move, people travel, people get busy, people have kids, it doesn’t diminish the relationship so, yeah, had you asked me, because I know after I said yes to the podcast, then all of a sudden you were asking me for a place to stay at the end of the year, that progressed quickly.
Billy: You offered. You offered. You said that I’m going to have this place so, I mean, listen to this. She is twisting everything. All of a sudden you’ve become an unreliable guest.
Dr. Dawn: Tell me that’s not true. Tell me like that’s not true, being on my podcast and then, by the way, I might need a place to stay in November. Tell me that didn’t happen.
Billy: That is not how that conversation unfolded. Now I wish I had it recorded ahead of time so could play it back for you.
Dr. Dawn: Yeah, well, anyway, my point being is you don’t want to ask for too much too soon so I suppose you did it the right way, like get a little and then you really drop the bomb. But, no, I think really just reaching out, “Hey, how you been? What’s new? How are the kids? I heard you moved, got a new house.” I mean, we follow people on social media all the time so we see what’s going on and open the door, if they respond, “Hey, great, nice to hear from you,” I mean, then I think it’s totally fine to say, “You may not know, I’m in a job search, but I’m curious,” but you have to ask them for something, one, that they can help you with. So I hate it when people say, “I’m looking at these 20 companies. Do you know someone?” I’m like, “Well, jeez, that’s a lot of work I have to do.” But if you say, “Hey, I see you’re connected to so and so on LinkedIn, didn’t know if you’d be open to giving me an introduction,” they’re going to say yes or no. I mean, that’s that, but the relationship was there to begin with so it’s not like you’re starting over. And so, yeah, you don’t want to ask for the world or a place to stay but you definitely, I think, can ask for an introduction or if somebody they know works at a company. I mean, I think that’s totally fine.
Billy: You’re a huge LinkedIn advocate, and I’ll be honest, I don’t use LinkedIn much. So, why are you such a huge LinkedIn advocate? Obviously, you just talked about it’s easy access to one’s connections but how else should people, particularly switchers, be using LinkedIn?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah. So, nowadays, companies want social proof, they want online proof. They’re not just looking at a resume, they’re seeing what you’re doing out in the world and, sometimes, they see scary things, but you really want them to see your brand. LinkedIn is the professional network so it’s often the place where people go if they’re looking to get a little bit deeper into your background and see some things about you and get to know you on more of a personal level. And I think that I recognize that not everybody uses it to the extent that I do but I think it’s one of those things that if you’re in a job search, it pays to have a LinkedIn and it pays to be branding yourself on there to align with your switch so that people see this is not a whim, you didn’t just wake up today and decide, “I wanna do this job,” but you’ve joined groups, you’ve commented on posts, maybe even posted yourself to really show somebody that you’re committed to this industry or field. They want to see that you have a history with it, even if it’s not a traditional career trajectory, so I think that’s why LinkedIn is so important. But, in different industries, there might be different things that are important. In the media, it might be YouTube, it might be TikTok, it might be a different social media platform but I think you need to get to know what the social media platforms in your industry are and go to where the people who are hiring in your industry are and show them that you are investing in this change through what you put online.
Billy: So you had talked about a little bit earlier that you did your dissertation on introverts and extroverts and you said that they approach the job search differently. Can you talk a little bit about what you discovered in your research?
Dr. Dawn: Yeah. I think the big thing is that, first off, neither introverts nor extroverts were better or more skilled, it wasn’t about that, it was that one group was clearly more comfortable with it, obviously, the extroverts, and in terms of strategy, usually, neither really had a strategy and that’s the piece that I encourage everybody to have because a lot of people think networking is walking into a big room and introducing yourself to all of these people and, obviously, that’s not what it is. It’s about building relationships, but that’s why I did my TEDx Talk on making the job search a social process and starting with the people you know because we very much underestimate because someone’s not in our industry or because even they’re retired, they don’t know anyone, but that’s not true, people are very well connected today, people have networks from the past, networks that we don’t know about and I think if you give somebody, you make it easy to help you. That’s what I always tell people. Do the work. Think about how could this person best help me and these are people you already know so they’re already your cheerleaders, they want to see you succeed, and ask them something they can help you with. Maybe they worked at a specific company, maybe you can look at their LinkedIn and see who else they’re connected to. Maybe they went to a particular school, but figure out how they can help you and, at the very least, you can give them three companies you’re interested in, “Hey, I’m really interested in these three companies. If you come across anything on the news or you hear anything or if you know anyone who worked there or who used to work there, then just let me know.” You’d be shocked. People, every time I tell people to do this, they’re shocked and I will tell you, if you don’t believe me, I will ask you a question. I will ask you a question. Think about your spouse, think about your very close friends, think about people maybe your neighbors you barbecue with every weekend, whoever, can they in one sentence summarize the value you bring to the market in your field? I’m going 100 percent say no. They might be able to say, “Well, Brian, you’re the boss guy and you believe in selling,” or they might be able to say, “Billy, you are in education and you love Pearl Jam,” but that’s not your brand, that’s not what you bring to the table and if they’re not able to say that, then they can’t be out there being ambassadors for you. So I say, first and foremost, make sure people know what you do. You’re standing next to parents on the sidelines watching your kids play soccer, you have no idea what they do. Strike up a conversation. “Hey, I know you work in tech but I have to be honest, I really don’t know what you do. Can you explain it to me?” and then they reciprocate and, all of a sudden, you find that you know 10 people in common and you went to the same conference center, whatever, and it’s just amazing what comes out of just a few questions.
Billy: Well, we want to thank you so much for answering our questions here today, Dawn. You are so well versed on this topic of career searching. Please take some time to check out Dawn’s book, Switchers, you can access that on her webpage, which is www.drdawngraham.com. You can also listen to her SiriusXM show, Dr. Dawn on Careers. Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Dawn.
Dr. Dawn: Thank you for having me.
Billy: Yes, absolutely. Happy Halloween to you. I hope you get some cheesecake. So, for Dawn, for Brian, this is Billy, thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care, friends.