The coronavirus pandemic has upended many industries, forcing millions of people out of work and prompting others to reexamine their roles and careers. We asked executive and career coach Meghan Howard Sharron, FCRH ’92, a Fordham Mentoring Program volunteer and moderator at this year’s Women’s Summit, to offer some advice for anyone looking to make a successful mid-career transition.
Clarify Your Values
Before jumping into a job search, ask yourself how you work best, Sharron says. “Do I thrive with more structure or more autonomy? Do I enjoy a more traditional or more creative environment? When your values [and your employer’s] are aligned,” there are greater opportunities to “tap into your full potential.”
Being able to speak confidently to your own strengths and values can also give you an edge when interviewing, she adds. If you’re not sure where to start, she recommends taking a free online assessment, like the VIA (Values in Action) Survey.
Craft Your Story
Sharron says the next step is learning to tell your professional story in a way that shows why you’re a good fit for a new position or employer.
For many people, their role becomes “so foundational in how they relate to themselves—‘I’m an accountant, and I work for EY.’” But she recommends moving beyond that to “start [relating] to yourself in terms of your value and your abilities, versus your title in your organization.”
She says networking can help you find ways to highlight skills and experiences you may have overlooked. “Getting your story out to others helps you to see more of what’s in your blind spot,” she says. “I had someone tell me, ‘Oh, it sounds like you have a lot of experience influencing outcomes.’ And I was like, ‘I never [thought of that].”
By mid-career, people tend to be set in their beliefs in what is possible, Sharron says. “We disqualify so much opportunity, because we’re just using our own lens. However, when you shift from probability to possibility … what would you want to do?”
Being curious can also help you take a step back and learn new skills, particularly if you’ve been forced into a career change and feel stuck.
“A lot of the fear … comes from [thinking], ‘How does it have to go?’” she says. “‘It’s gonna be hard, I’m gonna take a pay cut, I’m not going to be good.’” Instead, she recommends imagining “how can it go?” That shift in thinking can open the way to a new, fulfilling career.
Fordham provides many career services and professional development opportunities for Fordham alumni. Learn more at forever.fordham.edu/career.