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Friday, April 01, 2011

Something I found lying around: on Career Transitions

"Sure there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in national government too." - Richard M. Nixon


It's the first year anniversary of my career transition.  I would like to share lessons, which I hope facebook friends might find useful.  These lessons are specific to those switching professions to something unrelated to their past occupation, and mid level non scholar managers aged between 30 to 40.  Does not apply to aspiring entrepreneurs.  

Lesson 1: Not all jobs are equal.

Broadly, there are "P1", "P2", "P3" jobs out there.  "P1" are top tier, reserved for top talent, and mostly head-hunted.  "P2" are middle tier, reserved for promising insiders, and sometimes head-hunted or "career-referralled".  "P3" jobs are advertised (not by headhunters) and you would notice appear online or in the papers every few months or annually.  So are "P3" jobs good ones?  Btw, "P" stands for "Priority".  So you decide.  Exceptions exist, but there's a trend.  

Lesson 2:  Do not overperform in the interview for a "P3" job.

Most interviewers for "P3" jobs are not looking for stars.  Just someone stable and can stay long enough in the job.  If you give a star performance, some will wonder if you will remain for long.  Some might even feel threatened! If you think you are a star and dun mind doing a "P3" job, then hunker down during the interview.  Once you snatched the "P3" job, be a star to upgrade to an internal "P2" job.  But it will take time and a lot of savvy skill.  

Lesson 3: There are proxies to your worth.

Your branding, work experience, and academic qualifications are most significant to your prospective employer. For good or bad, these are the proxies of what you are worth and these determine your salary.  Most interviewers place more emphasis on these proxies than the interviewee sitting in front of them.  Although your interview performance matters, it matters less than you think.  Do not underestimate branding.  Most people will commit fundamental attribution errors of association with your past occupation.  If you were from the Army, most people will hear every word from you as an "order", even if you did not mean it to be.

Lesson 4: Get a mentor/sponsor.

If you had been a generalist or in a different specialisation, it can be near impossible to secure an interview, unless you are in very senior management, or have an Ivy League/Oxbridge degree, or are a pedigree scholar.  If you are not in these categories, get a mentor/sponsor to give you a referral.  Don't be stubborn and think you can make it on your own.  Your resume gets screened by HR clerks paid to screen you out.

Lesson 5:  Most organisational cultures are very similar in substance, but could differ in form

If you are transiting because you disliked your organisational culture, then the hard truth is that most are similar in substance.  There is a reason why tribes in our evolutionary past are no larger than 100.  The larger it gets, the more impersonal it becomes.  But if form matters, some large organisations do it better than others.  Otherwise, be realistic on the requirement for a "good organisational culture".
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