Michael Forrest is a living testimonial to the power of career reinvention. Now president of JobOptions.com, an online recruitment-solutions provider, Forrest spent several years as a marketing director at Deloitte & Touche and eight years as dean of Pepperdine University’s School of Business and Management before plunging into the new economy to found CareerPaths, an online recruitment resource. Forrest was close to retirement when he decided to leave CareerPath for one more intriguing opportunity: the offer from a former partner to help expand JobOptions.com, a similar venture, as its president. The golf course would have to wait.
More riveting than Forrest’s story is the enthusiasm he exudes while discussing job opportunities. His knowledge of the job market and his encouragement to job seekers in search of satisfying work are pure inspiration to potential reinventors looking to jump ship for a new gig.
In a conversation with Fast Company, Forrest acknowledged the difficulties associated with reinvention and offered the following problem-solving advice for making your next move a successful one.
Join the Club
Professional societies and associations can provide vital assistance at a few key times in a career. During the earliest stages of re-careering, use them to investigate the broad range of opportunities surrounding the industry or job function that most interests you. Talking to members of a professional society is the best way to feel out the culture of that profession as well as to network, to make contacts, to learn more about the issues facing that community, and to scout out job openings that aren’t widely publicized.
These groups are particularly useful to anyone who has taken time off from a profession and plans to stage a comeback. Meetings unearth the hot issues in an industry and help members stay up-to-date on lingo — the changing vocabulary used by insiders. A professional society also adds glitter to any résumé.
Devise an Elevator Pitch
After learning the vocabulary and issues within a particular industry, you need to think about ways to recast yourself. After updating your résumé and joining an organization, you should perfect your elevator pitch. You must be able to tell your friends and contacts exactly what you want and what you can do succinctly. If you can express your goals and credentials in less than 30 seconds, you are in good shape. If your pitch doesn’t roll trippingly off your tongue, go back and practice it.
Just Do It
The biggest challenges facing career switchers are the organization, the work, and the time it takes to research and to seek out new jobs. The best thing potential reinventors can do is to take this process as seriously as a job itself — and not to let fear impair them as they seek out options. Finding a meaningful career is the most important job you have.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to explore career counseling. If you can’t afford it, go to a local university and tap the career resources there, especially the counselors. It helps tremendously when someone pushes you to explore areas you might miss on your own.
If your desired career requires new skills and knowledge, go back to school. Some community colleges and four-year universities offer outstanding programs with flexible schedules for professionals. Look into programs that offer certification. In some industries, certification is more that just a filler line on your CV — it makes you measurably more valuable as a prospective employee.
Contact Michael Forrest via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).