Coaching Your Career in a Changing Economy

I took the time to ask Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart, a career coaching company, a few questions about toughing it out and making a move to a new career when the economy is set against you.
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In my first ever blog post, I wrote, "It's been six months and 25 days since I have had a job, by that I mean something that pays regularly and comes with certain perks like health insurance." Those six months and 25 days quickly spiraled into two years. I can and do sympathize with those in market for a job. I took the time to ask Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart, a career coaching company, a few questions about toughing it out and making a move to a new career when the economy is set against you.

1. Caroline, you work as a career coach. What exactly does that mean?

Career coaching can mean different things because there are so many aspects of career. I help people find fulfilling and financially-rewarding career paths. My clients are people who are employed but want to change careers or keep their career but get to the next level. Some are unemployed and want to have my recruiter's perspective as they move through their job search. Some people are entrepreneurs, because that's an alternative career path to traditional employment.

2. How often should someone take inventory of their careers and evaluate their skills and abilities and see if they are on the right life path?

People should take an inventory of their career whenever they feel stuck, at a crossroads or at a plateau. Even if you feel you are coasting, you should proactively take an inventory at least every six months, if not quarterly. Remember that a business keeps quarterly financials -- they know that market conditions change frequently and they don't want too much time to pass by before reacting. You also have external circumstances -- relationships, employment market, financial goals -- that you need to manage by managing your career.

3. Is this economy affecting how people are looking at their jobs? For example if someone comes to you and feels that they are working in a position where there is no outlet for creativity or they are stifled, are you finding that your clients may have a harder time walking away, taking a risk and doing something different because of the economy?

Internal readiness trumps market conditions any time. If you want to make a move and the market is bad, you do need to budget for a longer search and a more difficult search, but it's doable. I've moved from arts to business to arts to business, from corporate to my own business. I've done this in up and down markets -- my willingness to work trumped whatever external circumstances were around me.

4. What are some of the major differences in how you would advice a newcomer to the labor force and a middle-aged career changer?

Good job search technique and good career management is the same for new entrants to experienced. In fact, SixFigureStart has a 6-step job search process that is being detailed in a textbook coming out this summer, and this process works for both groups. What is different is the background, skills and experience you bring so this affects how you talk about yourself, what you put on your resume, how you determine the best next career move, etc.

5. As a career coach, do you believe there are barriers to success?

Many of the barriers are internal -- lack of confidence in your ability, lack of discipline to do the work, lack of persistence to stay the course. Sometimes there are external barriers -- you want a job where there aren't many openings in your specific geography. You then need to determine if you expand your target market or consider a relocation. You do need to respond to the market -- I do not encourage anyone to assume that they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. This is why my 15 years of recruiting and business experience makes a difference to my clients -- I can give them the perspective of those who hire, who decide on promotions, who assign the plum projects. This way, you can break down both internal and external barriers to your career success.

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