- Reflective Career Exploration: Begin by assessing past roles and experiences to identify what you enjoyed most and least, using this insight to guide your career choices and eliminate less desirable options.
- Communicating Unique Strengths: Identify 3-5 core skills that set you apart, and showcase these in job applications, résumés, and cover letters, highlighting the impact and value you bring.
- Goal Setting in Uncertain Career Paths: Engage in research about industries, roles, and companies to gain clarity. Network extensively and set small, achievable goals for continual progress and self-discovery.
- Identifying and Pivoting from the Wrong Path: Recognize signs of disengagement or consistent underperformance as indicators of being on the wrong path. Pivot by aligning career choices with your strengths and possibly pursuing further education if it offers a clear direction.
- Leveraging Transferable Skills: Understand and articulate your transferable skills, both general (like communication) and specific to your functional area, to facilitate career transitions and open opportunities in new industries.
- Developing Leadership Outside Current Roles: Enhance leadership abilities through empathy and active feedback engagement. Seek leadership opportunities in professional associations, nonprofits, and community groups to build experience and demonstrate potential.
How to Determine Your Ideal Career Path
How do you find the right career path and develop the skills to thrive in it? In this comprehensive Q&A, Julia Toothacre, a respected Career Coach and founder of Ride The Tide Collective, offers her expert guidance on navigating career direction and transitions. She provides actionable strategies for job seekers uncertain about their career paths, emphasizing the importance of self-reflection and identifying core strengths. Julia also addresses the challenges of career change, revealing how to leverage transferable skills and the value of networking in new fields. Additionally, she explores the development of leadership skills, highlighting the role of empathy and feedback in shaping effective leadership styles. Whether you’re seeking to pivot your career, enhance your leadership abilities, or simply find your footing in a new industry, Julia’s insights offer a roadmap to professional growth and success.
What first step do you recommend for job seekers who are unsure about their career path?
“The first step I recommend for those unsure about their career path is to reflect on where they have been. What positions, organizations, and skills did you enjoy the most? What did you enjoy the least? The ability to say no to options is just as valuable as figuring out the path.”
How can individuals identify and communicate their core strengths in job applications?
“First, I recommend professionals have about 3-5 core skills and traits that make them unique. From there, those skills and traits need to be articulated with intention and results to show the impact they will make for the organization. This should be articulated in the résumé, cover letter, or any other documents where you have a chance to showcase your talents.”
What advice would you give for setting realistic career goals when direction is unclear?
“This depends on where you’re at in your career journey, but in most cases, I recommend research as the first goal. Start looking at open positions, industries, and companies of interest. Network and speak to as many people as you can to get an idea if their path is interesting to you. Most of all, don’t overdo it. Set small, manageable goals to create easy wins. Reflect weekly on what you’ve learned about yourself and what interests you through the research.”
How can a job seeker recognize if they’re on the wrong career path and pivot effectively?
“You know you’re on the wrong career path when you’re disengaged in your work and it’s unrelated to management or culture. In some cases, you just aren’t doing well in your career. You aren’t being promoted, your feedback is negative, or you’ve been let go multiple times for poor performance. To pivot effectively, you need to analyze your strengths. Take some time to research and consider new paths that better align with your strengths. In some instances, additional education may be a good path, but only if it provides a clear way forward.”
How to Navigate Career Transitions
Can you share a strategy for identifying transferrable skills that can open doors in new industries?
“There are different types of transferrable skills. There are core transferable skills that will apply anywhere; think communication. Then, you have skills that will transfer within a function or an industry. If you have strong functional area skills, they will likely transfer easily between industries. Industries do have nuance, but the core skills of a functional area are harder to obtain than learning about industry specifics. Functions would be paths like human resources, people management, finance, marketing, law, operations, etc.”
What’s a common misconception about career changing and how can one navigate it?
“A common misconception about career changing is that it’s not possible once you hit a certain point in your career. The reality is that you can make a shift at any point. The length of time it takes and the opportunities available might vary, but it’s possible.”
How can someone effectively market themselves for a role they haven’t held before?
“Transferrable skills and experiences combined with an endorsement from someone with influence will help you get noticed for a role you haven’t held before.”
What is the best way to approach networking when aiming to enter a new field?
“Use your current network to help you connect to a new network. 6 degrees of separation is real if you’re willing to do a bit of research and share openly what you need.”
How to Develop Leadership Skills
What’s an often-overlooked skill that can significantly enhance one’s leadership abilities?
“Empathy. Many people roll their eyes when you start talking about empathy, but it’s the one skill that will make you a stellar leader people want to work for.”
What role does feedback play in developing one’s leadership style, and how should it be sought and applied?
“If you aren’t seeking feedback at all levels about your perceived leadership style, you’ll never grow. Great leaders learn from others and take feedback – positive and negative – seriously. They examine their bias and shortcomings and are honest with their team.”
How can an aspiring leader demonstrate leadership potential in their current non-leadership role?
“Listening and proposing strategic solutions to big issues is a great way to get noticed. But make sure you’re sharing those ideas in group settings, so you get the credit.”
Can you suggest ways for individuals to gain leadership experience outside of their current jobs?
“There are many ways to gain leadership experience outside of your current job. Consider leadership positions in professional associations, nonprofits, alumni associations, community groups, etc. All of these experiences can be added to your résumé and LinkedIn to show those leadership skills.”