I’m guessing you’ve come to this site because you are thinking about next steps in your career and know that a CV is a tool you need to make your next move.
But what if you don’t know what that next move is?
What if you have questions about what might suit you or what is available?
What if you are struggling to come up with ideas and options?
Or if you are overwhelmed by your choices and have no idea how to decide?
What if you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of ideas, but remain undecided between them?
What if you have an end goal in mind, but no roadmap to get there? Maybe the steps you need to take from here to there seem elusive.
What if you know where you are heading, understand the steps you need to take, but need help understanding how to find and access opportunities?
What if you lack confidence to move forward?
What if you need more than a CV in your toolbox 🧰 to get the job done?
If you are nodding your head, if any of these questions resonate, then you may benefit from a personal career guidance meeting.
Tailored to you and your specific needs, a personal career guidance meeting can help you:
• Unlock, explore, and review your career ideas
• Identify career goals that align with your skills, qualities, interests, and values
• Uncover any limiting assumptions that may be impacting your career choices
• Evaluate any skills gaps and make realistic plans to deal with them
• Identify and address your career information needs
• Find and access relevant sources of labour market information (LMI)
• Make confident, well-informed and realistic career decisions
Alongside my work as a CV writer, I am also a qualified and registered career guidance practitioner, offering high-quality personal career guidance to my clients.
Find out more about personal career guidance and book a session via my other website: https://sunrisecareerguidance.co.uk/sunrise-career-guidance-for-you/ or contact me at email@example.com to make an enquiry.
When you are considering a career change, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the unknown quantity of what may lie ahead. You may be attracted to a particular career path or industry, but feel hesitant about committing to the journey when you are uncertain about the terrain.
It’s natural to feel indecisive and a little afraid when making any kind of change, but these are feelings we need to overcome to avoid getting and staying stuck.
So, how can we reduce this uncertainty and overcome our fears? We need to take control of the situation. One way to increase confidence is to master the unknown by gathering and using information.
One approach to consider is an informational interview. This powerful tool can give you the information and insight you need to make an informed and appropriate career decision.
What is an informational interview?
An informational interview is a fantastic source of data that can help you to decide and validate your next career move. An exploratory meeting with someone who is already in your target role or industry, it allows you to hear about the role straight from the horse’s mouth.
The purpose of this exercise isn’t to secure a job. Your aim is to find out as much as you can about a potential career path, before committing to it. An informational interview with the right person can be a valuable shortcut, fast-tracking your knowledge and helping you to decide if you are setting off on the right path.
How to arrange an informational interview
To make the most of the experience, cherry pick the person you’d like to interview. Perhaps you already know someone who is working in your desired role or industry. If so, call them up and ask for an hour of their time.
If the person you’d like to talk to isn’t in your immediate network, now is the time to get to know them. Find them on LinkedIn, and send a personalised invitation, giving some background on your situation and outlining your interest in their work. Explain that you’d love to sit with them for 30 minutes or an hour, when their schedule permits, to understand more about their role. Offer to buy them a coffee, and make it as easy as possible for them to accept your invitation by flexing to their schedule and location. This may mean meeting at their office, or near a client site; be prepared to travel.
If there’s no immediate response, follow up with a telephone call a week later. If you have sent an email in advance, they are likely to have read your message and will understand why you are calling.
Preparing for your meeting
Once the date is in the diary, you can begin to prepare for your informational interview. The key to making the most of your airtime is to ask great questions. Start off by brainstorming everything you could possibly want to know about the person’s role, industry, and career. You can then begin to whittle down your question list.
The time you have secured is precious, and you won’t want to waste it by asking obvious questions, so spend time researching online before the interview. Revisit your contact’s LinkedIn profile and company web pages. Google their name and job title for recent news and even set up a Google Alert to stay abreast of new stories. The questions that remain unanswered, after you’ve mined the internet, can stay on your list for the interview.
The questions you ask should be insightful, demonstrating keen interest in and motivation for your target career. Ultimately, the answers you seek will give you a competitive edge over other candidates, an inside understanding of the industry you wish to join.
If you get stuck, think about what it is that this person can tell you, that you can’t glean from other sources. Often, it will be their story, their experiences, and their challenges that will provide the most insight. Here are some example questions, that will hopefully trigger some of your own:
- How did you first get into this?
- What part of your role do you feel has the biggest impact?
- What is the most important part of your role?
- What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
- What is your biggest career achievement to date?
- How do you measure success in your role?
- What are the most important relationships for your role?
- If you had more hours in your day, what would you do more of?
- How has your role or industry changed since you started?
- How do you maintain and refresh your professional skillset?
- What advice would you give to a newcomer to the role or industry?
It can be useful to order your questions, allowing you to develop the conversation in a logical and progressive way. Also, be careful not to break rapport by asking potentially intrusive questions too early.
Making the most of your moment
On the day of the interview, you could arrive early and base yourself nearby to run over your questions. Ideally, you’ll aim for a free-flowing conversation, rather than a stilted Q&A session, but it’s still handy to keep your list of questions close as an aide-memoire. Taking copious notes in the interview will make it hard to give your full attention, so instead immerse yourself in the experience and listen actively and attentively with all your senses. You can capture the gold dust soon after.
Capture the gold dust
After the interview, find a quiet space – in your parked car, on the train, or in a café – and jot down what you have learned. Take a notebook and pen with you for this purpose, and spend as long as you need to capture your findings. You might start with broad subject headings, then flesh out the content as your conversation comes flooding back. If you prefer, record yourself using your phone, you can always transcribe it later.
It’s well worth taking the time to do this. You may think you’ll remember the conversation, but over time it’s likely that you will forget. Also, as you learn more about your target role, you can revisit your notes and uncover new gems of information that you can access with new understanding.
Follow up with a thank you
After the interview, follow up with a thank you. The person you interviewed has been kind enough to send the ladder back down, and this deserves recognition and thanks. Saying that, simple and sincere is the best approach, rather than gushing, over-the-top gratitude. You can write a thank you email, a LinkedIn message, or even post a handwritten note – a good way to stand out.
Connect and nurture the relationship
Now you’ve forged or warmed up this relevant connection, be sure to nurture it. Invite the person to connect via LinkedIn, follow their updates, and keep in touch. Maintain a professional relationship and demonstrate interest, but avoid stalker-like intensity.
Reflect on the experience
After a couple of days, think back on your experience. Read over your notes, and engage in a free-writing exercise to capture what you gained from it. This will help you to assimilate your learning, and to map out next steps. Are you any closer to making your decision? What else do you want or need to know? Who might you want to interview next to meet your information needs?
Informational interviews are a practical way to understand more about a target role and industry, and can help you to make an informed and confident next step. Use them in conjunction with networking, independent research, and professional training to develop your knowledge, skills, and connections, ready for your next career move.
If you are planning a job search anytime soon, your personal email account is likely to get a whole lot busier. You’ll be sending a tonne of emails to recruiters, gatekeepers, and those within your existing network to secure your next position.
If you haven’t already set up an email signature that supports your job search and career goals, that represents a lot of missed opportunities to promote yourself. Using an email signature in your job search is like handing your personal business card to everyone you engage with.
Creating your email signature is easy and takes just a matter of minutes, yet this simple action can have a huge impact on your career. Every time you send an email, your signature will be there on the bottom, working hard for you, without you even thinking about it. It won’t just attract the notice of your direct recipient – your mails may be forwarded on to others, where it will introduce you in your own words.
You can use your email signature to:
>> Signpost your intended career direction via a clear headline or job title.
>> Introduce yourself and build rapport by including a professional photo.
>> Direct readers to your LinkedIn profile, personal website, or career-relevant social accounts.
>> Show you are detail-orientated and care about your professional representation.
If you Google ‘email signature tool’ you’ll find a range of free and paid-for signature generation tools. I tested htmlsig and WiseStamp, both of which offer free and paid services, and was pleased with both versions. Each site offered step-by-step guidance on how to embed the signature, and both provide a help centre in case you need support.
Here is the email signature I generated using htmlsig’s free service:
Here is my email signature created using WiseStamp’s free service:
It’s quick and easy to implement, it can be free, and it brings a truckload of professionalism to your job search. Grab your personal email signature today.
This week, I interviewed someone very close to me about her career change. I’m delighted to share her answers, along with some points to take-away, and I hope these will inspire you on your career change journey.
What career are you changing from and to, and why?
Although not a direct career choice, I have been a public law solicitor with the same London local authority for more years than I care to remember. I have enjoyed the status, salary, stimulus, and professional camaraderie, and even the hard work and monumental legal studies.
Yet, my true passion is wine. For years, I have been consumed by discerning wine choice and drinking, never-ending wine education, wine tasting, visiting world wine regions, charity wine evenings, and taking wine exams. Last January, I obtained my WSET Diploma in wine (equivalent to a degree), culminating in my graduation ceremony at London’s Guildhall. I may now use the letters AIWS and wear the small, oval red lapel diploma badge. My next big challenge? Breaking into the on-trade or off-trade wine sector through a role in hotel/hospitality, or as a sommelier, wine merchant, supermarket wine buyer, wine educator, vineyard manager, or even wine producer.
It takes courage to ditch a financially-secure and established career and plunge into an unfamiliar job sector, but when you truly know your passion, it’s worth pursuing it.
When did you get your lucky break?
After years of irregular internet searching for that illusive wine job, one day while out shopping I was seduced by the purple façade and wine on display at a newly opened local wine merchant. Lured inside, I chatted to the Australian owner who poured me a glass of Torrontes (Argentinian signature white grape and wine) and I promised to email my CV (panic – I needed to revamp this into a wine CV), with a view to working Saturdays as an intern wine sales assistant. Although unpaid, the reward would be tasting the wines and taking home bottles to evaluate and appreciate. I soon emailed a credible wine CV, thanks to Giraffe CVs, securing this valuable work experience to kick-start my wine career. I worked Saturdays in the wine merchants for two years, learning about the off-trade, regional wines, wine producers, fine wines and champagnes, and wine suppliers, all the while studying for my wine diploma with the Wine and Spirit Trust in Bermondsey, London.
Your lucky break could come when you least expect it, so be ready with a credible and tailored CV that reflects your relevant skills, experience, and motivation for the job in question.
How did you build further experience?
Although I enjoyed my time at the wine merchants, I came to realise that wine retail was not for me. I wanted to try my hand as a sommelier in an upmarket hotel, where I could immerse myself in a huge wine cellar with hundreds of fine and expensive wines, and learn how to deliver amazing hospitality to guests. I wanted to emulate the brilliant service experiences, which I can recall as a guest in a hotel or fine dining restaurant, knowing how this service enhanced the food and wine experience.
Having thoroughly researched the role of sommelier, a couple of years ago I responded to an online job advert for a junior sommelier at a boutique wine hotel. I didn’t hear anything for a while, and the silence brought up fresh doubts about whether I really wanted to leave my secure, long-term role as a solicitor. After much thought, I contacted the hotel and asked to speak to the head sommelier, making an appointment to meet with him one Friday evening, prising him away from his busy work schedule. We agreed that I would work evenings and weekends on a part-time basis, allowing me to maintain my day job. I was willing and enthusiastic to work unpaid in order to obtain this valuable experience. After a couple of weeks’ hospitality sector culture shock and the steep learning curve of hard, physical, fast service work, I was given a zero-hours contract to sign, with copious company policies and workplace information to memorise.
My three months at the hotel, working under the valued guidance of the head sommelier, was far from easy. The long evenings working in the fine dining restaurant/bistro after my legal day job, running to and from the cellar via a dark narrow staircase, and cleaning up at the end of wine service, were exhausting. My expectation of the glamourous sommelier role advising guests and diners about choosing wonderful wines was modified by all the extra menial duties, such as the emptying of bins full of empty bottles into the huge glass receptors. I left the role to concentrate on my final course module and exam for the wine diploma.
Be gutsy about pursuing your goal. It’s unlikely that emailing your CV in response to an advertised role will be enough. Take the bull by the horns, and contact the hiring manager directly, explaining who you are and what you can do.
What happened next?
So to continue my fledgling wine experience in the hotel hospitality sector, in September, I emailed my CV to Gerrard Basset, a formidable figure in the world of wine. The only person who has obtained Master Sommelier of the World (2010), Master of Wine, and a Wine MBA, he is also the president of WSET, and the man who personally presented me with my wine diploma at the Guildhall London. Gerrard and his wife own and run Hotel Terravina, a cosy, fine dining wine hotel in the New Forest, where I celebrated my birthday with friends, last year. He encouraged me to email him dates for doing a one-week stage at the hotel, which I completed in early December.
Identify those who can help you with your new career, and find opportunities to develop the relationship. A confident yet polite approach can open unexpected doors.
How did you find your next experience?
I arrived on a Sunday evening and was met by the head sommelier, who I would be shadowing that week. What a fun first hour! I was invited to watch the dramatic performance of the Sabrage, a guest experience that involved slicing the neck of a chilled champagne bottle with a long, curved sword/sabre. It looked magnificent on the garden veranda as the head sommelier expertly demonstrated the swift sword action, skimming up to the thin neck of the bottle and the cork catapulting into the garden.
The head sommelier had planned an interesting week for me, and I learned many aspects of the sommelier role that I had not covered during my previous experience. The wine service element actually only represents 20% of the role. I experienced the office and paperwork; ordering and checking deliveries; stocktaking of wine, spirits, and glassware; cellar work; cleanliness and care of the different glassware and equipment; meticulous wine service; the bar (I had to taste all the wines by the glass from the Enomatic wine dispenser!); wine tastings; and wine education. I was anxious not to put a foot wrong, but inevitably made a few, luckily not disastrous, mistakes. My role was not as autonomous as before, but this hotel was even more prestigious, with meticulous standards, so I was happy to shadow and observe.
Once you have secured a placement, throw yourself into it and learn and experience everything you can. The next step is to capture that experience on your CV and use it to secure your next position.
How will you progress your career change?
I am currently reflecting on my weeks’ experience and the myriad responsibilities involved in being a sommelier. There are lots of advertisements for sommelier jobs but, for now, I plan to carry on building up my experience in the wine sector until I find the right wine job for me.
My experiences have taught me that it is possible to pursue an entirely new career from a passionate interest while retaining your existing role, giving you the courage and motivation to educate yourself and build up a great new CV.
With a second career, give yourself the time and space you need to carve out the right path. Don’t rush headlong into a job that feels wrong. It’s worth giving your choices due consideration before making a leap.
Tips for wannabe career changers
Here are some practical tips to help you convert your career dream into career reality:
Be clear in your own mind what you want from your career. Start to manifest it by telling yourself aloud and, better still, by writing it down. If you are unsure what it is that you want, here are some ways to uncover your inner career desires:
Picture your perfect working day, capturing as many details as possible to bring the scene to life. Get as clear about your aspirations as possible, then work towards every element.
Leverage online career tools, such as the brilliant Plotr. Free to use, Plotr was established to help 11 to 24-year-olds discover and explore careers they’ll love. In fact, this engaging tool is extremely useful for adult career changers, leading to some true light bulb moments.
Conduct your own skills audit, clarifying your strengths and interests to define your target career path. Challenge yourself to write down every skill you can think of, and then group common themes. It should become clear where your strengths lie.
Establish your ‘zone of genius’, a phrase originally coined by psychologist, Gay Hendricks, in his book, The Big Leap. Hendricks said, “In your Zone of Genius, though the time you spend there produces great financial abundance, you do not feel that you are expending effort to produce it. In your Zone of Genius, work doesn’t feel like work.” Note every skill you have under the headings of genius, excellence, OK, poor. The items you list in your zone of genius should become the most important requirements for your next role.
Recognise the potential challenges and obstacles standing between you and your dream career. By facing potential problems and fears, you will be in a better position to seek support and plug any skills gaps. Do you need to find and enrol on some relevant training? Do you need to build your network? Do you need to find out more about a specific industry or role? Do you need more training? More hands-on experience? Is there something you struggle with and you know it is an integral part of your desired career, such as giving presentations or managing a team? Is there anything you can do to boost your confidence in this area? Is there training you can undertake to improve your management skills? Would working with a mentor help you tackle the challenges of a desired role?
Use your end-game picture to set clear, time-defined immediate, medium- and long-term goals. This can help to ensure you are always making the right choices and devoting your energy and resources to an action or path that directly relates to what you want. Frame every decision in terms of the question: “Will this take me closer to my goal or further away from it?”
Once you have defined your goals, take focused and consistent action to bring you closer to your career dream. As you achieve each set of tasks, cross them off and move down the list. You don’t always need to make huge leaps, it’s enough to move forward one step at a time.
This week’s blog is inspired by an eclectic combination of Sliding Doors, the late-90s romcom starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah, and the eminent Professor Stephen Hawking.
Sliding Doors. It’s a great concept. The film plays out the two very different paths that Helen Quilley could have taken, decided by the moment she either misses or catches her tube train, having been fired from her PR role. The 99-minute production alternates between each parallel universe, narrating the extreme contrast between two versions of a life, determined by a split-second decision.
I have been mulling over this concept for a while, but the thoughts were reawakened by Sky News’ report of Hawking’s recent livestream lecture at the Sydney Opera House. Someone who evidently admires both professor and One Direction (diversity in action) asked, “What do you think is the cosmological effect of Zayn leaving One Direction and consequently breaking the hearts of millions of teenage girls across the world?”
Quick-witted as ever, the professor replied, “Finally, a question about something important,” and encouraged 1D fans to seek solace in theoretical physics “…because one day there may well be proof of multiple universes. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe lies another different universe. And in that universe, Zayn is still in One Direction.”
I enjoyed reading about this holographic Q&A session, and began to ponder once again the concept of another dimension, where our personal and professional lives may be played out in an entirely different way.
There are so many split-second decisions that lead us to become the individuals we are today, living the professional and personal lives we do today. Every single action we take, large or small, show-stopping or mundane, contributes to our present day reality. It’s impractical and unnecessary to evaluate each and every minute action to assess its potential impact on our lives, but it’s worth being aware that, over time, these actions accumulate into a new reality.
We may never uncover the true ‘sliding doors’ moments in our lives, and mistakenly assign credit to a moment that was an effect rather than a cause. Helen Quilley remained blissfully unaware of the unremarkable action that defined her future. Zayn Malik will undoubtedly view his decision to part ways with the 1D boys as career-defining, but perhaps his path was decided at an earlier and less dramatic juncture.
If you think back on your career, there are likely to be a few conscious defining moments that have shaped your destiny; where you have taken the decision to select one path over another. Here are some of mine:
My decision to ignore the practical opportunities offered by my degree course, finishing my three-year Ancient History and Archaeology degree without stepping foot in a field.
My failure to secure a graduate role with one of the large advertising agencies, having applied to the likes of Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi. That was a blow, I can tell you, having decided it was my dream.
My decision not to pursue my cabin crew application with Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL). Looking back on this is like looking at someone else’s history, not mine.
My early realisation that I had made a huge mistake in accepting what turned out to be the world’s most boring role in an exciting company. With no work to do, I focused on lunch and put on more than a stone within my brief employment.
My decision to start my business, the best professional decision I ever made.
Case in point. I take this decision to work for myself as the defining moment, but there were many defining moments that contributed to this decision, all of which are woven through the periods I described above. If I had taken another junction at an earlier stage, I may not have arrived at my current destination.
Have you ever mulled over your career decisions and considered the impact on your present day reality? Can you identify a definite crossroads that forced a decision and led you down the road you tread today?
Have you wondered what your CV would say in the other dimension, which would have been created by a different decision at that crossroads? Mine might say I was an advertising director, esteemed archaeologist (ha!), or cabin crew. I’ll never know.
I’d love to hear about your ‘sliding doors’ moments, parallel universe CV, and the other possible versions of you.
When you CTRL ALT DEL your computer, it’s usually because something just isn’t working and you need to shut down the offending task so that you can get back to business as usual.
Do you ever wish you could CTRL ALT DEL your career? You’re not alone. Sometimes we hit a point where we feel frozen – the human equivalent of ‘Not responding’ – or a particular aspect of our job stops running smoothly. If your career is suddenly at a standstill or you want to find a direction that’s a better fit, then it’s time to press CTRL ALT DEL and reboot your professional operating system.
Reboot or reset
If you’ve ever called a PC helpline or spoken to someone techy about your computer problems, the first question they’ll ask is ‘Have you rebooted your PC?’ It’s amazing how many idiosyncrasies and niggling problems can be sorted out just by switching a computer off and then turning it back on again.
In many ways, we humans are the same. We get overloaded with information and data, processing everything until we feel overwhelmed. Sometimes, we need to switch off and reset too.
Before you begin your job search, it’s important to take a step back. Book some time off work if you can, switch off from the stress of projects and deadlines for a while. Then, away from the hustle and bustle of the office, earmark some time to think about your current job.
How do you feel about it when you’ve had some downtime? Are there aspects of your job that you could change or improve without needing to leave? Is there someone at work that you can talk to about how you feel? Do you have a sinking heart feeling about going back to work or does it still make you feel challenged and excited once you’ve had the opportunity to reboot?
Identify the problem
If you’re reading this article, the chances are that you feel the time has come to move on to pastures new. Before you start your job search, it’s important to identify what isn’t working for you in your current role, as well as what’s working well, because that will help to define the deal breakers when applying for any future position.
What do you like about your current job and what gets you down? What are you looking for in your next job? Do you want a similar role, more responsibility, or do you want to move into a different role or industry, capitalising on your transferable skills?
By assessing what works for you and what doesn’t – a bit like running a scan to pinpoint the problems – you can come up with a plan of action for your job search.
Defrag your CV
Your next step is to dig out your CV. When was the last time you refreshed it? Does it include your latest skills, experience, and achievements?
As well as updating the information included in your CV, it’s also important to check it over for flabby bits that need trimming. Are there sections that would flow more smoothly if they were pulled together? Is there duplicate information? Are you wasting valuable space with unnecessary information such as ‘References available on request’ or too much detail about irrelevant hobbies? Now is the time to make sure all your information is in the right place.
Although you can create a generic CV as a starting point, it’s important to adapt it to complement the job for which you’re applying. Reflect the language used in the job description and show how you fulfil the essential and desirable attributes of the ideal candidate.
Is there anything blocking you from the next step in your career? Perhaps not having a particular skillset or a lack of experience in a specific area is making you feel like there’s a firewall preventing you from accessing your dream job?
If so, now might be the time for an upgrade. Is there training you can take to improve your management skills? Would working with a mentor help you tackle the challenges of a leadership role? Do you need to learn new computer skills or get more hands-on experience?
If you don’t have the time or resources to upgrade, don’t panic! There may be a workaround. You can still be a successful applicant by demonstrating how you’ve been able to learn a similar computer program quickly, or that you have the transferable skills that will enable you to succeed in your new role. You can use your CV to show how you’ve risen to challenges in the past, or how you’ve grabbed every opportunity to learn and grow in your career.
Call an expert
Sometimes pressing CTRL ALT DEL is just the start and even after a reboot, refresh, or defrag, you need to call in a professional.
Having an expert review your CV may make all the difference to getting your career and job search unfrozen and back on track. A professional CV writer will be able to look at your career history objectively, highlighting your achievements and reframing skills you take for granted so that they leap off the page to prospective employers.
A professional eye can be a great time saver too. Instead of you spending hours trying to make your CV work, an expert CV writer knows what works and what doesn’t and can give your CV that all-important refresh in half the time.
If you think your CV would benefit from an expert eye, why not try our free CV review service for starters?