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As a career coach, I spend a lot of time working with professionals to make the jump from one role to another, offering advice and guidance across all parts of the job search.

Recently, I had the chance to really practice what I preach. After spending five and a half years as a management consultant, I transitioned into a product marketing role at a technology firm.

And what’s super interesting is that being on the other side helped me to see which of my advice was the most practical, actionable, and useful. For example, it’s now these three tips that I most recommend to my own clients as soon as they start to feel that itch that they need a change.

1. Take Time to Reflect (Seriously)

I’m a big believer in self-reflection—and knew it would be crucial for success in my job search. So, before I even began looking, I asked myself things like:

  • What are my most important strengths?
  • What are the most important skills I’ve developed?
  • What other skills do I want to develop, or what experiences do I want?

Then, I turned to some of my closest friends and mentors and asked for their feedback on my answers. I also asked them questions such as, “Based on my strengths, what do you think would be a great job for me” or “Where have you seen me do my best work?”

Getting that outside perspective enabled me to identify opportunities I hadn’t initially considered, as well as strengths and examples I would end up using during the interview process.

So, don’t shy away from asking yourself the hard questions—and then being brave enough to ask your friends and family the same ones.

2. Work Your Network the Right Way

Early on, when I was testing out whether I wanted to be a marketer, I reached out to classmates from business school who were in the field. They explained to me their job, and helped identify the skills I had that were relevant to a product marketing role.

Another former classmate invited me to a networking event at a company I was interested in, and when I was there, introduced me to a recruiter who ended up following up with me to learn more about my background. I ended up finding several roles as a result that I could apply to over the next few months.

If you know you’re going to be ready to make moves soon, it’s best to be proactive now. That way, when it comes time to look, you’re already off to a great start.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Reach out to former co-workers you always liked, but have lost touch with. Set up a drinks date to talk about what they do now, what projects they’re working on, and what skills are needed to do their job.
  • Use LinkedIn to find potential people to network with who share a commonality, such as your alma mater, and ask for their advice about breaking into their field.
  • Ask for recommendations of other people to network meet with when you’re meeting to expand the kinds of roles you might want to pursue.

Looking back, reaching out to others months before I started interviewing was helpful in understanding the nuts and bolts of a role or function, and if I would actually like doing those things. And that knowledge made my search that much stronger.

3. Build Your Own Personal Support Team

As a career coach, I’ve always prided myself in being someone people can count on.

But during my job search, the roles were suddenly reversed, and I had to rely on others for support. This was incredibly humbling in that it reinforced the notion that it really does “take a village” but also inspiring to know that others were willing to support and help me along the way.

For instance, I had a friend who’d recently made a job transition, so I would rely on him for advice on how to navigate making the switch. Another one of my friends was in a very similar job to what I was applying to at the same company, so I’d ask for her help preparing for the interview. My roommate and family were there with me throughout the entire process, making sure I kept a positive attitude or letting me share my frustrations.

The more support you surround yourself with, the less painful this process will be. Don’t think you have to do this alone! Because if a career coach needs help, you probably do, too.

Updated 6/19/2020