! saw your article about r sum s. I m sure I m not unique. I m a woman attorney working in government and I m in my mid-50s. I boast that I have worked in all three branches of government, in Washington and Massachusetts, as well as having private sector practice. I think what I m feeling is a combination of mid-life crisis and the immediate prospect of sending two kids to college.
In any event, it suddenly occurs to me that I desperately want to work in the private sector. I m a very creative, energetic and resourceful person and I think an exciting business opportunity is where I want to work, not necessarily as an attorney. But I have no idea where to start networking and I m a lousy at it. I am great at networking for my employer, but awful at it for myself. How do I get started?
Making the leap from the public to the private sector is a big one, largely because you will be competing with people who have been in the private sector all of their working lives. That said, you can do it. But you will have to do enough research to figure out, as precisely as possible, the position you want.
You can t say something as vague as, I m a smart attorney who wants to be in the private sector, says Liz Ryan, founder of WorldWIT, an on- and off-line networking organization for professional women, and author of Happy About Online Networking (Happy About Publishers, 2006). Since you are a mid-career professional, prospective employers are going to expect you to be sophisticated and discerning, says Ryan, which means targeting a specific sector, company or job and explaining to them exactly why you are perfect for that position. Relevance is the key, she says.
Assume that everyone who is hiring has a problem to solve this advice applies to any job seeker and demonstrate how you will solve their problem.
As part of your prep work, figure out a way to explain your career history in a way that shows first, why you were committed to government work for so long and second, how your move into the private world now makes sense. If you ve been working in government, perhaps a job that involves lobbying would be a good fit. If your specialty has been housing or children s welfare, consider trying to move into related industries. Tell a human story, Ryan says.
As for networking, you probably have pocketbooks full of contacts. The more precisely you can describe your dream job, the easier it will be for friends and colleagues to help you make it a reality.
To broaden your network, sign up with LinkedIn (linkedin.com), WorldWIT (worldwit.org) and Yahoo groups for transitioning lawyers. Ask people who have already made similar transitions for tips.
There s no better advice than real-life stories, Ryan says.
Songs can help too, especially when you doubt your own instincts. If you can network for your employer, you can network for yourself. Take some inspiration from Texas songwriter Guy Clark s song, The Cape, about people who are bold enough to leap in a new direction: Spread your arms and hold your breath, and always trust your cape.
Leslie Whitaker Got a problem at work? Leslie Whitaker, co-author of The Good Girl's Guide to Negotiating, would like to hear from you. Send Leslie an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to PO Box 11156 Shorewood, WI 53211
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By Leslie Whitaker