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Go From Toxic Job To Thriving Career

Authentically network and land a job you love by using these 6 steps

Image Credit: Brooke Cagle

I was having dinner with a friend the other night at a Mexican place we’ve both loved for years.

As the hot plates of burritos and cold beers were delivered we started talking career strategy, like we typically do.

Then, a familiar topic cropped up. He’s not happy at his job.

The hours and commute are long, leadership is stifling, and the company seems about as healthy as drinking lead paint for breakfast.

He said something that struck me.

“I don’t want to just give up.”

This struck a chord with me because I’ve been in the same position: stuck in a job with a horrible boss and generally looking for any way out.

(the tragic thing was, I knew in week one that I didn’t like the job, so I did what any sane person would do…I STAYED FOR OVER 6 YEARS.)

Why do we stay at jobs that are tedious, not challenging, or worse…toxic?

I think it boils down to two things:

1. Quitter’s Guilt.

2. Choosing not to see options.

Together these two sinister twins will keep you complacent and tied to your current gig.

Let’s unpack both.

Quitter’s Guilt is that gnawing feeling that you’re weak for walking out of a job that isn’t isn’t a good fit for you.

It’s that buzz at the back of your neck that says:

“I should just suck it up, I’m not a quitter!” 

“I can’t just abandon my team, they’d be lost without me.” 

“I just need to figure out a way to make this work.”

Quitter’s guilt is insidious. Don’t let it control you.

Choosing not to see options.

Most people choose to focus on what’s in front of them, like horses wearing blinders.

It’s only natural. But when it comes to our careers, it is easy to ignore other options that are right in front of you.

To solve the problem of a job that’s not fulfilling, you have several options:

Work for yourself. I’m pro entrepreneurship, but starting your own business isn’t for most people.

Freelance. Diversification is a good thing. If you freelance using skills you already have, then you’ll have the option of ramping that up and going full time at it.

Even if you don’t want to freelance full time, sometimes just earning a little side income helps you shift perspective at your day job. Suddenly those huge issues at work seem much smaller.

Network your way to a great job. This is the most direct path to solve the problem. Networking is effective, one survey of over 3,000 people found that 85% found their current job through their network. This is also known as the hidden job market.

(I’m sure we’ve all heard that tired phrase uttered with a smug smile: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

Wrong. It’s both. 

If you’ve spent your whole career bagging groceries, you probably don’t have the skill set to leap into marketing tomorrow. However, the great thing about skills is that they can always be learned.)

But most people network wrong. They just grab a sweaty fistful of business cards and go to a networking event with other people who are also carrying sweaty business cards.

That’s like trying to find a date at a convent. Not ideal.

I’m going to walk you through a better strategy, complete with glorious, tasty email scripts.

1. Spend 15 minutes getting SUPER precise about what you want. 

What does the next step in your career look like? If you don’t know this, strap yourself to your desk and do it. What would getting that dream job mean for you?

-$13,650 higher salary?

-More flexibility?

-Working remote three days per week?

Specifics are crucial. Most people gloss over this step with vague notions of “I want a job that makes me happy!”

If you aren’t precise about what you’re looking for, how will you know if you’ve found it?

2. Look at your current network. 

Get a list of people who work in the field you want your next job to be in. (Hint: spreadsheets are awesome for this, I created a template for you to copy.)

3. Craft a short friendly email.

The purpose of this email isn’t to “sell yourself”, but to gain information and connect with people. There’s an old saying in silicon valley: “If you want money, ask for advice, and if you want advice, ask for money.”

The goal of this email is to get on the phone with this person and get advice about their company or industry. You’re not selling anything.

(Emails are a powerful way to connect with almost anyone. I’ve used email to connect with CEOs, podcast guests, and people that I’ll end up working with in the future.)

Here’s the checklist for a great email:

-Does it respect the busy person’s time?

-Does it show that you’ve done your research? 

-Does it focus on you or them?

-Does it have clear next steps?

Example email:

Subject: Have Time For A Quick Call Next Week?

Hi Tim,

It’s been too long since we last talked! How have you been?

I saw that you just got back from New York. Those pictures from Instagram really made me want a Magnolia’s cupcake.

I’m emailing because I know you’re in marketing right now at Intel, and I’m thinking of moving into the industry and wanted your advice.

Would you have time for a 15-minute call next week?

If so, just let me know and we can schedule from there.

Thanks,

-Jeff

4. “Who else should I talk to?”

Want to instantly double your network?

Get on the call, ask good questions, (i.e. questions you couldn’t have Googled.) and near the end of the conversation, ask: “Who else do you think I should talk to?”

If they can refer you to someone else to connect with, then you’ve turned one connection into two.

5. Be ready for anything.

Sometimes in these conversations, they’ll say “If you want, I can connect you with the CEO/Head of department/HR and maybe get you an interview?”

This is why it’s critical to know what you want for your career so that you can instantly decide in the moment if you want to make that connection or not.

6. The art and science of the follow-up.

Following up is something that almost no one does, but it is a game changer.

Because 99% of people don’t do this, it’s an easy way to stand out. This is what I call “Win just by showing up.”

How to send a follow-up email that gives value, respects time, and makes it easy for them to reply.

Example email:

Subject: Re: Have Time For A Quick Call This Week?

Tim,

Great grabbing drinks with you last week. Thanks for the intro to Ben, I’ve got an interview set up for next week.

Here’s an article that might help you with that issue you’ve been trying to solve lately. [link]

No need to respond just wanted to reach out and say thanks.

-Jeff

Notice the subtitles going on in this email:

-Short, and to the point. This adds value. No one like 16 paragraph emails.

-Thanks for the introduction. People love being thanked.

-No need to respond. This is awesome. It takes all the “email debt” off the other person, and makes it more likely that they’ll respond.

Use these six steps to connect with one person from your network this week.

Next Steps.

If you’d like to take the next step, I created a free Ultimate Guide To Joining & Enjoying Group Conversations that will help you authentically connect with people at your next conference or networking event, complete with word-for-word scripts.

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