Is This The Time For A Long-Awaited Career Change?
Last week’s economic numbers were stunning and historic— 6.6 million filing for unemployment, doubling the amount the week before. Yet, the shelter-at-home orders affecting most American workers also offer an unprecedented opportunity for employees to pursue a new career trajectory, says Joe Mullings, a career expert with 30+ years of experience in providing hiring strategies for Fortune 100 companies like Google, Johnson & Johnson and Siemens.
Mullings was recently appointed Chief Visionary Officer of MRI Networks, the 3rd largest executive recruitment firm with 400 offices worldwide. He also continues to head his own firm, The Mullings Group, a leader in medtech talent acquisition.
I had the opportunity of interviewing Joe recently. Here are some of the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Describe your childhood.
Joe Mullings: I was born in 1962 in Hicksville, New York, where I attended school until college. I would describe my family as working class. My mom was a nurse, and my dad was an electrical tech for Grumman Aerospace. My parents divorced back in the early seventies, so I grew up mainly with just a mom who raised my siblings and I.
Griffin: Have you experienced a major life setback and what did it teach you?
Mullings: In 2014, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. My heart was operating at one-fifth of its normal ability to pump blood out of the left ventricle. Half of those who are diagnosed with this kind of heart disease die within five years. The experience taught me a lot about mental strength, physical endurance and an understanding that a statistic that has got you designated for a one-in-two chance of dying is only true if you allow it to be true. And so, with that, I learned a lot about controlling your own future and not living by what statistics and experts tell you.
Griffin: Why is this time different and unique for career building?
Mullings: The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the best opportunity for a career change in a lifetime. Never before have you been given so much permission to pivot away from a career that you’re not really into. Previously, anytime you would make a major change in your career, the pivot would likely be greeted with profound skepticism by a potential new employer. Now, probably close to 25 percent of the US population will be unemployed by the time this recession is done, and many will have no choice but to change careers, so career change becomes a new normal.
So, when you show up at an interview in a year or two from now and someone in HR asks, why you moved from, say, electrical engineering to photography — or vice versa — you can just look them in the eye and reply, “I chose to be strong and brave enough to not just reinvent myself, but to be true to my authentic self and go out and pursue the career I had always intended.”
Griffin: Should we even be thinking about career building at this time of national emergency?
Mullings: One hundred percent, yes, you should be looking at career building at this time. Control what you can control. You cannot control anything at this time in regards to the national emergency other than keeping you and your family safe by social distancing and staying sheltered at home. What you can do- and you have now 40 hours a week to do- is to be working on building your career.
Right now, you should be making it your full-time job to build your reputation online. Listen, most of us spend a lot of time on social media building our personal reputation because we care about what others think of us. Why don’t we invest even more time in building our professional reputation? Our professional brand cashes in a lot higher than our personal brand.
Our personal reputation is already known to friends, family and coworkers. Why not work on your professional reputation for the people that do not know you, for the people who might one day hire or partner with you? You have never had a better time nor more captive eyes on social media than now and that’s probably likely true for the next couple of months. Reach out on social media to those people who could be important to your career. They’re stuck at home just like you, and likely using their social media much more than ever before. This investment in time now will yield tremendous returns later.
Griffin: Which industries are likely to be the most likely to hire and hire rapidly after the pandemic?
Mullings: The most obvious industry that will be rapidly hiring will be healthcare providers across the world. Our current healthcare heroes are going to be exhausted and they will need time off to recover. The level of PTSD among that cohort is going to be mind-bending from both physical, mental and spiritual health. They will need, and deserve, a break.
Because of that, you’re going to start to see local, state and federal governments invest money in our healthcare system, meaning, let’s take the money from the missiles, bombs, aircraft carriers and machine guns, and redirect it to building an arsenal to fight a likely enemy of the future — the next pandemics.
Anything helping to move healthcare forward, such as telehealth technologies and diagnostic therapeutic devices, will also grow rapidly. You’re already seeing the venture capital channel several billion dollars in that direction, essentially anything that supports healthcare.
Griffin: What suggestions would you give for creating a post-pandemic resume?
Mullings: If your standard resume is already well-written, then there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Rather, if you should decide to pivot your career, a cover letter explaining what you did during the time off will be the most effective way of illustrating how productively you used this gift of time. What did you do? What books did you read and why did you read them? What skills did you acquire over this period? What skills over that 30, 60, 90, 120 and 150-day period did you learn that made you a more valuable asset on the other side of the pandemic? This shows how productive and self-motivated you are when nobody is looking.
Griffin: What are the best new skill sets to pursue during the shelter-at-home mandate that would most improve my career opportunities when companies are hiring again?
Mullings: The best new skills to develop at home are the ones that will pay a dividend by improving your career opportunities. To begin with, make a short list of books about the industry that you want to pursue, and start reading. Now, don’t necessarily limit yourself to business literature because personal development is also recognized by HR as an important employee asset. Go out and read a book by Brené Brown, Simon Sinek or Yuval Noah Harari and be prepared to explain why you read these authors, and most importantly, what you learned from them. You will be able to leverage this new knowledge in your next career move, both for yourself and your teammates at your new organization.
Griffin: How exactly can job seekers use social media to aid them in career development?
Mullings: This is one of my favorite questions because it is a powerful career development strategy that is underutilized. The objective is to become part of the target individual’s social-media inner circle.
So, let’s break it down. First, identify 50 companies that you want to work for. You then need to identify the management team, meaning directors, VPs, and divisional presidents that work in those companies. Create a spreadsheet, and then begin following those individuals on LinkedIn as well as any corporate accounts associated with the companies.
You have three options for messaging — to like, to share and to comment. You want to prudently make sure that you like 10 out of 10 times, share two out of 10 times, and comment intelligently two out of 10 times. With this formula you begin to creating a cadence of communication. You casually like, share, or even tag them in one of your intelligent postings in some relevant context.
Next, after waiting at least 30 days, you can start creating posts that likely would be of interest to those companies and the executives you’re following. The post should be of a high value ad, and you can start tagging those companies, again very conservatively, in your post with something intellectually valuable or insightful.
In this regard, do your research. Start collecting five to 10 articles a day in the industry that you’re targeting, and share the top line conclusions or a particularly interesting factoid or anecdote from the best of the lot. Create Google alerts on hot industry topics, so that in real-time you’re becoming an informed observer.
With this strategy, you’ll find that gradually over the next two to three months you will be pulled into their circle, the ecosystem of their LinkedIn profile, and who they roll with. Mission accomplished!