From Mary, a reader: 

I was recently laid off in May. For the past 4 years I’ve been working as an assistant in entertainment, but what I am quickly realizing is that being an assistant is often a trap – a trap of no upper mobility. For my job search, I’m looking to get out of that assistant life, but I’m afraid that’s all the hiring people see me as. Any advice? I do have a master’s degree, but it seems no one really cares.

Dear Mary,

I’m sorry to hear about your layoff and I also want you to know that the place you find yourself in is pretty common. I see it with women starting out quite frequently. Women often taken a role for its potential, because we know, and we’ve seen in school, that if we work hard, we’ll get rewarded (get an A) and move up to the next level.

Unfortunately, the job market behaves differently than what we’ve been taught in school, and you’re right, those assistant gigs CAN be a path to nowhere. You can work hard, and you simply get rewarded with more work.

The first thing you’ve gotta figure out is what kind of work do you truly want to be doing? That can be tough to figure out, particularly if your experience is limited to work you haven’t loved. That’s the rub. So how do you figure out what you love doing, when you haven’t done it yet?

Recognize that you won’t figure it your life’s mission in one day, or even one year.

Figuring that out takes time and life experience, but you CAN move away from the work you don’t love, and move closer towards work you do love. Here’s how: Take the time to sit down with a notebook, and write down the little things, ANYTHING, that you enjoyed doing in your previous jobs. And write out a list of things that you enjoy in your spare time, it could be hobbies, it could be reading/learning about something new, include your masters degree in there as well. For me, I enjoy playing the piano, and also I love reading about international cultures, and business. And like you, I’ve got a masters degree in business. Whatever these things are for you, they’ll help you get one step closer to your Ikigai.

Then what do you do? Talk to some friends and ask them for what types of jobs they think you’d enjoy, browse job boards and find jobs that make your heart sing. And then, here’s the most important part:

CHANGE YOUR MESSAGING.

Your goal is to position yourself for the job you want, NOT the job you already have.

When hiring managers and HR look at your resume, they almost always look first at your most recent job. It shows up right at the top of your resume, and it tells them what you’ve been doing.

When you tell people about yourself, you’re probably leading with “I was recently an assistant in entertainment, but I really want to do x, y or z.”

Instead of leading with the thing you don’t want to do, try focusing on the things you DO want to do. For you, since your most recent job doesn’t represent where you want to go, beef up your summary at the top to include the things you’ve done that align with the kinds of things you’d be doing in your next job. It’s ok if you don’t have ALL the experience, share what you do have, and what you can do.

And when you talk about yourself, share that you’ve got a masters degree in ABC and have 4 years experience managing projects and systems, and then share that you’re currently looking for a new role, and be specific about what that might look like.

Give it a shot, and drop me a line with how it goes!

 

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