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I Did it! And So Can You: Career Pivot
If I can do it so can you!
Today’s topic is a different one. I am going to talk about how I successfully made a career pivot and got the job I wanted after almost four years.
Yes, you read that right it took me almost FOUR YEARS!
Why am I sharing this?
I am not someone who likes to share personal details but I am sharing this because I know a lot of people are looking to pivot or just searching for a different job and are getting extremely frustrated. I wanted to share this because if I can do it, you are more than capable.
If you just want the quick takeaways or this is too heavy of a topic for first thing in the morning well then here you go.
Did I mention Network?
Share your ideas
Don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen
Nothing too earth-shattering but there is a reason why this is the common advice given. Its because it works.
If you want more details then please keep reading.
Network, network, network…
I know the word networking makes you cringe and you would rather get your wisdom teeth removed without anesthesia. I was exactly like you. When I looked at it as building relationships it became easier.
I only reached out to people that I wanted to build a relationship with. I was genuinely curious about their journey. I wasn't looking for a job. I just wanted to learn from people way smarter than I am and hopefully build a long-lasting connection. I have made friends by networking.
At least I consider them friends, I won’t speak for them…😅
If you are struggling with what to say here is a template that I use that works really well for me.
I am reaching out to you because your journey really stood out to me. I am an oncology pharmacist with over 9 years of experience, and I am looking to make a transition to [INSERT JOB].
I would love to set up some time to talk about your journey and your work with [COMPANY].
The reason why this works is I am first of all genuinely curious about their journey and their work. I tell them why I am reaching out.
There is nothing worse than getting a message that just says “Hey” or gives a long list of demands or the worst of them all “I want to pick your brain.” I can say with great certainty that no one likes their brain being picked.
The most important thing I have learned in my life is to surround yourself with people smarter than you, listen, and learn from them. Ask them how they got to where they got to. What steps did they take?
The reason I got my job was not that I asked people to give me a job it was because I built genuine relationships.
For the job I currently have I had two separate people send it to me on the same day. I never saw it pop up on job sites, even though I had filters set up and would check every day for new postings.
How do they know you know this stuff?
Someone I spoke to very early on asked me a simple question that changed my life. During our conversation, I was sharing my journey and frustrations of not even getting interviews. He was very empathetic but he asked “Zain, it’s great you know all of this, but how do they know you know this?”
How do they know you know…?
That statement has been cemented in my brain since then. He told me that making a pivot is difficult and that I need to show expertise in the subject matter. He told me to put myself out there and start posting about these topics and engage with others in the field.
I was mortified by the thought of this. I am not a person that likes to put myself out there. I still don’t. Every post or comment to this day I think about 13 times before posting. You can only imagine the anxiety I felt back then.
So I started creating posts showcasing what I know, problems that I see, and how I would solve them. You know what that lead to? I found that there are so many others that were thinking the same things, and that has led me to so many amazing conversations, and opened so many doors. The most important thing that came from it was establishing expertise and revealing to people how I think and approach problems. It led to this newsletter and podcast.
That simple question changed my life!
When I first started looking for positions I looked at everything! Mainly because I had no idea what I was looking for. All I knew was I wanted to do something that would lead me into tech.
While working on my startup, I did not realize it at the time, but I was doing the job of a product manager. I loved that I was able to look at the design, work with engineering, and guide the future of the product. I thought I was doing multiple jobs. So with that in mind I was looking at multiple different jobs. There was no focus. My resume was not optimized for any job because I was applying to everything.
Once I focused on product management that is when I started getting traction. I started reaching out to product managers. Even found an amazing group of pharmacists that are product managers. People from that group are one of the biggest reasons I got my job. They helped me literally rewrite my resume, helped me prepare for my interview, and the most important thing that they did was give me confidence, that not only am I ready to do the job, but I would be successful. That is so powerful to hear. It is so important having such a strong and supportive network since this process fills you with self-doubt.
So if you are looking to make the pivot find mentors, and ask for help. You will be very surprised at how many people are willing to help. You just have to take the first step!
Don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen
A common thread in my life and I never really saw it until recently. I am nothing special. I got to where I got to because of the people around me. But, at the same time throughout my career when an opportunity presented itself I was brave or stupid enough (depending on how you look at it) to walk through the door. I took on projects that I didn’t know how to complete but I wouldn’t stop until I did.
I reached out to startups to see if I could help them with what they were building. It was a mutually beneficial relationship. They got a person with years of experience and I was able to gain experience as a product manager.
The current job I got was closed when I went to apply. I was devastated. But, that didn’t stop me. I still reached out to the hiring manager about the job to just set up a meeting. To my surprise, he took the meeting and I came to find out that the job was actually open. If I had just taken everything at face value I would still be looking.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to hiring managers and set up conversations. They are looking for the best candidates. Many people struggle because they send a message like:
My name is Zain and I am interested in the product management position. Could we set up some time to talk?
That will rarely ever get a response. You are putting the work on them to see why you are a good fit. Instead, write something like this:
I saw that you are looking for a product manager with a background in oncology.
I am a pharmacist with 10 years of oncology experience and have worked in all different capacities such as inpatient, outpatient, infusion, clinic, and investigational drug services.
I have product management experience with my own startup and I also consult with digital health startups as a project manager.
I have attached my resume for your reference.
I would love to set up a meeting and learn more about this opportunity.
Thank you very much for your time.
The difference here is I sold myself and they didn’t have to go anywhere to see why I would be a good fit.
If I can do it, you can too!
I am no genius. I am just a person that failed more often than not. I gave up every couple of months and vowed that I will never send another application again. I cried because I thought that I wasn’t worth the time. I felt the high of thinking I killed the interview to only get ghosted by the company. I felt and still do feel like an imposter. Like I know nothing. There is nothing that separates me from you.
So go out there and make it happen! Don’t wait for it to happen. And never let anyone tell you that you’re not worthy! Because you are and I believe in you!
Also, a very special shout-out to my amazing wife Kanwal for always being there. I could not have done it without her love and support.
Every week I share a random fact about myself. This week’s fact is…
Random fact about me: I built my first computer when I was 13.
Thank you so much for your support! Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or leave a comment.
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I hope you have a great day!