Job Transition: Make Your Own Luck

Individual professionals are standing at a distance connected by lines.

Managing a job transition successfully

Advice from a UC Dean

This is the second in a new series about a job or career transition in these crazy times. You can find the first one, Laid off. Crisis or Opportunity, here .

Are you prepared to be lucky? 

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” said Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca. (I wonder if they used to call him Luke!) Born just about 2,200 years ago, Lucius offers us the age-old nudge that we make our own luck.

Lucky people do four things well. 

  1. They are good at noticing or creating opportunities.
  2. They listen to their intuition.
  3. They have a positive attitude.
  4. They are resilient. They bounce back, learn from disappointment, and stay focused. 


So, what should someone in a job transition be doing to prepare for their next job? 

Let’s start with what not to do. 

Here’s the worst strategy: update your resume from four years ago and start mass-mailing it. Reach out to every opportunity that looks reasonable. Then wait. And wait. 

This is a recipe for serial disappointments and can be very disheartening and demotivating. It’s too easy to feel productive but inadequate because you’ve created unrealistic expectations that somehow you have arrived and all you have to do is turn in your resume and they’ll be begging you to work. 

Instead, I suggest a more strategic effort, a way to get better results with a more focused effort.

The strategic job search

Let’s talk about a few steps you can take to prepare for the job search. These steps are ways to improve your luck.

You now have a full-time job, which is to get a job. To do this right, it will take time. 

  1. Establish your work hours.
    And, let’s get on with the recipe for preparation.
  2. Set your goal. What is the job that you want?
    You want to set realistic goals. Look at the sum total of your experience. Ask yourself, what is the job that allows me to hit the ground running? That’s your sweet spot. If you’re a marketing specialist, but trying to go into sales without the necessary preparation, it’s going to be harder. The odds are against you. If you want to do something different, you may want to pause and get some training, pick up a new skill or certificate.
  1. Prepare your master resume.

A master resume lists it all. You throw everything in there so when it’s time to customize your resume, you don’t have to start from scratch. You might have multiple versions of the same thing in your master resume. This way you can pick and choose the skills and accomplishments that you want to highlight when you’re applying for a particular company.

It’s not effective to copy and paste the same resume into each job application. Each time you apply for a job you have to consider the audience and customize your resume to meet that company’s needs.

If you’re technical in nature, you still need to write a good resume in English with full sentences so hiring managers and HR can easily understand your accomplishments. Minimize your use of buzzwords. Make it readable. Also, include performance metrics, note what you’ve achieved in quantifiable terms. 

Be sure to have someone review it for you and to run it through an automated scanner. Our students can get a free account with JobScan to make sure it’s formatted correctly for a targeted company. We also have a career services advisor who has free appointments for students. You can also use something like Indeed Resume Reviewer for about $19. The bottom line is: be sure you get someone to look at it.

  1. Get your LinkedIn profile up to date.

This is your most visible window to the job market. It is important to get this right. Start with updating your headshot. This is your first impression and that matters a lot. Use a professional. 

Create an eye-catching headline. Here is some great guidance on this. Next, create an interesting summary. Keep it short. Follow this link for more on writing a summary. There are a lot of free automated tools for writing the headline and the summary. It is important to use the right keywords on your profile as this is how you will get the attention of the recruiters and automated HR tools. Complete the rest of your profile keeping in mind that this profile is one of the most important artifacts in your job journey. Take the time. There are tons of resources on the web as to how to do this right. Ask others to write recommendations on your profile. Finally, make sure that the switch that indicates that you are in the market for a job is turned on. We had a great LinkedIn expert provide some tips during the pandemic—Best Practices for Students on LinkedIn

  1. Compile a Top 5 list
    To create a focal point or a target for yourself, compile a list of five organizations that you would like to work for.It doesn’t mean that these are the only choices, it just gives you a direction so you can use your network more effectively. You can get started on doing the work, digging deeper into these companies and their competitors. You’ll be familiarizing yourself with the industry and starting to speak their language. If you get to the interview stage, you’ll be more effective because you will sound like you’re working there. This helps you choose your own journey as opposed to waiting for random discovery.
  1. Find a mentor or two.

Here’s the secret: just ask. Finding a good mentor is a lot easier than most people believe. You don’t pick a mentor because you happen to know them or because they’re a good friend. You’re looking for someone who can give you reasonably qualified advice for the next job. This person can give you a reality check. They can help you craft your strategy. Thanks to LinkedIn, you can look for somebody in a specific company and either get introduced or try cold calling. Make an effort to see them, to express gratitude. Most people are happy to help if you ask them nicely. They feel honored that you sought them out.

  1. Network to enrich your life.

Networking is not about collecting business cards and trying to awkwardly be an extrovert. It’s about strengthening your relationships and connecting with others with shared interests. It’s a critical element for your success in getting the right job. Plus, it’s healthy for your state of mind to meet new people while you’re out of work which can be isolating. 

Get your connections up to date. Include your friends, former colleagues, college friends, and the people who know the people you know. Research shows that connections who are one degree of separation can be great resources in a job search. How about letting them know that you are in the job market? 

Get over the awkwardness. If you are an introvert, think of this as the job of getting the job. Have at least one face-to-face coffee or lunch meeting with someone in your network each week. Solicit their ideas and ask about their network. Ask them for their feedback on your strategy. 

While LinkedIn is the tool of choice for business networks, there are Meetups and events held by professional associations and conferences. Start putting these on your calendar. Each time you go, try to meet a couple of interesting people. While you’re there, don’t just focus on the job business. Learn something. See if you can help connect someone else. Good networkers have strong listening skills. If you follow up with one of these new contacts and have coffee, that’s a success. One trick I have learned is to approach someone who is standing by themselves. They will thank you for reaching out.

  1. Upgrade your skills (resume the learning journey).

At every stage of my life, I’ve kept learning. Often we are in jobs with a very specific focus and our view of the industry narrows. Now that you have this time out of work, explore other aspects of the field, expand your horizons. Upskill, reskill, and learn something new. Go to professional organizations, sign up for an online class, or join us in person to really meet others in your industry. Employers expect that you’re up-to-date on trends and new technologies. We’ve got career services here at UCSC Extension and our instructors are industry leaders who are great resources of information.

  1. Enjoy your life.

Being out of work is hard. Living in uncertainty is uncomfortable for most of us. What’s great is that if you have a destination and a strategy to get there, it is now a lot easier to maintain a positive attitude. Sometimes the times in-between jobs can be the best times of our life. 

Stay active and don’t get sucked into binge-watching the latest series. Start exercising regularly and get those endorphins flowing. Connect with long lost friends. Pick up a new hobby, something you have been meaning to do forever. You will have a good time connecting with people and learning from them. 

  1. Finally, your attitude.

Start with a realistic assessment that you are going to get the right job. You know you will. This is just a journey towards that goal. And, we at UCSC Silicon Valley Extension are here to help you get there.

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