Flash back to 5 years ago, I was working in Silicon Valley, lounging in business class...
I was on my way to pitch our company’s Asia-Pacific teams on a young job seekers program my team wanted to launch. I felt like I should have been thanking my lucky stars. Everything college-student Liz had dreamed of achieving in her career was right at my fingertips -- making impact on a global scale, working at a brand name company, leading people and programs I cared about. I had figured out how to land amazing, passion-driven jobs at my dream companies (more on that below), and built the career I had always hoped for.
But ironically, I wasn’t thanking any stars. I didn’t have the time. I hadn’t seen my family in months. I felt stressed out walking into and out of the office every day. I realized I felt more energized the few days of each month I got to coach job seekers than I did in the boardroom.
This was my a-ha moment.
For the first time in my career, I paused and said, “Wait a second. Is this what I really want?” I was at a crossroads where I had to decide what would (and should!) dictate my career: inertia and other people’s expectations, or my values. When I put it that way, the decision to leave Silicon Valley became an easy one. So I set out to find my next gig that would set me up to achieve my definition of success.
Flash forward to today...
I now have the uncommon privilege of spending all-day-every-day helping job seekers across the globe take the leap to follow their own authentic career paths. I’ve combined the data-driven job search best practices I helped develop at LinkedIn, my experience coaching hundreds of job seekers directly, and my personal job search successes (and failures) -- and boiled it all down into an award-winning course and clear action steps any job seeker can follow to navigate career transitions with confidence and ease. And at night I get to hang with my hub and sweet pooch Atticus (who doubles as Next Step Careers' CFO and resident supermodel) without a stress-cloud of doom over my head.
I couldn't be happier.
I wasn't always a 'career expert'. Oh no, no, no......
Upon graduating from college, I was accepted into an elite master's degree program in Paris. I thought I had it made. My future was secure. But six months in, I knew it wasn't for me, and I dropped out.
Have you ever started something, only to realize soon after that it was positively, absolutely, NOT for you? It was a terrifying conclusion to come to, and an even more terrifying one to act on. As I lugged my heavy suitcases through the cobblestone streets of Paree, heading back to the airport with my head hung in shame, I had no idea what to do. I was a graduate school drop out, with no significant work experience.
Who on earth was going to hire me? How would I survive?
Did I just make the most terrible mistake of my life?
These questions pounded unceasingly in my mind, and the self-doubt was almost overwhelming.
But in retrospect, this was the best thing that ever happened to me. (And not just because it steered me to meet the man of my dreams, my now-husband… Lucky me, he thought my career floundering was pretty cute.)
Because it opened up new doors I never imagined possible in my career (If you would have told me I’d work at companies like Facebook and LinkedIn a decade ago, I would have called you crazy). And even more-so, because it helped me learn two crucial secrets to career happiness:
1. No matter where you're coming from in your career, you CAN land a great job, one that lets YOU live YOUR values. Truly, there is no career failure you can’t overcome.
2. What’s standing between you and a job you’ll love is most likely NOT your resume... It’s your approach to job searching.
Of course, I had to fumble and learn my way there...
My first month after dropping out of grad school, every day looked something like this:
*Search job boards and amass job opportunities in Excel sheet I hate looking at*
*Feel under-qualified for every job I want to apply for*
*Click out of job boards to avoid total desolation*
*Painstakingly edit resume and cover letters to hit daily quota of online applications*
*Check email; more rejection letters and radio silence*
*Say to myself in mirror “tomorrow’s another day...”*
*Grab a cheap beer from the fridge to dull the pain*
What I didn't know was that this process -- the job search of yesteryear -- no longer works
Not only does it kill our souls one cover letter at a time, sapping every ounce of confidence, energy and motivation we need to cross the job search finish line. It actually lessens our likelihood of landing a job. Let me explain...
The average online job posting today receives 250 applications. That means we have a 1 / 250 chance of landing the gig when we apply online. What's more, only 35% of available jobs are posted online.
So if firing off online applications is your primary job search strategy (as it was mine back in the day), the odds are simply NOT in your favor.
But how could I break through the crowd and show employers that I was worth noticing?? I had to learn the hard way that it had nothing to do with perfecting my resume and cover letter, or how many applications I submitted each day.
It all comes down to one word: relationships.
I started going directly to people who worked at my target companies. I asked them for guidance, insight, and if the conversation went well, referrals. Almost immediately, the interviews came pouring in. A month after shifting my strategy, I had two amazing job offers in hand.
Because instead of being tossed aside as the graduate-school-dropout, I had people on the inside testifying on my behalf, and helping me navigate their hiring processes to the finish line. And I had a community -- a network of people in my industry who believed in and supported me, and who I would (and to this day!) believe in and support in return.
I realized that I had cracked the job search code. By focusing on people instead of postings, we transform our odds of winning the offer -- and we transform the typically impersonal experience of job searching into one characterized by humanity, relationships and happiness.
I wanted to shout it from the rooftops...
Landing a job you love does NOT have to be so hard!!!
This human-centric job search strategy powered every one of my job searches, helping me land jobs everywhere from Facebook to LinkedIn to Duke University, startups and nonprofits. At LinkedIn, I worked alongside company experts to craft training programs helping youth and underserved job seekers leverage LinkedIn's products and data to make successful transitions. And then I started coaching -- I started taking job seekers of all backgrounds through my process, helping them focus their energy on the step-by-step approach that achieves results (and happiness!)
The thing is, I believe everyone deserves to land a job they love. And I've seen over and over again, that once you take the guesswork out of the process, anyone can experience a job search filled with results, momentum, and confidence. Because just like any big, scary mess of a goal, once you break it into small steps, you turn it from possible to PROBABLE. And every step you take, you are one step closer to achieving your dreams. I founded Next Step Careers to carry forward this mission, and the following beliefs:
I believe that besides a person's love, the most sacred thing they can give is their labor
I believe we are all capable -- and deserving -- of careers we love
I believe the most important definition of success is the one that aligns with YOUR values
I believe that every big goal can be broken down into small steps, and once we do this, we turn goals from being possible into being probable
I believe just about ANYTHING is a skill you can learn
I believe embracing hard is the only way to grow, and that we are all primed for tremendous growth and possibility. All we have to do is say “okay”.
I believe fear is damn scary, but letting fear limit your life is even scarier
I believe there is no one perfect job for anyone -- career iteration is the new normal, and once we embrace this, the possibilities for our life and career become endlessly exciting
I believe behind every roadblock is a problem. Once you define it, you can solve it.
I believe some days can feel unbearable, but a good day is always just around the corner
I believe the authentic you is the most beautiful (and hireable!) you
I believe nourishing the self allows us to show up stronger and better serve the world (naps, breaks and vacations included!)
I believe there is no failure you can’t overcome, and no career goal out of reach
That's why Next Step Careers is dedicated to...
- Co-creating resources with job seekers themselves, so that what I create isn’t more fluff -- it’s tangible, grounded, effective guidance that makes a difference.
- Offering free resources, pricing NSC services and courses below market rate, and providing significant discounts to people transitioning into or within social impact, in an effort to make great career advice affordable for everyone.
- Serving job seekers of all backgrounds, recognizing that although we all share many of the same human struggles, some of us unjustly struggle more than others -- and I will go out of my way to support them, and to use my voice to help remedy those injustices.
- Sharing my own failures and fears, in an effort to lead by example and help normalize struggle as an inherent part of the human experience and success story.
- Ruthlessly prioritizing what I create and spend. I intentionally promote and live a low-cost, low-environmental-impact lifestyle, and I run my business the same way. This ensures NSC focuses its energy and dollars on making the greatest contribution to the people we serve and can donate a significant portion of our income (10% last year) to high-impact nonprofits.
My greatest hope is to use what I know to help you find more clarity, success, and joy in your career endeavors.
SO are you ready to take the real, momentum-building action steps for landing a job you’ll love?
If you’ve read this far, I can already say that I know you’re ready. You’re ready to dream big and put yourself out there to make it happen. You’re ready to face your fears and not let rejection keep you from pursuing what you want. And you’re smart enough to know that if you’re going to do this, you want to do it RIGHT. You want to make sure that every ounce of energy you put into building your dream career is well spent and pays off 100%.
Here’s the best place to start: Download my free Cheat Sheet that shares the Top 10 Strategies Working For Today’s Job Seekers. It’s a quick list of the strategies I've seen work the best for my clients (and myself), all of which you can start putting into action today. I can't wait to help you land a job you love -- you deserve it!