Making a Career Transition with Confidence
Updated: May 12
In this episode of the Impostor Syndrome Files, we talk about career transitions. Let’s face it… Making a career change is scary. We may find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, questioning our value or playing small to avoid rejection. But the career transition process doesn’t have to be painful. My guest this week, Jenn Walker Wall, is a job search expert who shares a number of strategies to approach the career transition process more confidently and effectively.
About Jenn Walker Wall:
Jenn Walker Wall is the founder of Work Wonders Careers where she helps people land new jobs and thrive at work. She’s also co-host of the Making Life Work Podcast. Previously, she worked at the Sloan School of Management at MIT as well as Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, and is currently an Adjunct Instructor of Sociology at Lesley University.
Jenn has helped hundreds of ambitious professionals identify their strengths and leverage their experience in order to pursue more meaningful work. Additionally, she helps leaders build skills and brands that help them successfully grow their careers and launch businesses of their own. Jenn is also committed to teaching career coaching and communication strategies to enhance teamwork and effectiveness in the workplace.
When she’s not helping clients land interviews or launch their own businesses, you can find her cooking up a storm in her kitchen, usually while listening to true crime podcasts. You can learn more by visiting www.workwonderscareers.com.
Connect with Jenn:
Connect with Kim and The Impostor Syndrome Files:
Join the free Impostor Syndrome Challenge.
Learn more about the Leading Women discussion group
Join the Slack channel to learn from, connect with and support other women.
Schedule time to speak with Kim Meninger directly about your questions/challenges.
Brave Women at Work podcast by Jen Pestikas
Apple Podcast: https://lnkd.in/egCr-en
Google Podcast: https://lnkd.in/eyDs-4N
Brave Women at Work: https://lnkd.in/exzT3Am
10 Steps to Being Brave at Work: https://lnkd.in/eABSwGA
Join the free, private Brave Women at Work Facebook Community: https://lnkd.in/esnSb-s
Add this podcast to your favorite player:
Kim Meninger Welcome, Jenn, it is always such a pleasure to talk with you. I’m very excited to bring our conversation to the listening audience today. And I’d love to start by inviting you to introduce yourself.
Jenn Walker Wall Yes, thank you so much for having me. I’m always, always thrilled to be in conversation with you and your community. So what can I say? I’m not used to actually talking about myself. I’ve been like coaching people through this process. I am a career strategist. And I started my own career consulting company as a side hustle about eight years ago. And before that, I worked primarily in higher education research. And I also did faculty searches. So every career coach has a job that they accidentally fell into, and a career horror story. That’s the trajectory, I think, for this line of work, broadly speaking. And so I actually really, really liked being on the interview side of things and seeing applicants come through and I was working in education so people were like, so passionate about their work and the research they were doing. So I didn’t know that I would enjoy being a part of the hiring and search process. But I did that for a few years, and eventually went to grad school because my plan was to actually be a sociologist. And I graduated with my master’s, I ran a lab at MIT Sloan for a few years, which I absolutely loved. But it became clear, I was going to have to get a PhD, which I had really no intention of doing at that point. Or figure out, you know, how to transition my career, I’d sort of reached like the masters level contribution that I could make. And that’s when I started to think about leveraging my background in HR and hiring. I was at MIT when I started my, my business as a side hustle. And after I left MIT, I went to Mass General Hospital and worked in career development with their postdoc researchers. So it was like the perfect job that combined my research and academic experience and my desire to work more fully in career development with people. And then I left, I’ve been doing this full time for like, almost, over three years at this point. So we work really tactically with people to help them make strategic changes to their resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, execute job search and career alignment strategies. And I love it. I think it gives people a lot of power back. And I think that’s what makes me so excited about the work is people feel overwhelmed and powerless. And there’s actually so much you can do to propel yourself forward.
Kim Meninger I love so much of what you just said. And I remember when you and I first met, we were co-panelists, I believe at an event. And it always stuck with me, because I think that was your side hustle at that point. I think you were at Mass General at that point about how you brought this sociology background, this kind of research background to this career development conversation. And I think so many people, certainly people that I’ve talked to, and I’m sure more broadly, struggle with the overwhelm that comes because I think when you’re in the situation, there’s this sense of, what do I do? Where do I start? And especially if you’re not crystal clear on exactly what it is that you want, but you know, there’s gotta be something more, or you’re just trying to figure that out. It can just feel incredibly paralyzing to think about all of the different options available. And so one of the things I’ve always really respected about you and the work you do is you make it sound so simple. You have systems and you have ways of thinking about it, that every time I hear you talk, I’m like, wow, everybody needs Jenn.
Jenn Walker Wall I love that. I always say like, I’m really good at helping people start their own business, land a new job, get a promotion, negotiate for more salary. I’m a terrible life coach. There’s just like, I really have to know my strengths and stay in my wheelhouse. So that’s what I do I stay in my, I stay in my zone of genius, and I don’t venture too far out.
Kim Meninger Well, I think that’s a lesson for all of us, right? Well, a question I want to start with is, what are people generally finding most challenging? Or, you know, people make job changes and things on a regular basis, but why did they come to you? What are the key problems or challenges that they bring to you?
Jenn Walker Wall Such a good question. So I think some people set the bar really high. And so what I mean by that is I think sometimes people say they’re looking for clarity, but what they want is certainty. They want to change jobs because they’re unhappy, and they want to be certain that the action and direction they go is going to be correct. That’s a big ask. I would also like that kind of certainty. But, but I think part of being very action-oriented, is knowing that the process is very iterative. So instead of when you’re starting any big career transition, I think of it like a research project. This is probably why you think I talk about sociology a lot. But like, if you think about it like a research project, then you’re not asking for the conclusion up front, you’re looking for the research question, right? What is the question that you’re asking? I want to learn what is going to suit me better in the next phase of my career. We’re not looking for a senior project manager, right? That might be a conclusion, but it’s not going to be what you start with. And so I think people need to reassess what clarity means for them, think about what is enough clarity to get started to treat the job search or any sort of transition process, as a clarity generating process. You will learn more as you go again, very much, right, like you’re collecting data, we only have one data point. And we need to collect more, to paint a better picture. So I think helping people assess that. People come feeling very undervalued. And that means they don’t see their value more often than not. And so there’s a, you know, lack of confidence, a sense that they can’t add value in other contexts, or they don’t have, they’re not worth investing in. So I see that quite a bit as well. And I always say, to clients, and I’ve probably said this to you like if it were up to me, I would assume no one had anyone to show for their work, because people are kind of perpetually and consistently across the board, unhappy with what they’ve produced. But what I try to do is contextualize that, well, did you have the resources you needed? Did you have the timeline you needed? What would happen if you did have those? Would your work look different? Then maybe looking for that kind of environment is going to be, you know, a better a better way to kind of move your career forward. And often I just start by asking some really simple questions like, what do you want more of and what do you want less of? There’s usually something very reasonable that brought them into the job that they have, was it they’re trying to get their foot in the door, you know, it was a recession, and they took what they could get? Or was there something really aligned and this job turned out to be a disappointment. And so kind of going through that with a fine-tooth comb and figuring out what is worth salvaging and trying to pivot with. And what’s worth leaving behind is challenging. But that’s something we work through our clients with pretty regularly.
Kim Meninger There’s so many good points there. I want to go back to where you started with the clarity piece because I think you said something that’s really important to emphasize. And I see this a lot from my perspective, too, is it almost feels like a catch-22. Because I hear people say, well, I need to know what I want before I can take action. But I can’t take action until I know what I want. It becomes this vicious cycle. And that keeps us stuck. And so I love how you talk about it as being an iterative process, of it being, starting with a question, not with a conclusion, and that no matter where you are at this point in time, there is a next step. And I think so often we are jumping too far ahead. We want to know what the end result is going to be that we can’t see the step that’s right in front of us. I think that’s such an important thing to keep in perspective.
Jenn Walker Wall Yes, people see applying for a job is like a commitment to the job. And a lot of times it’s because they can’t imagine or don’t have the language for withdrawing from a job, like from an application process. They don’t know how to do that they’re afraid to burn bridges. Versus like treating this as a relational process, like I’m interested in learning more is a perfectly reasonable benchmark for applying for a job, we’re not committing to the job for life, we’re not even committing to the job if it were offered to us, we’re interested in learning more. If they invite us for an interview, they’re interested in learning more about us, they’re not committing to us. And so sort of helping to level-set expectations about what the process is for and giving people language to navigate the all the ways in which people interact and, you know, continue in the process or withdraw from the process and still maintain good relationships, I think is also really helpful.
Kim Meninger You just made me think about dating, right? Like we, going on a first date does not mean you’re going to marry this person.
Jenn Walker Wall I get that all the time. So it is it is very similar. It’s like you have to have some comfort with navigating, you know, rejection or lack of fit or whatever it might be. And it’s just such an inherent part of the process for everyone. Like you can’t just like dating. You can’t avoid you know, can’t avoid heartbreak you can’t avoid just you know, being disappointed. You have to just kind of commit to the process and learn as you go.
Kim Meninger Well, I also want to think about the guilt piece or the obligation piece because I think that tends to be more specific to women too. Certainly, I’ve seen this in men as well. But I do think that whether it’s the once I’ve committed to the interview, I’m completely committed now and it’s now it’s not my decision, it’s their decision. And also, I see that sometimes with not leaving the current job fast enough because there’s this sense of obligation to the team, to the company, they need me. What are they going to do without me? Right? So we ended up giving our power away, because we think it’s someone else’s decision or that we, you know, we are somehow bound to this situation. And so I want to get your thoughts on that too. Like, what’s, what’s a helpful way for us to, perhaps, at least bring that down a notch so that we can actually take a more empowered decision?
Jenn Walker Wall Yeah, this is something I see so consistently. So I like to, I never refer to jobs as dream jobs. I don’t use a lot of language to make working seem more magical or fantastical or spiritual. Like, it’s just how we exist. Like we exchange our time for wages. I think it’s really helpful sometimes to think about work as that. And look at all the branding we’ve added to jobs to make us engage in different ways at the expense of our personal life and our desires. So I just say, like, sit with that for a minute. And then come back to this question. We try to like reset, what is a reasonable, professional way to leave in a busy time? You know, is there an exit plan? It’s a manager’s job to have transition plans, it’s HRs job to manage this sort of stuff. Are they doing their job? I don’t know. But it may not be your job to really manage that. You can be clear, you can be kind, you can be thorough, you can be diligent, you can leave directions, you can even do things like offer to come back or meet with the person they hired to replace your role. I don’t really like to recommend that or suggest like staying on in a consulting capacity unless people are really happy and well treated there. And the boundaries are already in place. If the boundaries are already a mess, there’s no way your two hours a week of checking in are going to be two hours of checking in. It’s like they’re sinking their and fingers into you. And they’re just really slow to let go. So I want you to think about what work actually is, how you can wrap up the work with dignity and integrity, and decide that before you give your notice. And be clear about what you’re willing, you know, to give away. I live in Boston and our mayor left to be Secretary of Labor in the middle of COVID. And you better believe I was on Instagram stories being like, he left in the middle of a pandemic. So you know, and there’s a million things going on. So and I’m not saying that to even problematize that it’s just like, please remember that this is your life at the end of the day. And you treat work accordingly.
Kim Meninger That’s a really good point. Marty Walsh made the right decision. So we can too.
Jenn Walker Wall He wasn’t like no, I think I’ll see this pandemic thing through. Peace.
Kim Meninger If there’s ever a moment to feel a sense of obligation, right?
Jenn Walker Wall Yeah. So you know, and most of us aren’t in a role that’s that powerful or responsible for people’s well-being. So keep that in mind, too. I love, a lot of times, I encourage clients to use things like Loom to make tutorials and provide key documentation so that they can hand over things. But that’s the only obligation you have. You don’t have an obligation to keep the team running while you move on with your life and career and accept a new job.
Kim Meninger Well, the other thing I was just thinking about too, is that a lot of times we sacrifice our own needs for the sake of our teams or organizations, and then either they leave. And then there’s this sense of resentment that builds right? Well, why did they get to make that decision when I’m the one who gave up everything to stay here. Or what happens is because we leave, we don’t create opportunity for other people to make other choices to and I’ll share an example of this with my husband because he stayed in a role for a very long time, for very similar reasons. He felt a very strong sense of loyalty to his team. He didn’t want to let them down. As soon as he left, a lot of other people went and did other things, too. And I think he sort of gave permission in some ways or set an a sample that allowed other people to say, you know what, this isn’t working for me, either. And so will people be disappointed? Probably hopefully. Right? Hopefully, you’ll be missed. [Yes, exactly.] But us to your point, it’s not your responsibility, or at least not 100% of your responsibility to figure out what the go-forward plan is from there. And if you take care of yourself, then you inspire others to take care of themselves too. And so it’s not just about you.
Jenn Walker Wall That’s exactly right, giving other people permission to leave like when I look back on all the jobs where I had the closest friendships, people I was most reluctant to leave for another job, it was the worst jobs like I have no problem leaving good jobs. I was like see you guys later. But it was like the terrible jobs right where people you really have those close relationships. And those people can stay in your life, like you can maintain these relationships. And sometimes, you know, you’re the person, you’re like the Jenga block that brings the thing down. And I think that, that’s its own gift as well.
Kim Meninger Absolutely. I want to talk a little bit too, but the undervalued piece, because I think that’s a really interesting part of this conversation. When people find themselves feeling undervalued, underutilized in some way, it can often be the trigger for I want something more, but it’s also a very difficult place to start from because your confidence might be lower, you may not be feeling like you’re reaching your full potential, or you may be second-guessing whether or not you’re even capable of doing more than what you’ve been doing because it’s been, it’s been a while since you’ve felt challenged or felt like you’ve been at your best. And so I wonder what thoughts you have on that front, too, because you mentioned some good questions, which I thought were interesting about like, what would have been different had the conditions been different? But I think this is where a lot of imposter syndrome comes in too of like that, well, I’m not sure that I’m the right person for this or that we look at the job description, and we think, oh, there’s no way I could do that. Or I’d be overselling myself in some way. So what are you… What are your thoughts on that?
Jenn Walker Wall This is so tricky. And I can tell you like in the last two weeks alone, I’ve had this conversation a half a dozen times about Agile, specifically, like, I know Agile, but like we don’t practice, no one practices it right. Like, I don’t think so, or that person isn’t looking for a job, maybe they’re so thrilled, they’re not coming to me. But that’s something I hear all the time. Like, I know it, I’m a scrum master, but we don’t operationalize it perfectly, I’m not sure if that experience would count, you know. And so it’s all these ways in which we create these roadblocks for ourselves that we have to overcome before we can even engage in someone else’s set of roadblocks in the hiring process. So I say to that, like, let’s share our experience as it is, let’s not assume we’re not qualified, assume it doesn’t count. Let’s give you credit for it. And let’s find you some language that you feel comfortable expressing, you know, your experience in. It’s never part of my resume strategy to overstate people’s experience, like integrity is at the core of everything we do. Because, you know, what good would it do to get a job you’re underqualified for, you’d be miserable. And you’d be, you know, you’d be overwhelmed. That’s not what we want for people. So we want to find you some language so that you can own that experience, whatever it is. And then we also usually can tell a story there about wanting to be in a place with these skills, with these responsibilities, but with different inputs, you know, a different sort of work environment, different resources, different buy-ins, you know, different stakeholders. So that’s, bringing those pieces together is usually what works for people. But it can take a really long time, especially the longer people are in a role where they’re treated poorly and underpaid, the harder and longer it takes to sort of turn things around. So I would say if you’re in, if you’re listening, and you’re in that, that role, like really start giving yourself credit for what’s happening. A lot of times these people are putting out fires that their boss has no idea about. And so starting to think about the impact of your work. What wouldn’t happen if you weren’t there? What are you doing to advocate for better practices, even if it’s in past tense because you gave up trying to make things better? Those are still things that can be really valuable and compelling when you’re going through the job search process.
Kim Meninger I think those are really great points. And I often talk about in the context of impostor syndrome, that our minds will automatically gravitate towards what we think we don’t do well, the mistakes that we’ve made, the things that are not working, and we take for granted the things that are going well. So it’s likely that there’s a lot that’s going well that we’re not paying attention to. We’re not, we’re not cataloging in any way that we can access or that we can lean on when we have those moments of self-doubt. And especially, to your point, if we’re kind of doing this work invisibly, so we’re not getting credit for or we’re not getting recognized or getting feedback on it, then that can undermine how we see ourselves as well. And so I think that thinking about it from the context of what am I not giving myself credit for at this very moment is important. And also thinking about what are the possibilities while I’m still here? Maybe there’s something I can be doing. It’s probably going to take more than a week, more than a month to get that next role, right. So if this is an area that is important to me, and I want to be that much stronger when I go to the next place, then is there something like you said maybe thinking about putting more structured processes in place, that I can start now and that will grow my confidence before I even make that transition.
Jenn Walker Wall The other place where I have seen this show up, you know, is the last two years have been chaotic. And people have been treading water. And treading water isn’t a resume bullet point, I’ll give everyone that. But like, when I’m talking to clients, they’ll be like sales dipped, or especially in 2020, when, when the pandemic was just starting, and some businesses were doing layoff, some people were like, we were just doing the best we could to keep the doors open. And I’m like, that’s ensuring business continuity, that’s saving people’s jobs. Like you have to really think about some of those, you know, things that don’t feel that impressive are some of the most important things you can actually be doing. So I think there’s also a, an interesting way in which work that is less visible, and is more about process and maintenance is just feels less impressive in the resume process. But you’re setting up the infrastructure for everything else to happen. And that’s how I try to position that experience when I’m working with clients.
Kim Meninger I think that’s so powerful. And I think it is also the kind of thing that we, when we’re in it, would likely not see. So having that perspective is really helpful. And you also mentioned the which I thought it was interesting that nobody’s doing Agile properly, or, or at least in the same way, right? Everybody has a version of what it means to do that. I think that speaks to the fact that we’re always comparing ourselves to other people, too. And so I wonder, you know, from and maybe you can speak to this from a recruiter perspective too is, you know, how much flexibility do you think there is, when it comes to the way a job description is written? What and obviously, it’s going to vary from, from situation to situation. But the point being that I think sometimes we get so attached, and we believe that this job description is absolutely fixed, that everything is 100% required, and that, you know, we’re comparing ourselves to others and thinking, well, I couldn’t possibly qualify for this, because I didn’t do it the way so and so did it like, I would love to get your recruiter perspective on what, how to think about job descriptions.
Jenn Walker Wall So I think the responsibility section can help give you a sense of whether or not you can do the job and whether you’d enjoy the job. But where I spend a lot of time with my clients is the qualifications, especially if we’re applying online and looking at their resume. For me, the qualifications are really about that initial hurdle of getting through the recruiter and making it, making their job as easy as possible to see that we’re qualified for the role. Now, the question that I often get asked is like, can I apply for jobs that I’m unqualified for? Or, you know, does, should I not apply if I don’t check every box perfectly? That dichotomy of those questions I don’t love because I think it misses what people need to be doing, which is translating the experience they have, so that it is as relevant as possible for the jobs that they want. I tell the story, when I give, you’ve probably heard at camp. But you know, I had a client who didn’t have a master’s degree in science, but she had a medical degree. And the qualification was for a master’s degree in science. And she was like, I really like this job, but I think I’m not going to apply for it. You know, I’ve had clients want to switch fields, and you know, switch to HR and not have an HR job, per se, but have experience in hiring and performance management, training and development. So what, where I really work with my clients is to work on helping them articulate as many of their qualifications as possible because people do not unpack that and translate that any way nearly as effectively as they could. And I like I said, I don’t make stuff up. We’re not like on a wing and a prayer over here with resumes, like we do try to look at jobs that are in alignment with people. But I think if you want to get through on your resume, it’s really about making sure you’ve done the work to translate as much of your experience as possible, position your qualifications as clearly as possible, and find jobs that, that you can do that with, with integrity with a sense of integrity.
Kim Meninger Well, no, I’m also thinking about the fact that when we talk about doing this kind of work, certainly someone with your background would be really helpful as a resource. But I also am thinking that if someone listening is struggling with this, that it would also be helpful to talk to other people in the space because they may be able to help you with some of that translation too. And I think sometimes again, it goes back to the well, I have to have a perfect message before I can even approach somebody. Whereas if you happen to have a contact or even can get introduced to a contact who lives and breathes in that world and is happy to sit down with you may be able to say, oh, this what you do over here sounds like this, what we do, and here’s kind of some tweaks to the language in order to, to make it sound more compelling.
Jenn Walker Wall I mean, that’s one of the reasons I really think peer connections are so useful. This is also something you can do informational interviews and ask like, when you’re hiring from someone, hiring someone for a role, do you consider hiring people with a non-traditional background? And if so, what is it that you’re looking for? I do think that this is something with enough research, you can, you can finesse, but I’ll also just share. I mean, sometimes when a client is switching industries, for example, and we can’t really leverage anything from their industry it’s like, that’s not a relevant aspect share, we want to focus on their skills I’ll remove every single reference to their industry, and, you know, basically their employer in their cover letter. I mean, I’ll leave the title, obviously. But anything that’s industry-specific, I did, someone did an insurance resume, and she’s switching into health care. And I was able to get rid of just so much content and focus on the outcome, which was like reports and analytics, which is the space in which she’s saying, I didn’t need to say, all of the, you know, insurance jargon that was in her resume, like I could eliminate, and it made it a lot shorter. So those, that’s just one example of sort of what we can do to sort of not remind people every other word, this is a pivot, but rather to focus on like, here are the skills and qualifications that you’re looking for, and evidence that I’ve done them, you know, for the time that you’re asking.
Kim Meninger Yeah, I think that’s so important, too, because I get that question a lot of, well, how do I, how do I present myself in such a way that I don’t, it doesn’t scream that I’m part of this other industry? Or that, you know, I don’t have this experience? And so I think that to be creative in how you craft the message. Yes. Right. Because at the end of the day, people don’t really care about the jargon and the specifics. They care about, can you do the job? Right? Can you do the fundamental activities or whatever, right? And so if you just strip out the distraction of the content-specific stuff, right?
Jenn Walker Wall Yes, yes. And then it just lets the relevant experience shine, then it’s a much easier sell because you’re selling what they’re asking for and not providing any additional context that could raise questions like why is this person changing fields? Or is this person fully qualified, like, just focus on what they’re asking for? And that’s why I think, you know, the resume is for other people. It’s a marketing tool. But there’s a whole lot that you can do in preparation and behind the scenes to… So before I do that, I always ask the client, are you okay, if I remove the industry-specific language? Because some people get really attached to some aspects of the resume. And it’s helpful to know why. But if you’re really committed to a change, or you’re willing to have like an industry-agnostic resume template, I do think it can be pretty powerful.
Kim Meninger You just said something that made me want to take this in a slightly different direction. You talked about not, you know, sort of triggering that, Why is this person leaving, but that’s one of the questions that I think can really trigger self-doubt is, how do I explain why I’m looking for a new job when something bad is happening in the situation that I’m in. Maybe I feel like I have to leave or they’re going to push me out in some way. Maybe I just don’t get along with my boss. Maybe there’s something you know awful about the situation. And so I don’t know how to convey that without raising lots of red flags. You know, how do you think about the personal story and how, you know, particularly when it’s not a good one?
Jenn Walker Wall Yeah, this is tricky and delicate because there’s a lot of bad things that can happen that people don’t want to discuss in the interview process. And as you’re asking the question, I’m remembering the time I was on an interview panel where someone was talking about their current boss, and it was so negative, and honestly, it could have been accurate. But we had no context for this person, right? Like we didn’t know them well enough to take their word for it. And someone here, someone here was not working well. And so I don’t like to ever emphasize that. That’s why there’s a private part of this process. You have a coach or a friend or a journal, and you can write the truth. Like, when people tell me they’re treated poorly, and they have reasons to leave, I believe them. But people who don’t know us and are trying to assess us for a fit, I don’t think it does us any strategic advantage to share a ton of details about that. So I always say like, okay, so this is the experience you had. Your boss’s terrible, what did you learn about what you need? What have you learned about where you thrive? And what kind of environment would make you excited to make a move? Now I understand so on some workdays, any new environment wouldn’t be enough. I understand I’ve been there. But when we’re doing these phone screens with recruiters or talking to hiring managers, I think it’s best to focus on like, here’s what I’ve learned about myself in this role. I do my best work when I’m working with a boss who I feel is really invested in me and is available and excited about the work that we’re doing. I feel challenged when you know, I don’t have access to someone for support or someone to go to questions, and I’m pretty independent but you know, I’m still looking for someone to check in on me and be available, right, like having a story that’s more about what you’ve learned and what you’re looking for, rather than the kind of the nitty-gritty of what you’ve experienced, I think is the strategic way to handle that. But for sure, find someone you can vent to because it’s real, I’ve worked for these people too.
Kim Meninger That’s such an important point. And we all need to get that out of our system too. Because if we don’t, it’s going to come through too and I think about that a lot, if you are, and sometimes you don’t have a choice because maybe you’ve lost your job, and you have, you need that continuity. But a lot of times, if you’re trying to look for something new at the height of an emotional state, it really does cloud your judgment and makes it very difficult for you to show up at your best in some of these conversations.
Jenn Walker Wall 100%. And I will also just say that these conversations get easier the more experience that you have. Having them for the first time is difficult. But you know, when you’re in HR, hiring, recruiting, or a hiring manager, you know, people get fired, you know, people get laid off like it’s, you know, people take time off to start a family and have a hard time getting, you know, back into the workforce. So I think the truth is that the people that you’re having these conversations with are actually way more likely to be familiar with these kinds of conversations. So that’s why I think some honesty is helpful, but, but just some they don’t they’re not, you know, they don’t need the whole story. But they’ll probably understand where you’re coming from.
Kim Meninger Yeah, not to be overly simplistic. But if they don’t, is that a place you want to work?
Jenn Walker Wall Great question. I mean, it would certainly give me pause. I actually remember that when I was interviewing at MIT, this is a good story for a career coach to tell. They needed to do a phone screen, like they needed to do a reference check with my current boss, and I was leaving that job. That was my, like, get me out of here job. And I cried on the phone. I was like, I don’t know, I don’t trust him. I haven’t known him that long. But it’s not been good so far. And she, she was so calm. And she was like, is there something you want to tell me. And I told her about couple of our interactions, which were very frosty, he was unpredictable, and sometimes really nice and sometimes miserable. And he humiliated people in public, and you sort of like, never knew what you were gonna get. And she was like, okay, thank you for letting me know. I will keep that in mind when I speak to him. And he, of course, gave a glowing review as so many terrible bosses do I mean, it is like, seriously, it’s like a terrible boss MO to just make your life miserable, and then give you a glowing review. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t even need to charge for my services if I had a nickel every time I heard that story. But you know, she created the space for me to be really as candid as I needed to be. And not all recruiters will do that. I was young, I think the crying was forgivable in that context alone. But I do think a lot of recruiters understand that people are leaving because some of them hate their jobs. And they’re in really difficult circumstances. And some people get fired for really unfair reasons. And I do, maybe I just have like a really nice cohort of HR people in my network. But I think people have a good sense of that when they’re having conversations with, with candidates.
Kim Meninger I think that’s really helpful to remember too, and especially at this point where so many people have been making moves throughout the, quote, unquote, Great Resignation, because they’re just not happy where they are. More so now than ever, I think there’s empathy for people wanting to make a change.
Jenn Walker Wall The shifts in how people can engage in the job search is so different than it was eight years ago. I mean, there’s a lot more room for candor, for flexibility, for, you know, gaps in your resume. I mean, that used to be really hard. I remember when that was a difficult thing to overcome. And now it’s just, it’s really shifted, I think, honestly, I see like a generational shift in the stakeholders around the recruiting process. And I think, you know, they’re Millennials, they’re Gen Xers, they’re people who’ve lived through multiple recessions. And witnessed a lot of inequality. And I think we’ve, we’ve done a better job of tying the narrative of the career and job search process to that inequality narrative. And I think I see a lot of places where people have created a lot more space, gone out of their way to sort of diversify the roles that they’re recruiting for in their organizations. So that’s been helpful.
Kim Meninger That’s a really good point. And that’s, that is really encouraging to hear as well. I have a big question for you that I know is going to depend so I’m not looking for a concrete answer. But I want to get your thoughts on this because it has come up a number of times recently, in light of what we’re talking about. Generally speaking, what are your thoughts on leaving before you have a new job? If it especially if it’s something that’s like you know, gosh, this is driving me crazy, and I can’t take it anymore.
Jenn Walker Wall If you can make that decision financially and mentally, that’s going to leave you in a better place, I say go for it. I have seen a lot of people do that last couple of years, way more than I’ve ever seen. It used to be like, I think I had like one or two clients in the first four years of having my business that just quit their job to search for another one. And now it’s really just not uncommon. Now, if you’re listening to this, and you’re like, wow, I really need my job. I think that’s how a lot of people feel like they need their income. What I’ve seen people do is take part-time job, freelance, contract, I saw someone take like a hospitality job so that they could just like have income coming in. Reset, people are giving themselves sabbaticals. And that doesn’t always mean they’re not earning income, but they’ve taken themselves out of like the rat race of it, right. And so that is something that is probably much more realistic for people, I don’t have a preference of whether people are employed or currently employed. I think it’s worth taking a break and finding out, figuring out a way to make that happen, if you can, at some point for sure, figure it out. And there’s a lot of ways to make it happen.
Kim Meninger And I think even what you were saying before to about a greater understanding of why people are making these choices, and that people are making these choices, I don’t think it comes with the same stigma that it used to which I think a lot of times people are so afraid to have any kind of gap in their resume or people are going to ask them or assume something bad happened. Why are you not employed right now? I don’t think that pressure is as high as it used to be based on everything.
Jenn Walker Wall I really don’t. I have not noticed that people who are not currently employed, are having a much longer job search, like I used to notice. What’s really interesting is like this goes back to the point you know about what work is like, think about an employment system that where the self-policing is so powerful, you stay in a toxic job until you keep a new one. And I think that’s exactly the kind of narrative that is evaporating around work right now, when we look at it, you know, right, you used air quotes, talking about the great resignation. And I think that’s exactly right. Like, the gloves are off. Like, you know, the, the emperor has no clothes, we’ve seen behind, you know, the Wizard of Oz here, like the man behind the curtain. People are going to quit now. And they’re going to figure it out. And I think what I witnessed up close, obviously not representative, is people see bigger risks, right? Like in the last couple of years, there’s just more risk, more risk in a pandemic, more risk with racist violence than just quitting your job. Like, I think it seems like quitting your job is like people are like, I’ll figure it out. I figured out the pandemic, I figured out remote work. I figured out having my kids at home while I you know, took calls in the bathroom. People have been so starved for care and comfort that I think not having a job is really not as bad as it used to be for some people.
Kim Meninger I think that’s a really good way to think about it. Absolutely. It has shifted the perspective around it. I mean, we’ve certainly been tested in so many unexpected ways over the last few years that it does sort of force a, a new way of thinking.
Jenn Walker Wall It sure does. And it’s powerful. And I think we’re sort of only beginning to see what that’s going to mean. I’ve been following a lot of the return to office data where we only saw, you know, at one point there were like 19% of like executives returned to the office when they were required so I don’t think this is going to fly. I’m not quite sure how it’s going to disintegrate or change. But I feel like there’s going to be increasing tension. And I think that’s why you see worker movements and labor movements doing really well right now and having a lot of wins. Because at the end of the day, going through a really traumatic period that turned life upside down for so many people. I think people realize they could count on the people they cared about, and not much else. And I think that’s where we are. I think it’s going to mean some shifts for how people think about work and how invested they think about work in the future.
Kim Meninger And I really hope it sticks because I think that’s a good thing.
Jenn Walker Wall I actually think this is, everyone’s relationship is work is changing the way a lot of career coaches have been suggesting. But it’s, it’s really helpful, I think, to have it happen at a collect… It gives people permission when it happens in a more collective sense. You don’t look like you’ve lost your mind if you quit your job. Like people are like yeah, I bet you’ve had enough. I’ve had enough I’m ready to do it too.
Kim Meninger such a good point. Yeah, there is that sense of we’re all in this together as opposed to I’m that rogue person took that risk.
Jenn Walker Wall And it’s so funny because I really feel like a lot of organizations missed a chance to generate so much loyalty. They just missed it. They whiffed. I don’t even think they, they didn’t even try to kick that ball. They just, you know, they, they, they were good about the return to work. But I’ve been really shocked and surprised to see how many are encouraging return to the office, especially with, you know, the cases still being where they are and people still having unvaccinated kids and that whole thing. So I think people are gonna remember this.
Kim Meninger I think so too. And I do hope so. I hope that you know that they’re, the people, individuals stay empowered and feel like there is some bargaining power there around ensuring that organizations treat people like human beings and not just dispensable resources. That’s right. Yeah. So Jenn, where can people find you if they want more of you?
Jenn Walker Wall Yes, I would love that. So I am online. work wonderscareers.com. So if you want to learn more about us and our work, please visit us there. I’m on LinkedIn. So you can find me at Jenn Walker Wall. I’m also on Instagram, Work Wonders Careers. So come say hi. Thanks for having me.
Kim Meninger This was fun. Thank you, Jenn. I’m so excited that we got to have this conversation in this forum. I cannot wait to share it. And thank you as always for all of your amazing insights.
Jenn Walker Wall My pleasure. Next time with martinis maybe.
Kim Meninger Great idea!