FALL 2017

Career Matters: Times of Change

by Karen Kirchof

After 27 years building and leading the career services department at the Nicholas School, I stepped down as assistant dean for career and professional development on Sept. 1.

When considering a career change and asking myself what’s next, I have had to put into practice what I have taught and shared with many students, alums, and friends as they sought their own professional transitions.

I admit, I thought, “How hard can this be? I am the career professional here.” But it is harder than you think to separate your emotional connection to your work and focus on professional change.

As I grappled with my own transition over the last 18 months, a five-step plan of action helped me to focus, and perhaps it will be useful to others considering a career change.

My “what’s next?” plan has begun unfolding. I have accepted a 10-month part-time transition position at the Nicholas school, assisting with special recruiting and admissions and career services projects, as well as cross-training new Student Services staff.

Several years ago, an alum was reentering the workforce, and when I asked what she was seeking, she said “I want to do what makes my heart sing.” Great advice for us all!

ONE: Self-reflection. Why change? What outcomes are you seeking? What is your timeline?

TWO: Write and refine your value proposition. Separate your professional and emotional connection to work; focus
on professional connection. A value proposition details your relevancy, specific quantifiable benefits and unique differentiation you bring to your current employer or a future employer.

THREE: Define your non-negotiables and stick to them! This a specific and small list.

FOUR: Enlist support from trusted colleagues and friends and use them for advice and motivation to stay the course.

FIVE: Network. Informational interviews with targeted employers or professionals in desired professional roles, or internally if your desire is to move within your current organization. The goal is to broaden your change possibilities.