Find the Key to Your Perfect Career

Career consultant Maggie Mistal has a three-step process for career transition:

  1. Soul search
  2. Research
  3. Job search

Career consultant Maggie Mistal

Soul search is the most important, she maintains. And it’s now easier than in the past to persuade people to do a thorough job of it. “It’s changed since 2008,” she says. “With the crash and so many people losing their jobs, I don’t have to make the case anymore. They are saying, ‘I might as well do what I love.’ ” That’s what soul search entails: figuring out what you love to do and where that intersects with careers you might like.

In the research stage, you’re called upon to investigate the career you’re considering. Mistal suggests doing volunteer work or getting involved in a targeted project at your workplace. “So many times, people think a career or business will be one thing – and realize it’s another. Research is critical,” says Mistal. It’s a lesson she learned through personal experience.

An accounting major, she was hired by the audit department at Arthur Anderson. Six months later, disillusioned and unhappy, she transferred to Arthur Anderson’s consulting division. She wasn’t happy there, either — and when Enron came along, she sought out a career coach herself. What she found was the Life Purpose Institute, which certifies coaches. So she got certified – and uncovered her passion.

Looking for a job, human relations was the closest fit she could find to her skills and training. Martha Stewart hired her to do management training, then added career coaching to her duties. When Mistal pitched a Sirius radio show on careers, she was asked to host it. Mistal was ecstatic. “One of my closet dreams was to be a talk show host,” she says. Meanwhile, Mistal was building her coaching business on the side – with the blessing of Martha Stewart, an advocate of entrepreneurship.

Once you do the soul search and the research, the job search is easy, Mistal says. “You’re really able to be clear about why they should hire you because you’ve already done the heavy lifting.” She says the hiring manager typically is impressed by the clarity the person has for the job.

Mistal says she’s helped clients transition from jobs they hated. “I build people’s confidence in talents and abilities that are there, but they’ve never had the chance to explore them.”

Mistal warns anyone making a transition that he or she will be uncomfortable at first in a new field. She remembers when coaching was new to her, and she didn’t feel confident. “It was a challenge pitching to five or six people and not getting a bite.” She advises: “Remember that it’s OK. Have fun with it – I wish I had had more fun; I took it really seriously.” Having fun along the way will help you attract clients, she says.

According to Mistal, this economy is the perfect time to seek out a new career. “Every company makes exceptions for great employees — the ones who are passionate, uniquely talented, and in the right career for them,” she says. “So even when the company is making changes, those employees stay on. Or, if not, five other companies are clamoring to hire them.

“They’re not just in a job – they’re in the right job. Figure this out now, and you’ll be one of the people companies make exceptions for.”

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