Career Switching Journal — Part 2
It will be nice if everything in this part is just about sharing the experience of applying different positions in different companies, but it is not. In the last paragraph of Career Switching Journal — Part 1, I provided the way I assess every job opportunity. What I did not mention is that since all assessments at the end are subjective, the process can be long and intertwined. The journey for me was 8 months.
There are so many opportunities out there in the job market. I just need to find one that fits 30% of my personal strengths, 30% of my professional strengths and 20% of my passion. How hard can it be? The answer is really hard.
One thing every person that wants to switch career will encounter is that the resume is not perfectly fit with the target job position. From my perspective, there are 3 approaches to increase the possibility of landing in your target job. The first one is to acquire the proof of owning the required skills to do the job. It can be either a diploma or a certificate from authoritative faculties in the specific field. One good example is like getting Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) from Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). However, please bear in mind that this approach is mostly for junior positions or even just act as a strong addition to other things on the resume. A lot of people choose the second option, which is to find a position that serves as the transitioning job. This job needs to be close enough to what the person can offer right off the bat but stretched enough to overlap the area the person is trying to get into. For instance, if a person is trying to go from an engineer in traditional industries to a cloud engineer. It will not be surprising that the person first starts as technical sales for cloud technology. In that way, the person can still leverage the accumulated technology knowledge at the same time understand what the cloud technology is about and how the engineers are handling each situation. Of course, a lot of people will also choose to just lower their pay grade or title as they are stepping into an unfamiliar space. Finally, if the previous two approaches are not ideal to you, there is also the way to build up skills and experience in the community, which all those will be enriching the person’s portfolio. One good example will be a project manager starts developing websites that use different web technologies and put those in the portfolio of getting into web frontend development.
Everything described above is condensed into this graph.
When I just started in this phase, I was drawn by every position that is related with data. For example, I was very interested in Data Analyst/Business Analyst. Based on the job description, the people in this position will be working with tons of data and try to convert them into actionable insights. I had my reasons for having this tendency. I am good at data engineering and report services (professional strengths); The job will need collaboration since they are sitting between the engineering and field engagement (personal strengths). Additionally, I am seeing a lot of data analysts working in the product team (passion). It seems like data analyst is the perfect match for me. I just needed to get my resume ready.
I knew myself too well. I would never have had the patience to get into a 1-year/2-year program to get the diploma; Getting certified seems to be practical but I get bored easily when trying to pick up a skill all by myself (personal weakness). That left me with either finding an in-between job or initiating some side projects. As there is no job I could find at the time that sit between engineers and data analysts, I went for the latter. At first, I reached out to data analysts in my previous team and tried to see if I could help on any ongoing project half way (As always, I was trying to keep myself entertained while gaining the experience.). Unfortunately, the people I reached out to were all too busy to assign me tasks. I ended up trying to find opportunities in my organization at the same time self-taught new technical skills in the area. The time passed quickly when I was concentrating on the 2 goals. Before I knew it, I was already using common Python data modules to analyze my team’s key line of business. I was so in so much joy when I submerged myself in this sweet spot and I was even more certain that data analyst is the role I would want to be in.
My actions did not just stop at building out the data model and visualization. I set up meetings with different people in leadership team in my program and showed them what I have built. I wanted to first and foremost let them know what I am capable of and also let them know what I have found with data. They were all amazed, but no one knew what my next step could be. Naturally, with the insights, my thought was that I should try to find a way to be in the decision-making process so whatever I have built would be fully utilized. The reality was harsh. I was neither able to find the right people to be in the loop nor able to join those conversations entirely. At that moment, I realized what I really wanted to do was never about data analysis but to be part of creating something. Thinking and doing more as what a data analyst does gave me a new perspective and I would never have had that if I never started.
I took a step back after projecting myself as a data analyst for 2 months. I thought about the role responsibilities again. The goals were clear and people would know exactly how to reach them, but why did I feel like something was missing again? What is the missing piece? I started from the planning phase once more and I discovered what I was neglecting, ownership. The sense of ownership makes everything different as in whatever the role responsibilities are, the sense of achievement always comes from what those actions translate into. Spoiler alert, it is never from the actions themselves. If I am longing for the sense of achievement, I should be looking at what the actions are converted into. Please do not get this wrong. Being capable of completing the day-to-day tasks is important. In fact, this is one of the most determining factor of whether a person can get the job. That said, if the person is not excited about what those hard work are contributing to, it is easy to imagine the person will be unmotivated and passionless after a short while.
What I have written above can be shown as a flow below. Instead of just looking at the beginning of the arrow, please take a step back and look at the whole picture. That actually resonates to what we have put down in part 1 of this series, which is to always look at the big picture and not the explicit part of the job.