Career fog can be cleared

Q: I’m been working in the same place for 23 years and now I want a change. The problem is that I haven’t applied for a job, let alone created a CV, since the day I came in here. This whole area is alien to me – can you give any pointers to help me get my head around the process. It all looks foggy and impenetrable to me now. I have no particular job in mind. I am just starting to poke up my head, I suppose. (LN, email)

A: You’re not alone, LN. Look around you in that boat you are in and you will see it is filled to overflowing, and, indeed, I bet you will recognise many friends, relations and current and ex-colleagues on the passenger list.

You ask an interesting question. Most people tend to move straight to ‘how can I create a good CV’ or ‘how can I sell myself in interview.’ I think it is a good thing to address what we will call the attitudinal side of things before embarking on this next phase of your life.

First off, I would urge you to go back over your previous jobs to create two lists – a skills inventory and a network or contacts book. We have some forms and other resources that will guide you through this process (email with ‘career planning’ in the subject line and we will send them onto you.)

Spend time identifying your skills. After spending so long in one company, there is a danger that you have stopped seeing your skills: pick through every aspect of every role you’ve held in that company and see what skills you deployed. Look to your hobbies or community involvement too for skills.

Get family, friends or colleagues to do the same for you – they might be able to recognise skills in you that overlook yourself.

This act alone will help to prepare you for the next phase. It is only by recognising our skills that we can start to project them in the direction of employers looking for those skills. If we haven’t an appreciation of our own skills, we travel on fumes, and we are down to relying on potential employer to fulfil a talent-spotting role – and, by and large, they won’t.

If you want an employer to recognise your skills, you need to point them out: hence, the first step listed above is crucial.

Having final got a handle on the skills you possess, you should then root back through your career to date and write down every name of every person you ever worked with, or dealt with in a professional capacity. Again, be indiscriminate. Fire names at the page in the first draft because names will trigger further names: after 23 years you may have forgotten quite a few people whose paths you crossed.

That young lad who did a summer or two with your company 20 years ago might be an MD today.

When you’ve carried out these two tasks, chances are you will start to see a clearing in the fog. Is there opportunity out there? Yes, there is!

Last week I listened to successful entrepreneur Tommy Griffith ( speak to students at his former college, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Galway. One of his key messages is as powerful today as it ever was: “surround yourself with positive people.”

There are many out there who believe opportunity left town long ago. Henry Ford’s dictum comes to mind: “whether you think you, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Choose carefully.

Sli Nua Careers offer CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services at their offices in Galway, Limerick, Dublin, and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. Each month, they give away a free CV Makeover to a reader. Enter here: