568: Building a Network from Scratch in a New Industry or Location

Feeling stuck because your current network is tied to the industry you're trying to leave? Learn how to navigate your career change with confidence and find meaningful work through genuine connections.



Laura McClernon, HTYC Coach

Laura's combination of career coach + military spouse makes her an expert on networking in unknown places and industries.

on this episode

Reaching out to your network when making a career change seems like great advice… until you realize you want to pivot into something brand new and your network is made up of people in the industry you’re trying to get out of.

This is where a lot of people feel stuck—they want to explore a new field or role but don’t know how to even begin building a new network.

So how do you begin to create new, meaningful connections from scratch… without seeming extremely awkward or like you’re using them to get a job?

Listen as Laura McClernon, HTYC Coach, walks through her career and explains how she used what we like to call Test Driving Conversations to build relationships and pivot into new roles and industries again and again, and how she now helps our clients do the same thing when they’re looking to move to more meaningful work.

She gives expert insights and helpful strategies on how to build a network from scratch!

What you’ll learn

  • How to identify the right people to reach out to in your desired industry or location
  • Methods for reaching out and building meaningful relationships from scratch
  • The importance of doing your research and test driving conversations
  • The mindset shift needed to network differently when making a career change

Success Stories

Scott took the time to really hear my problem, to understand, and offer solutions to help me transition to where I am and where I’d like to be. That is why I decided to sign up for Happen to Your Career. I used to work in the legal industry and now I work in the nonprofit industry for a nonprofit that helps people change their lives!

Cesar Ponce de Leon, Online Campus Manager, United States/Canada

The biggest thing in CCB that's changed my life, it helped me understand that I had an abused way of going back to the unhealthy environment in my current workplace without even realizing what it's doing to me. Once you helped me see that and once I got out of it, all the other areas of my life also improved! So it wasn't just CCB I noticed this career changing and wasn't just a career change. It was like a whole improvement all areas of life.

Mahima Gopalakrishnan, Career and Life Coach, United States/Canada

Laura McLernon 00:01

If you come at someone with, like, the "I'm looking for a job" mentality, or like "I need to get out of my current job" mentality, it's hard because they don't know who you are, or like if they can help you or not. And so it makes for a really awkward conversation.

Introduction 00:20

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast with Scott Anthony Barlow. We hope you stop doing work that doesn't fit you. Figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that is unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you feel like you were meant for more, and you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:45

When you're trying to step into an entirely new career, relying on your current network doesn't always cut it. And it's a situation we see all the time. You're really excited about diving into a new industry, a new role, but you feel like you're starting from scratch when it comes to building relationships or building a network, and you have no idea where to begin. And your familiar safety net of connections no longer applies. So how do you begin to create new meaningful connections from scratch without seeming extremely awkward or like you're using them to get a job?

Laura McLernon 01:25

How can I build a network in an industry or in a location, or in a role where I have zero contacts from the ground up, and realizing that a network isn't just something you already have, it's something that you can go and actively build in a new field?

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:41

That's Laura McLernon. Laura has worked in many different roles, including partnerships, consulting, training, benefits, and in industries including tech, federal government, education, fitness, and market research. And now, she's a career coach here at Happen To Your Career, and she's phenomenal. And she's also a military spouse. So she's had a lot of experience moving to brand new places and building a network from the ground up. And as you can guess, all this experience combines to make her quite a formidable career coach, and an expert on networking in unknown places, and industries. I want you to listen as Laura walks through her career and explains how she used what we like to call 'test-driving conversations', to build relationships, and pivot into new roles and industries again, and again. And now she gets to use all of this wonderful experience to help our clients do the same thing when they're looking to move into much more meaningful work. Here's our conversation. And she starts out sharing just a little bit about how she took a pretty winding path into career coaching. I think you're gonna love it.

Laura McLernon 02:56

So my career first began in market research, I worked for an international market research company. And it was... I started working there in 2009. So it was like, you know, big time of a recession. So it was one of those things where like, you know, you leave college and you were lucky to have a job. So I felt like I was one of the lucky few. So in that position, I was attracted to it because I had studied international business and international affairs. So it had that global aspect to it. And that's one of the things I love is seeing diversity in the workplace, diversity of thought, as well as like learning about different cultures, different countries, all of that. So the position did have that. But what it didn't have was a lot of the kind of the guidance and structure I needed in that first position. And I felt like, you know, it taught me a lot of things like how to build a training program from the ground up. But I found that I really wasn't interacting with people in the way that I wanted to. And at the end of the day, the subject matter just didn't excite me. And that's when I knew, okay, it's time for a career change. But then it's like, oh, wait, how do I do that?

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:06

What did you find at that point in time as you're having those questions where you're like, "But, okay, I know it's time. But how do I do this?"

Laura McLernon 04:16

Exactly. Right. And so the default thinking is you go back to college career center ideas of making your resume look great. And thinking that if you take just this one like career occupational test, it's going to spit out one answer. And then you just look for jobs that are like that. So I think in this day and age of the internet, I just thought if I Googled enough, I was gonna land and figure it out through Google what my next career move should be. And it wasn't until I stumbled and stumbled many times over in that year-long process that I figured out it's not about finding one answer or even a couple of good answers, it's about experiencing and being able to really get a feel for something before you commit to it, and to see what something resonates with you and something that you could love doing just by being able to immerse yourself in that.

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:13

So at that point in time, how did you start to do some of that within your career? What did that look like? What went well? What maybe didn't go as well?

Laura McLernon 05:24

Yeah, exactly. So one of my biggest challenges that I've had throughout my career is just that a lot of times I would have very boxton thinking. And part of that comes from the fact that I'm married to someone in the military, and we'd move every two years. For me, that was a challenge, and saying, "I have this, like, giant thing that I have to also factor into the process." And even then, there's been some stigmas for like hiring military spouses thinking we're going to leave after two years. So I kind of started pointing my career and looking at remote work options and saying, "Okay, what could I really do in that space?" And this is around like, 2013-14. So remote jobs were definitely sparse at that time. So I really had to think of, "Hey, how can I find something they love to do that's going to fit in this remote capacity? And that's also going to check these other boxes that I'm looking to in my career?" And so that's when I really started researching things like job search tactics, networking tactics. And that's also when I learned that I might not have a great network right now, and I might be brand new to a place, but how can I build a network in an industry, or in a location, or in a role where I have zero contacts from the ground up, and realizing that a network isn't just something you already have, it's something that you can go and actively build in a new field?

Scott Anthony Barlow 06:45

Let's talk about that for just a moment. Because you and I both agree and have had those experiences where that is very true that being a network isn't just something you have, but you can grow, you can build those relationships, you can cultivate them. There's lots of ways, not just one way, but many, many ways to do that. And what I'm curious about is, what's a particular time or situation where you found that to be true? How did you go about beginning to grow your network?

Laura McLernon 07:16

Yeah, I think back to the word networking, like, if you were to Google image search networking, you would see like people in business suits like handing business cards to each other.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:26

Very awkwardly but with huge smiles. And that's...

Laura McLernon 07:30

Exactly. Right. And I think that's the image that I had back then and I hope that people have cleared from their minds. Because networking is a lot of times done in an online space now, yes, in-person networking events still exist. But something like LinkedIn is an extremely powerful tool to be able to find people who have profiles that you would be interested in talking to. When I say profile, not just their LinkedIn profile, but having a similar background to making a similar career change, maybe you have something in common with them, like they came from your same undergrad or same hometown, and just being able to have that as a directory of people that you could possibly reach out to, and ask them questions about their career. So that's what I found. It's not just about going to a networking event and passing out a business card. It's about being able to find people and ask them questions, and really be able to conduct strong informational interviews and learn about what's their career been like, how did they made a switch from one industry into another.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:30

Tell me about one of the times where you've done that.

Laura McLernon 08:32

Successfully or unsuccessfully?

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:34

Both. I love the answer it was gonna be successful except for you throwing that out there. So now both.

Laura McLernon 08:42

Alright, so with the successful one. So I just found that coming from a mentality or coming from a position of... I'm doing personal career research, right? It takes the like, "I'm looking for a job" pressure off the table, and someone is much more willing to answer questions about themselves when it's in like a light-hearted, "I'm just doing personal research setting." So I use that opportunity to reach out to people and ask them questions about, "Why did you like working at this company? What is something that you did in making your career switch from this seemingly unrelated profession into the one that you're doing now?" And it was through those conversations that sometimes I did find like, "This isn't a space I don't want to go into. I don't like what they had to say. And it doesn't feel like a good fit or picturing myself doing their job, I don't think I would like it."

Scott Anthony Barlow 09:32

What's one of those spaces that you decided, "No, not for me."?

Laura McLernon 09:36

So like my default when I was doing my job search was let me stick to market research and just try a different setting. And that was like the obvious one because it's what I had done and I already had experience in, and in talking to someone who worked for a large market research company. Their job sounded a lot like the one I had and like the grass isn't greener within the industry. So I was like, "Okay, I can like close this avenue. I don't need to go down there anymore. Let's try a new one." And the field I ended up going into after that was working in the Sports Fitness technology area. And I'm a runner, I've run marathons. And so that, for me was something where I was like, "Okay, this might be interesting to see what it would look like to work in this space." And through that when I actually did in-person networking, because I had found myself a bridge job at a running shoe store, a bridge job is like one that, you know, you're not going to do for forever, but gets you from point A to point B. So I was working at a running shoe store, and I would talk to all the sales reps when they came in. And I would inevitably, like end up asking them about like, "How they got their job, what they like about it, what they don't like about it." And so that got me really interested in working in that industry and what it might be like to work in one of those positions.

Scott Anthony Barlow 10:44

Very cool. Let's talk about your marathon experience first. I'll tell you that my mom tells me it's around, like, mile 19 to 20-ish or so where she has run a lot of marathons. I've never run, I've tried half marathons, but she says that's the exact point where she starts to question, "is this going to happen where your body just starts to give out in some ways or another?" So first of all, I'm curious what that point is for you.

Laura McLernon 11:14

Honestly, it depends. Like I've done three marathons and I think it has a lot to do with like how the temperature and weather is going that day, and how the scenery is around that time. If you get like a good crowd, like there's a lot of people or like, it's great scenery, it probably distracts you from that. And I think when you get into the boring parts or where they're kind of sparse, or you're like running like a Chicago Marathon, you're running to this industrial wasteland type area, you're like, "This isn't very inspiring." So I'm starting to think more about the pain I'm feeling. But yeah, it's interesting how, training-wise though, I always try to do like negative splits. So in the first part, I started out slower and saved my energy so that anything I have left, I'm dedicating to the last half of it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 11:55

So that's the other reason I bring this up. Because what I found is that making an intentional career change where the goal is meaningful work that compensates you well, that is a great fit for, not just your work life, but your all-around life. And from a holistic point, it fits. And if that's your goal, I found that it is very much like training for and then running a marathon in many, many different ways. So I'm curious about that for you, you've run more marathons than I have, as it turns out, so we'll go to you for the voice of experience here. What would you say is similar about it? What do you believe is different?

Laura McLernon 12:38

Oh, yeah. So I would tell past career coaching clients all the time, "It's a marathon, not a sprint", right? We've all heard that analogy. And it really is. When you do a career change, you have to prepare yourself for long-term thinking, in terms of being able to know that this isn't going to happen overnight, you're not going to find that one answer in Google and then be able to move forward and push through quickly. It's going to take a lot of time and dedication, each and every day, or a significant number of days of the week, to spend a little bit of time doing those things that are going to help move you closer to the career change. So you know, when you see someone run a marathon, that's months and months of preparation, it's also clearing their schedule to a lot of time for that. It's also making sure that they're doing the things like giving their body proper rest and nutrition. So I would say it's the same thing with career change, you know, you see someone make a big switch from one industry to another, one job to another, and that took months behind the scenes of doing the work to discover things about themselves and then be able to conduct personal research, personal experiments, and then move closer towards maybe even an interview stage and then landing the offer.

Scott Anthony Barlow 13:52

As a complete side note.

Laura McLernon 13:54


Scott Anthony Barlow 13:54

Have you ever run one of the Rock and Roll marathons, perhaps?

Laura McLernon 13:59

I've done a half with them, but never full.

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:01

If I ended up running a full any point, I would love to do one of those just because, what you mentioned earlier, the scenery, as you call it, in this case, I think they do a phenomenal job of putting together this overall experience. All the ones that I've run with them have been... they just have bands every, sometimes every quarter mile. And you got so many people that are cheering you on and everything and it really carries you. And I think that is also, in many ways, like making a large career change where if you have that group of people, and they are carrying you forward in many, I don't know, figurative and sometimes literal ways, then it gets so much more, if not easier, at least possible.

Laura McLernon 14:53

Yes, absolutely. Because just like in a marathon, occur change. There's going to be times where there's not a lot of activity, or like you feeling stuck, or you're hitting a brick wall, your body locks up. So we're using the marathon analogy here. And so having people around you, cheering you, seeing that they've done it, this is a trusted experience that you're going to make it to the finish line that can make all the difference and feeling like there's a light at the end of the tunnel when you're having those moments of doubt in the process.

Scott Anthony Barlow 15:23

At what point did you realize that coaching was a great fit for you?

Laura McLernon 15:30

Yeah. So fast-forwarding to a job after the one where I worked in the fitness technology space, I found myself living overseas in the Middle East. And I took a job where I was helping people that were transitioning out of the military. And my job was to help educate them, get them set up for success with their VA benefits. So like things that are entitled to them once they leave the military. And one of the benefits that I talked about the most was education benefits or GI Bill, it's a great education benefit. And so inevitably, we would have these conversations about their next education, which would lead us to end up talking about career. That wasn't necessarily part of the job, but that became part of it. Because how can you not talk about your future education without talking about your career? So it was a moment where I was talking to someone about their education and career after the military. And we ended up getting really sidetracked and talking about career and this person had like, really relevant military experience to the civilian world. She had worked in broadcast casting, telecommunications, and I just started like talking about ideas, like, "If you have this kind of experience, you can do something like this, this, this, this, this or this." And it was like this lightning bolt moment that hit me that was like, "Oh my gosh, I'm having so much fun with this conversation. Like, this is really cool." And just to see how what I was telling her wasn't obvious, like, it was also a lightbulb moment for me that, "Hey, this is hard for people. This natural ability that I have, and this skill I personally have had to build as a career changer, this could be helpful to other people." And that's kind of when the clip for me that this is something I was interested in pursuing– full-on as a career coach.

Scott Anthony Barlow 17:15

How did you, from there, begin pursuing it full-on, as you said? What were some of the next steps you took?

Laura McLernon 17:22

So I knew in the back of my mind, it was something I wanted to pursue. And when I left that job, I was like, "Okay, this is my opportunity." And another thing that was interesting about that job was I had worked remote for the entirety of my career, and this job was in person. And I had this like, things stuck in my mind that I have to work in personnel because I loved doing that in that job. And so then I kind of gotten this retro, I was like, "Oh, but I have to work in person, and I want to do career coaching, that's really going to limit my opportunities." Like I need to be okay with this remote thing. And I think that that's something that I've talked to my clients about in the past, too, is that a lot of times, we get one idea about our career, and we get stuck on it. And like we have these different 'must' in our mind. And really, when you dig deeper, it's something else. And what I was really craving in my career was one-on-one conversations, not necessarily being remote or in person. So I thought to myself, "Okay, I want to do career coaching in the one-on-one setting. Am I even qualified to do that?" That was like my next question. I have done job searching myself, I know a lot. And for the past two years, I have volunteered for an organization where I had helped people through resume reviews, like LinkedIn reviews, so I was doing it on the side as a volunteer, so kind of like a career experiment itself. And so I was like, "Okay, I need to find a remote career coaching position." And I also kind of want to work part-time because I had my daughter at the time. And I want to work with people one-on-one capacity. So I did use Google searching, like, only in like, lightwaves. Yes, to be like, "Where can I do career coaching in this capacity? And am I qualified?" And what I ended up finding was naturally not through Google searching, through LinkedIn job posts, okay. And this is something I tell people, looking at job postings can be helpful in doing research, but not with the mentality of, "I'm gonna apply for this job" just being like, what's out there. So I would type in the word career coach, and different organizations would pop up. And I kept seeing that one of the organizations that was hiring career coaches was coding bootcamps for profit education, where they needed people to help their new graduates transition from one career into the other. So I was like, "Okay, this is an interesting space. Let me explore it more." And so that's when I did my deep dive and I came up with a list of who are the 20 players in this space. And then I went further and be like, "Okay, who hires remote, who's like remote first versus who's in person?" You know, obviously, if they're in-person in New York City, I can't work there. So I then made my list even smaller, and then I started doing the networking aspect of asking people like, "Do I need to have a certification to work at your company? What kind of profile do you look for in hiring career coaches? Do your coaches work part-time? What kind of hours do they do?" And I ended up finding the company that I worked for. And I did an informational interview with someone that worked there. And they said, "Look, we're not hiring right now. But I'd love to just chat about what we do." And so I did. And it was interesting to hear, it was interesting to hear about the way they worked with their students, one-on-one, how people were making these life-changing career switches from seemingly unrelated professions into software engineering. And, you know, I thought, "Wow, this would be a space I would love to get into." And I was lucky enough that two weeks after that call, they sent me an email and said, "We have created a position. Would you be interested in applying?" And of course, I said, "Yes." And it went from there.

Scott Anthony Barlow 20:47

So let's talk about a couple of pieces of that, that works. One of the things that I have found myself saying many times over the years is, instead of going and looking for what opportunities are out there, necessarily, find the place that you want to be and then put yourself in the position so that a position can be created for you, or put yourself in the position so that when somebody who can help you or hire you has a need, you're the first person that they think of. And I think that's exactly what you did. You went and, initially, you limited down to these 20 organizations could be a good fit. And then you started going through an investigating. And after you were investigating, you found out information and some of them didn't work. Now, in some cases, people might look at that as a failure. "Oh my goodness! I have to cross this off the list. This didn't work. Oh, my goodness." Yeah, it's actually great. That's fantastic. Because it allows you to hyperfocus what you did. And then from there, it allowed you to be able to say, "Okay, how do I focus on these relative views and find out what would make me an amazing candidate? And do I even want to work in these places?" And then it sounds like, at some point, you've scheduled conversations with people to go in. And one of those turned into exactly that spot where they created a role and said, "Hey, we really think that you could be it." Does that right?

Laura McLernon 22:17

Yes. And I will say in that process of doing research, you know, playing with that list of 20, it's great when you can cross them off because you can't go work for 20 companies, right? Like you need to be pointed and intentional, there's gonna only be one. So in that, the first thing I did to get that list down was I was like, "Who doesn't hire remote?" Okay, now we're down to about 10. And then I kind of, you know, wanted to know more about what they did, their quality of work. And so I went on a website that gave reviews of these schools. And so I was reading what students had to say. And you can see that some students had great things to say about their career team, and also the coursework. And so that was something that I said, "Okay, this is really good to know, this is good information." So when I was in the interview stage, it was just a very easy thing to do to look back at my notes and pull up the fact that, "Hey, I've read about you all on this website where students gave reviews, and I love seeing what your students say." And I don't think many candidates do that type of thing. They don't do that level of research. But I did it for the interview, I had already done it when I was looking at the companies. Yeah.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:22

Okay, so we just went through that in approximately three and a half minutes, that whole process, if you will. Also, you and I both know that even though it makes for a really nice, linear three-and-a-half minutes, it's not always that easy compared to what it sounds like. So my question to you is, what do you feel like some of the biggest problems or challenges that you've experienced in working with clients? What pops up along the way? And what can we do about those?

Laura McLernon 23:54

Yeah, so I think that one of the biggest mental switches that I really drive clients to change early on in the process is looking for a job, change that to personal career research, right? Because if you come at someone with the, "I'm looking for a job" mentality, or like "I need to get out of my current job" mentality, it's hard because they don't know who you are, or like if they can help you or not. And so it makes for a really awkward conversation. So something we touched on earlier with the like, bad informational interviews or bad outreach. I think I kind of started with that mentality. And so coming at it with the personal career research mentality, it's great because like the person can help you, they already know that they can help you by sharing their story and sharing their experience. So that makes it easy for you to learn and for them to share what they need to tell you. And I've just found that even if you learn something that you don't want to do, that is very valuable research to you, too, because it's helping you point in the direction where they could give you a tip of like, "Hey, if you're really not interested in this particular space, I would suggest this one or look over at this company" and you never know where some of those conversations can lead you, or help point you in the right direction towards your next helpful conversation.

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:17

In the last 10 years that we've been doing this at HTYC, I found that phenomenon, kind of fascinating, really, that as soon as we flip the switch into, "I am researching. I am experimenting. I'm collecting information. I'm in that type of mode", then all of a sudden things become possible. That's a really, really fascinating thing. It becomes possible to then actually learn what is great for you versus just trying to fit into what you perceive is available out there. But then the other thing that is really phenomenal too is as soon as you start to get some of those inputs and sets of feedback that allow you to really clarify what is right for you, then you start being able to see where those opportunities are, and then it becomes possible to make or create or find one of those opportunities where it wasn't possible before. So it's this really weird situation because everybody knows that they're supposed to do that, like, "Hey, we'll get into experimentation, and I'm going to experiment and collect information." But it's easy to say that, it's much more difficult to, as you said, flip the switch into that mode.

Laura McLernon 26:32

Yes. And one thing I tried to illustrate for clients is the fact that you already have these skills, and you do it in other settings. So let's say that you decide that you want to sell your house and move to a different neighborhood, like you would ask a lot of questions, right? You'd be like, "Where could I find a realtor? What's the housing market looking like? How can I find a mortgage lender in it?" And you ask all these questions, and you do all this research in the same way that you would for your career. But somehow a career like people pump the brakes, and they're like, "I can't ask questions about that, or like people don't want to talk about that." And you'd be surprised how excited people are to talk about themselves in their career.

Scott Anthony Barlow 27:10

This really... I was gonna say really fascinating study, but that's not quite the word I'm looking for. Interesting at best. But there's this study that looked at how much time we research various types of consumer electronics, like TVs, or, you know, iPods or computers or things like that, and then comparing that to the time that we spend researching our careers or other large life decisions. And it was actually really kind of saddening when you look at the data, most people in the entire world who spent way more time researching the huge flat-screen TV compared to all of those other large life decisions. But what if we flip that? You buy all the TVs, have to pay somebody else to research the TVs for you. But to your point, those skills are there, it's the same thing. It's just different activities.

Laura McLernon 28:03

Exactly. I thought you're gonna bring up the other research that relates to that when you do informational interviews, and you talk to people, and you get them talking about their career and about their life, they've done like brainwave studies. And when someone talks about themselves, it's like the same components of their brain lights up as if they're on like, crack cocaine. Like people love talking about themselves. So if you can drive them to talk about themselves, and their career, like, it's actually like a brain pleasure experience for them.

Scott Anthony Barlow 28:32

It's one of the reasons that when we are getting people to talk about themselves that they have a higher positive association or higher chance of a positive association with you, and you didn't have to say anything. So ask a few questions. No, don't use that for manipulation, use it for good. But it is definitely a tool in the arsenal because it helps you collect information while at the same time as creating the beginnings of these really wonderful relationships.

Laura McLernon 29:06

Exactly. It's a win-win.

Scott Anthony Barlow 29:08

It is a win-win. The other question I wanted to ask you, too, is when you're talking about research, or you're talking about experimentation, it's easy for us, as we mentioned earlier to say, "Hey, that's the mode that I need to be in." But what have you found actually works for yourself or other people to actually be in that mode? Too different, subtle differences, but it can be really challenging from a mindset perspective because we all feel like, "I need to know the answer so that I can go find the answer", which sounds insane. And it is insane. But that's what we do. Like I need to have it all figured out so that I can then go ask questions and look really good to give this person who I'm talking to something to... I don't know.

Laura McLernon 29:51

Right. Yeah, great question. So I think that like a lot of times, like, I need to have the answer first. I think that there is definitely some self-discovery you can do beforehand before you start investing quite a bit into time into something. And then of course, through conversations, right, that's like very low time commitment-wise. But something else that I kind of stumbled into in my volunteer life was I found myself a volunteer position where I was doing career coaching. And it was the same time I was working that job where like the conversations would gravitate towards career. And it was through that volunteering where I was seeing volunteering, maybe five, seven hours a week that I was like, "Okay, I'm actually like gaining experience in this. And I do like this." And it was one of those volunteer commitments where if I found that I wasn't enjoying this, or this wasn't something that spoke to me, I'm sure I could say, "Hey, I volunteered my time, thank you very much." But I kept volunteering with that organization because I enjoyed it. And in my work life, I was doing my job. And conversations would kind of go into career, and I would talk about it. And so within my, you know, eight to four job, I was also having those kinds of conversations and immersing myself in that. So I found a way to kind of do it a little bit at work, and then outside of work. And in my career coaching for software engineers, I would always encourage my students, whenever they graduated from the program, to seek out volunteer coding opportunities. And some people would say, like, "I just spent a lot of money in the school, you know, it's hard for me to think about working for free." And I tell them, "Look, all you have to do is commit for, you know, tell the volunteer organization, I can commit seven hours a week for the next two months", and they're like, "Great. Free coding, free Software Engineer sounds good." And you get something on your resume. And then on top of that, you get to immerse yourself in the field and see what it's really like to work day in, day out. So you know, those all take a little bit more time. But if there is a way that you can find some of those volunteer opportunities, that can be a really great way to immerse yourself and give yourself a timeline of a start and an end that you're going to do that. So it's not like this is ongoing forever.

Scott Anthony Barlow 32:06

Those projects, well, honestly, I think that's one of the best things about projects is an indefinite commitment. It's a potentially a lower period of time that you're committing to, it's not forever. I think that's a different thing about projects.

Laura McLernon 32:23

Yes. And that's what I think a lot of people have a hard time deciding to do. It is like, "How can I make room for this?" Like, for infinity, it's like you don't.

Scott Anthony Barlow 32:34

Sometimes not even that. Well, let me ask you another question, too. If you were to go back to where put yourself in the spot where before you knew all the things that you know now, maybe even back to that first career change that we were talking about at the beginning of our conversation, where you're like, "Okay, I'm pretty sure I need to make a career change here. Not really sure how", but put yourself in that mindset for just a minute. What would you advise people to do that find themselves in that place where they know that they need to make a change, they're unsure where to start, what advice, encouragement, what would you guide them to do with them?

Laura McLernon 33:13

Yeah, absolutely. So I think the first part would be just giving them the self-assurance that like, this is very common, and you're not an outsider, or you haven't failed, like, this is something that a lot of people go through. So normalizing it, number one. Number two would be, just letting them know that self-discovery is very important. And this is the time where you can take a step back and say, "Look, I've got to think beyond the skills that I'm doing in this job and think about who I am as a person, and what are the unique talents and abilities that I have, regardless of what job I'm in." And then the next thing I would tell them is just have conversations, have these networking connections where you can build relationships with people who are working on things that you think you might want to do or that you're interested in, but really just don't even know how to get there. And through that personal research and asking those questions, you're going to start to get a couple ideas of what to do next.

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:24

Most of the episodes you've heard on Happen To Your Career showcase stories of people that have taken the steps to identify and land careers that they are absolutely enamored with, that match their strengths, and are really what they want in their lives. If that's something that you're ready to begin taking steps towards, that's awesome. And we want to figure out how we can help. So here's what I would suggest. Take the next five seconds to open up your email app and email me directly. I'm gonna give you my personal email address, scott@happentoyourcareer.com. Just email me and put conversation in the subject line. And when you do that, I'll introduce you to someone on our team who can have a super informal conversation with and we'll figure out the very best type of health for you, whatever that looks like. And the very best way that we can support you to make it happen. So send me an email right now with conversation in the subject line.

Scott Anthony Barlow 35:16

Here's a sneak peek into what we have coming up in store for you next week.

Speaker 3 35:22

I had just tried so many different things trying to find my niche, trying to find my thing, you know, that I was made to do, and I just never found it. And I just felt like I've been looking for so long and trying for so long, and I've never been able to find it. So it must not be a possibility for me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 35:40

As you're listening to my voice right now, that means that you have experienced some kind of setback in life, maybe many setbacks. And what I've learned is that it's not really about the setbacks. It's about how we react to those setbacks that makes the difference between either reaching our goals or letting them slip away. Now when it comes to career change, even high performers are bound to stumble across a few obstacles before ultimately reaching their new career. In fact, I would say that high performers even will encounter more obstacles because they're often reaching higher. Turns out this is exactly what happened to Sarah Hawkins.

Scott Anthony Barlow 36:22

All that and plenty more next week right here on Happen To Your Career. Make sure that you don't miss it. And if you haven't already, click subscribe on your podcast player so that you can download this podcast in your sleep and you get it automatically. Even the bonus episodes every single week, sometimes multiple times a week. Until next week, adios. I'm out.

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