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KYV's reboot-your-career camp: How to expand your pipeline of job opportunities

Anne Nichelson updates Know Your Value on her job search and how she is working on pivoting and ‘reimagining’ her potential.
Anne Nichelson, 40, was laid off amid the Covid-19 pandemic and is currently looking for new opportunities.
Anne Nichelson, 40, was laid off amid the Covid-19 pandemic and is currently looking for new opportunities.Courtesy of Anne Nichelson.

Author Jennifer Folsom is partnering with Know Your Value’s A-list roster of experts to launch REBOOT Camp, a series featuring women who have lost their jobs amid Covid-19 and are struggling with their employment search amid uncertain times.

We are following their journeys, their highs, and lows, in hopes that sharing their experience will help others looking to reboot their careers as well.

When we last checked in with Anne Nichelson, she had worked with a career coach to get clear on what type of job she wanted next: running community partnerships and driving social impact for corporations.

Nichelson, a Massachusetts single mother of two young boys, was laid off from a leadership role at a national non-profit due to Covid-19 in June of 2020. She is one of 5.4 million women who have lost their jobs due to pandemic-related fallout.

With a new, highly-focused search, Nichelson networked her way into a first-round interview for her “dream job” leading social impact for a Fortune 500 company she admired. She diligently prepared, researched the bios and LinkedIn profiles of her interviewers. Nichelson also re-read the job description and developed talking points to highlight her capabilities. She surveyed the posted interview questions on the company’s Glassdoor profile and gave her references a heads up that she would be sharing their contact information. She even spiffed up her home office background for her Zoom interview and picked out a great, confidence-inspiring interview outfit. We connected the day before and I was impressed with her preparation; she was ready.

But, as it often is with working moms, a curve ball was thrown her way. Nichelson's preschooler was sent home to quarantine for 14 days due to a Covid-19 exposure, which meant that both boys would be home during her big Zoom interview. Once again, Nichelson was prepared. She arranged to alternate quarantine kid duty with a family member in her pod. If this last year has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. This is the time to build and nurture your village and to be there for your people, so that they can be there for you.

Anne Nichelson and her son, 4.
Anne Nichelson and her son, 4.Courtesy of Anne Nichelson.

Fill the jobs pipeline

Despite her confidence, enthusiasm, and tremendous preparation, Nichelson didn't have a good feeling about her interview afterwards. “Something just felt off,” she told me. “I think I did fine, but I got the impression that they may have had someone else already in mind and my experience may not be exactly aligned.” For example, when asked how her prior experience related to this role, the recruiter’s response was, well, a little flat. And then there was a lag in communication on feedback and next steps.

“What would help right now is someone who could look at my resume and ask me good questions about what I enjoy doing and what motivates me and offer a variety of roles for me to consider,” Nichelson told me. “I need someone who could offer a fresh perspective and could help me ‘reimagine’ my potential and think creatively about applying my skill set...and potentially pivot.”

While Nichelson’s prior job coaching work resulted in a highly-focused search, the reality is that there aren’t that many roles available for exactly what she was looking for. She needed a way to think about jobs that are available right now, that are close enough to what she’s looking for to be a good long-term fit. In other words, she needed more jobs in her search pipeline.

I love it when a job seeker knows what they need, and more importantly, asks for help. To keep her job search momentum going, I went back to my A-list roster of experts to see who could provide a fresh perspective.

I reached out to Anna Boyd, a certified executive leadership coach, to see if she would be willing to work with Nichelson to expand her pipeline of potential job opportunities.

Nichelson and Boyd developed a list of organizations and roles that are close to her dream job. For example, Boyd helped Nichelson identify traditional growth or leadership roles at companies with missions that align with Nichelson’s values and drive social impact. She realized “corporate social responsibility'' didn’t have to be in the job title.

Nichelson maintained her job search focus, but opened the aperture of her search parameters to ensure that she had sufficient opportunities. “This was a good reminder that I need to continue applying for a range of positions,” said Nichelson.

Keep your tank filled

Everyone knows that the job search process is emotionally draining. Add in a global pandemic, and virtual schooling, and it’s no wonder so many women are running on empty. I asked my friend and executive leadership coach Dr. Kiban Turner for advice on staying upbeat, thinking she would rattle off her top three tips. Instead, in her characteristically direct fashion, she told me, “yeah, that’s a really hard one.”

"Look for ways to do what you love, even if you don't get paid,” said Turner. “Using your skills can help build your confidence and it gives you something to talk about with potential employers. It's also a good way to build your network and get more people referring you for jobs. Doing this a small amount, even one afternoon a week, can make a difference in how you feel."

Something that has really impressed me about Nichelson is her ability to stay upbeat. So how does Nichelson continue to bring the big energyand optimism? She practices positive self-talk, plays with her boys outside and away from her phone, and has maintained a running routine. Like me, she has found critical comfort throughout this trying year during regular walks with her girlfriends.

Lessons YOU can learn from Nichelson

1. Prepare for the worst

Nichelson, always the planner, had a back up care situation for

her son. We all remember and miss “precedented times,” but until then, plan for what happens if you get ill, the power goes out, or you struggle from a bandwidth issue. Test the platform (Meet, Teams, etc.) on your phone and your computer so if one is being wonky, you have a back up.

2. Ask for feedback

Nichelson’s instincts were right, she didn’t advance to the next round of interviews for that dream job. But she did the hard thing and asked for feedback from the recruiter, where she learned that she was very overqualified for this role. This feedback helped Nichelson adjust her search parameters to roles for which she’s better suited.

3. Find YOUR way to keep your gas tank full

This job search, particularly if it drags on, will take it out of you. You have to find what’s going to work for YOU to stay positive and upbeat, and then you have to make that happen. The research supports Nichelson’s strategy: move your body, outside, with the people you love.

The big takeaway here? It’s crazy times, anticipate challenges and brainstorm workarounds. Prepare for an emotional roller coaster, and call on your own personal board of advisors, or a career coach if that’s in the budget, to help maintain your job search momentum and guide you through the word of the year: PIVOT. And while you’re busy pivoting, make “filling your

tank” an essential function of your job search. “I know that the right fit is out there for me,” said Nichelson. “I'm confident in what I have to offer.”

Nichelson’s game plan is to continue to stoke the job search pipeline with a slightly expanded set of criteria for target roles. She is continuing to network and is having lots of informational interviews. She is also exploring ways she can either volunteer or consult to keep her skills fresh, expand her network, all while doing something she loves.

Jennifer Folsom is vice president of growth at ICF Next. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband Ben and has three teenage sons. Her practical guide to modern working motherhood," The Ringmaster," is out now.