The New Rules for Making the Big Leap

It's a brave new networking world. If you're thinking of making the jump to more power, prestige, and pay, be sure to take advantage of it

You never know what the impetus will be—a random conversation with a friend, an article you read online, or a snippet of a radio interview overheard in a cab—when it hits you that you're ready to make the Big Leap—that you're hungry for more power, pay, and prestige.

You may have been thinking Big Leap thoughts for some time, or this recognition of the need for a major change in your career may have come out of the blue. Either way, once the gong sounds in your head, you need to seize the moment and get going.

But how to do that? After all, a Big Leap isn't the same as a lateral move, nor it is about incremental progress on your career path. It's about taking a chance, stepping up, and being willing to be recognized and rewarded. Before you rush to action, you'd be well advised to incorporate the newest career- and job-change imperatives, which we've labeled the New Rules for Making the Big Leap.

Streamline That Résumé

Why new rules? Because professionals looking to make major changes in their career situations can't play by the job search and career management rules set up a generation—or even a decade—ago. In many ways, the workplace has changed more in the past five years than it had in the 20 before that. Influences including social networking, employer and profession research, and networking burnout are factors not to be overlooked in a Big Leap adventure. There's no sense in attacking a new-millennium career move with an old-millennium approach, and that's why we've compiled our list of 10 New Rules for Making the Big Leap.

Take your résumé, for starters. You've got one, of course. That should help you sail across your Big Leap waves, right? Not necessarily. A traditional business résumé may be the last dying member of a family of business communication tools that is all but extinct. We don't use carbon paper or Telex machines anymore—and face it, when was the last time you actually faxed something?—but the stodgy, cliché-ridden traditional résumé keeps on ticking. That won't do for a 2008 Big Leap career move, and that's why New Rule No. 1 on our list is "rid your résumé of stodgy, overwrought jargon."

Take out a red pen (yes, this is an old-fashioned approach, but still effective), and excise any "results-oriented business professional," "meets or exceeds expectations," "deals effectively with all levels of staff" and every other corporate-speak phrase you find. A Big Leap résumé has to read as if a human being wrote it. You can start by talking about yourself the way you would in normal conversation, and writing what you've said. If you don't trust your ability to rid your résumé of stodgy filler, ask a friend to do it, and tell him to be ruthless.

Friends in High Places

You need more than a fresh approach to your résumé in today's fast-paced, Web-based world. In fact, one of the great paradoxes of the seemingly impersonal wired age is how deeply personal and people-oriented it actually is. Think about it: Networking tools, such as LinkedIn, FaceBook, and MySpace, are all about connecting people to each other. True, we don't have the option of face-to-face communicating with everyone in our network, but we can keep in touch with, and keep track of, people more easily than ever before.

If you haven't been a cultivator of relationships in your professional sphere, you'd better start, because a Big Leap absolutely demands the participation of a network. If you are a networker, talk up your Big Leap aspirations with your posse. There's no glory in going it alone, and your friends can not only alert you to opportunities but help you flesh out what your Big Leap should look like.

Much of job searching and networking used to be about who you knew. Now it's about who you can get to, and how to get their attention. Answering online ads and sending your résumé (no matter how jargon-free it is) to human resources isn't going to help you make that Big Leap. So use the Internet, all those great networking tools, and your actual network to find the person you need. And do your research on any companies which interest you, industries you're curious about, and people to whom you need to talk.

Get Out There and Sell Yourself

The other way in which the Net makes job-searching and career-building personal is it all allows you to build your own brand, whether through a blog, a podcast, or YouTube—in addition to any profile you put up on a networking site. Big Leaps are not about jobs per se—they're about ideas. Develop yours (and a following) online, now.

Remember, you are selling yourself and your story. Don't think of yourself as a salesperson? Like it or not, you will have to be. All the above things will help you, but don't overlook the fact that at some point, you will actually have to talk to decision makers. That's why you want to have your story down pat.

No, that doesn't mean making up a version of your life that sounds appealing. It's about being able to tell, in a compelling, concise way, the pertinent facts about yourself and your career to the appropriate parties. It's harder than it sounds, so practice on a few friends. You don't want to stumble when someone asks: "Tell me about yourself." Nor do you want to drone on endlessly about irrelevant accomplishments.

Who you are, where you've come from, and why you're headed in the Big Leap direction are details central to your tale. Practice it, refine it, and share it with as many critical people as you can—people who will tell you whether you're making sense or not. You've probably got a lot of tremendous stories of incidents and people that brought you to this point. Data are less important in your Big Leap trajectory than the ability to create a vision among the people who can (and must) help you.

Yes, it's a new world out there, and you're ready to take your place in it. Read our new rules for making the Big Leap to help you get there.

Business Exchange related topics:Career ChangeExecutive CompensationExecutive SearchHiring Digital TalentSocial Networking

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