Step 3 – Take a leap (reach out with an “ask”)

This is the third in our Career Pivot Series – five ideas for engaging transition.

I’ve been hearing from lots of folks lately who are navigating career change and transitions, so I thought I would share some thoughts about a process for adopting an “orienteering” process as you move forward. 

Step 1 – Be Where You Are

Step 2 -Pick One


Reach out and ask for something

One of my own first epiphanies when I first started navigating “beyond” the academic path was the shift in perspective that resulted from reading Maggie Debelius and Susan Bassala’s excellent book, So What Are You Going to Do With That (SWAYGTDWT)?  Basically, their approach is informed by the idea that when it comes to career research, you need to go to people the way you have been trained as an academic researcher to go to articles and books.  

I “yes-and” their idea to say that yes, approach people AND, if you are going to be approaching people, you need to have an “ask.” You can read more of my thoughts about honoring the ask, but the main idea is that asking is very important – it’s how you start to make things happen for yourself – AND you must be specific.

A good example was a recent post to a listserv that I subscribe to. A woman posted to the group that she had experience doing “interviews, surveys, experiments, ethnographies, focus groups, and on-site fieldwork” and she was looking for opportunities to do this work in an applied user experience research context in the Bay Area. Because her ask was so specific, she heard back from a handful of people including a career coach, and someone who referred her to a recruiter. She started meeting people who introduced her to people, who introduced her to people, which brings me to my next point (oh, and she did land a great job too – BTW).

Ask for things on LinkedIn

We have already talked about LinkedIn as a place to educate yourself about career paths, and a place to search for jobs of course, but it is also a place to actively build and grow (and be generous with) your community, which is the long game here. LinkedIn in a space where sharing and asking for things (in the form of connections, information, ideas, events, resources, and opportunities) is not only normalized, but built-into the design of this platform because its importance is well understood. In asking for things, you give others the opportunity to be generous (and you in turn when others ask – it gives you opportunities to be generous yourself).  Give and Take builds community, which will be your support and your connection to opportunity.

What are some of the ways to ask for things on LinkedIn?

On your profile – signal the things that you are looking for by talking about the things that you have done in the past that you would most like to do again in new contexts. List as many details as you can about methodologies and technologies that you use, past clients (if you can talk about them), hint at ideal future clients. Can you give an example of an impact/outcome of your work?

On the newsfeed – “like” and “share” examples of the kinds of things you are interested in (events, articles, people, etc.).

Post – Write and share your own ideas in the form of updates and articles.  You can also ask for things directly (if discreetly), framing it as an interest having to do with a current research project is probably the safest way to go: “I am actively researching Jewish cultural and linguistic symbols in Amsterdam” or “literature, empirical and analytical approaches openness and tolerance” promote events, books, or anything that you are interested in. You never know who might respond. These are people you want to know anyway because they share your interests!

Search – find and make connections in a particular geographical area, find groups to participate in, find organizations of interest to follow, find events (virtual or face-to-face) to participate in/share, and especially, people to informationally interview.

Speaking of Informational Interviewing…..

Jen Polk has made an art out of these, and has amassed a quantity on her website – from PhD to Life. Maybe you can find one or two to reach out to to ask for something.

Or ask me for something! Contact Career Linguist


see Step 4 – Locate “Travel Companions”