Guest author: Oliver Fink, University of Basel
“Don’t just focus on the work. Find people who are what you want to be and who can provide support for the transition. But don’t expect to find them in your same old social circles. Break out of your established network. Branch out. Look for role models—people who give you glimpses of what you might become and who are living examples of different ways of working and living. Most of us seek to change not only what we do; we also aspire to work with people we like and respect and with whom we enjoy spending our precious time.”
In career transitions, you’re not just changing your work, but also the type of network/people you want to be a part of.
Luckily, I worked already in a research setting before I set out on this path myself. Even in a completely different field than the one I would engage in, so not the classic ‘networking’ as you normally understand it, my exposure gave me an idea about the type of processes and people I was about to meet – their preferences, what was important to them, what they disliked and how they ‘functioned’.
I realize, this is difficult in the current time, but still possible, for example online. As a researcher, I’m still part of my research network, talks, colloquia, scientific conferences. The topics discussed are normally of big interest to me, but they also sharpen my skills and conceptual thinking even if I’m tired of virtual meetings. As entrepreneur, my new network needs to grow, so I engaged in the according virtual meetings I came across via different channels, either the university or old business contacts.
Also, indirect exposure is possible. I have always been an avid reader and most of my role models like activist researchers or social entrepreneurs, I haven’t met in person. If you are completely stuck, ask yourself which networks did you expose yourself to although you didn’t have to?
The only way to make a career change is by shifting connections from the core to the periphery of our networks – finding new peer groups, guiding figures and communities of practice; by moving beyond known to unknown networks.
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