Changing careers and career paths is something many of us want to do but don’t know where to start. My guest, Mikaela Contreras, is someone I met because we write for the same publication, Brainz. Living and working in Abu Dhabi as she does, we discuss changing your career trajectory and career path.

Changing Careers. Changing Career Paths |

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so my guest today is michaela contreras
michaela is a career leadership coach
who helps professionals get clear on
their values strengths motivators and
vision to be able to spearhead their
career in a desired direction the
majority of our clients are hr
hr people and professionals but she also
coaches people from all industries and
catch that one continents
thank you so happy to be here
thank you and where in the world are
you well i am in abu dhabi of all places
it's very hot and steamy here
welcome to abu dhabi
hot and steamy
exactly exactly so folks we're going to
be talking about
changing careers
changing your career path
you know i'll start us you know with an
easy question
how does someone start doing this what's
the approach someone should take in in
beginning this process of of changing
careers and career paths
yeah that's a million dollar question
isn't it
10 million we have inflation
well i i think i think a common mistake
many do when we are changing career is
that we are
normally quite
keen and desperate to go somewhere else
anywhere else because there's a reason
we want to change
um and so we do we are diving head first
into whatever is new and and throwing
our cvs out and hoping it will stick
but there are a few
steps before
getting to that stage and it's really to
figure out what you actually want to do
you know the question you get when you
were a child like what do you want to be
when you grow up and it's
who knows the answer to that question
but every question is what are you like
doing what do you like doing
um and it makes it a little bit easier
because the first thing you need to
figure out is what do you actually like
spending time on
um so answering that question as the
number one
is the crucial first step to to to
getting further
a lot of questions that we would
continue on that but that's
really if we are getting from the
absolute start that's the first question
you need to ask yourself
so it's what do you like doing that
could be in your current job an
avocation anything whatsoever what do
you like doing and i i sometimes think
that with many people
they just need to also give voice to
what they don't like doing
you know from a coaching perspective i
so often work with people who aren't
clear about anything
so i know they know how to be negative
so they can tell me what's wrong
uh and then i start flipping it to the
positive but ultimately the goal is what
do you like doing
exactly and that's a good point that
you're making we we tend to
it's much easier for us to focus on what
we don't like or we're not good at
um and because after you figure out a
little bit more of what you like doing
you should focus in what am i good at
um but people are very have find it very
very difficult to figure out what
they're good at so i do the same as you
do i flip it on the other side okay what
are you bad at
because there's no really counterpart if
you're bad at presenting in front of
you tend to be a good listener
for example if you're good if you're bad
at planning you tend to be quite good at
um your plan in the last minute and be
more flexible and adaptable so
flipping it on its head is a very good
way to approach it and
no matter if you ask what do you like
doing or what am i good at
so for hr professionals
when i think of
what they're good at
i tend to think about
navigating bureaucracy
getting people to communicate
more effectively
um herding cats
to use uh
excuse me you're you're in abu dhabi i'm
in the u.s herding cats basically
translates into just in case it needs
translation for the international
audience it's getting people to do
things that they may not be
desirous of doing
but you're kind of making the cat do
hurting cats
what other sorts of things do you tend
to hear
as you coach people
about what they're good at
just so i can i can tickle the
audience's thinking
so um in terms of what you're good at
and people tend to
find things like uh the typical thing
that most people feel like they're good
at is working with other people
and so
the interpret maybe because i work with
a lot of people oriented people but um
one of the strengths tend to be working
with other people and understanding um
how to
build rapport and and and see it from
other people's perspective and empathy
compassion comes in a lot when i coach
my clients
um and it's really that
part of emotional intelligence which is
crucial if you're in an hr role because
it's exactly as they say it's hurting
cats it's hurting
a bunch of people who are experts in
their things and think that their thing
is a priority and to get them to go
listen to your advice and go into
to the sort of the path that you're
trying to pay
and it's definitely a challenge for many
and folks if you were listening to this
as a podcast i started breaking up
laughing uh when michaela was talking
about i know i know what i'm doing
i don't need any help
obviously i do
and we all need help
it's the attitude globally
i can handle this no problem whatsoever
so we're starting off by talking about
what do you do well
identifying those qualities that you
people like doing and they do well
unique talents or skills they have
things along those lines too
that make them even further stand out
yeah no absolutely so there are a few
things that you can try normally it's
very hard to under i identify
what you love doing or what you're good
at in yourself because a lot of people
do those things come natural to you
it's something that you have
brought with you your entire life so
something that feels completely
you know as part of you
would be considered as a unique skill
for someone at someone else so sometimes
it's hard to identify those superpowers
that you have you don't even realize
you're having them because it's so
normal to you
um and one way to identify those is
really to
if you are looking from a working work
environment and or of a career
aspect the best thing is to go through
sit down with your cv look at your cv
and think about what did i do really
really well in this role what kind of
situations did they excel in
you know australia salt and what did i
to make that happen and that would
make it a bit more concrete in granular
because all of this question can be a
little bit fluffy
um and we don't want fluffy want we want
actionable things to
and to go on so we can make changes and
we can make decisions and we can go down
the road that we want to go down so we
want to take all this internal
reflection and you know soft stuff and
we want to look at concrete things that
we can follow so
by doing that it makes it a bit more
if you
made something really positive happen in
one of your roles like what did you what
what did you do you know how did you act
what did you say who did you speak to
um when you hit a challenge you know how
did you overcome it how did what did you
how did you handle that obstacle that
came in your way
and was it by being really
politically correct or was it to be
really direct in your communication how
did you communicate to get what we
wanted and that makes it a bit more easy
to identify the actually specific skills
that you can take with you into your
next role
excellent and it sounds like we're
starting off with getting clearer
what are your abilities
where are you excellent or as i like to
say where are you world class
where are you the best to breathe and it
and you're really effective at it
getting clear is what we've been talking
about so far what's the next step in the
process for someone
when they get really clear on what they
want and what they're good at then
obviously we want to look more
externally like what can you do with
this you know what your superpowers are
and what you would love to do but the
next step is to actually go into
a direction
and there might be a lot of things that
sounds good like being a rock star or
you know space man
and but we also have to be quite
realistic about it and it's it's not
something that lots of culture coaches
actually advocate for because it's
always always about following your dream
and of course you should follow your
dream but we want to make something
realistic too
we want to do some research we want to
look at you know with my skills and with
my motivation and with with my interests
what can i do that the world needs
what's out there what opportunities are
there where i can really execute this
as non-sexy as it sounds you're gonna
have to do some research
um and actually
look into what
where is the world going you know look
at industries that interest you you know
what are the new trends going on and
where might there be a gap or where
might your superpower fit into it and it
doesn't have to be existing roles though
because new roles are being created
every day
you know who
if 10 years ago we didn't have diverse
and inclusion managers and now we do
it's almost given in a river and so
think about things that
companies actually need and that can
give value
and and start
start to look into those companies
follow their companies connect with
people that work there
and do that research and start to to to
develop your network within those areas
that you're interested in
and in the area of practicality and
again an extreme example if your desire
to be an employee poet
and you expect to make 150 000 a year as
an employee of a hedge fund doing
reading poetry to people
i don't think there's a career for you
doing that let alone compensation
the goal is to figure it out
and to have the conversations with
people so you can learn
what you can accomplish
and what might be
outside of bounds and maybe you do it as
a hobby as a side hustle
where you can experiment with that and
get some of the pleasure there
and also different types of pleasure in
the workplace as well how was that for a
wow yeah that's a basic summary it's
very good and it's actually ties into
something i always say you should whine
and die and experiences just like you
would whine and die um
dates you know because we don't find the
um on the first date you're going to
have to date a lot of frogs before you
get your prince for places
and it's the same with with your dream
job you're going to have to wine and die
lots of experiences before you find
and thus having those conversations with
folks allows you to learn what the
realities are of what you're thinking of
because hopefully you're whining and
dying dining princes and princesses uh
who are doing this kind of work at
different organizations
and talking with them about what the
reality is what they like about it where
the problems show up and getting an
understanding of what it's really like
because again using that example of the
hedge fund poet
you know what you know i like to do zen
poetry i sit in a small room
think to myself and write and there are
all these people yelling around me not
probably a good environment for me to
write poetry so
starting to learn the reality of what it
is that you're thinking of doing
so that you can adapt a little bit
seems to make sense right
absolutely yeah absolutely and
to be honest if you can pitch a hedge
fund the value of you doing poetry for
there might be your job in there for you
because it's all about giving value
and ideally using your network to get
the introduction because i don't think
you're going to see a job ad
for a hedge fund poet anywhere
no you want you're going to have to be
proactive which is another thing that is
crucial if you want to change career
agree what's the next step in the
process michelle
well using it we already touched on it
but it has to be um
using your network um to
to get to that next stage because you
want clarity and you want research you
want insights and then you have to go
and do actions because we can study and
we can research and we can talk and we
can reflect but ultimately we have to
make decisions and we have to take
actions to get somewhere
and and
talking to people
and connecting with people engage with
go to events
might not be a huge amount of rates now
they're starting to to come back but
there are a lot a lot a lot of
virtual events and and webinars and i
think something that kirby brought with
it it's actually that we have very few
um boundaries now we can go to events in
you know and we can go to events in
sweden we can go to events in nigeria
because we can really really explore and
we can connect with people
from all over the world to be able to
create more opportunities because that's
ultimately what we want to do if you
want to
find something new if you want to change
career we need to create opportunities
and you do that by talking to people by
networking by creating that value
and formulate that to to to those
connections so
i don't like to work
like to use the word sell sale or sales
um because people get really scared of
it but ultimately you have to sell
yourself and your value and who you are
and that's how you will be able to move
and perhaps the substitute term might be
persuade people
instead of sell people
persuade people that you have something
of value that you can bring to their
organization so you're not selling
you're persuading
so it sounds like the next step is you
know we're continuing the conversations
piece and
and the conversations can take place
online in person
any number of different ways and you're
right code has changed the dynamics
so we're not always meeting for coffee
or tea
although in some parts of the world
that's certainly viable again
but it's the notion that
engaging in conversations now i know in
or online conversations people are
sometimes reticent to use chat to reach
out to someone and say i'd like to speak
with you after this is over
could you give me your email address
or your mobile numbers so we can set up
a time to speak
but isn't that a great way of doing it
yeah definitely
it's a great way of doing it and to be
honest i
i love networking with people
face-to-face so i can understand the uh
awkwardness of trying to do it online
uh and it has taken me quite some time
to get more
comfortable doing it myself so i
completely understand that but it's a
great way to connect with people you can
it's great way to engage with people but
you want to take that to the next level
and that is by asking them
should we meet off certain media
would you be able to have a chat
outside social media and i think that
people are starting to get quite
social media fatigue anyway so
i think you would be surprised by how
many would be open to just have a 10
minute chat or a 50 minute call on zoom
to connect with people on a more
face-to-face level although virtually
so you have gym or
provide ways that you can connect with
folks and as i understand in the new new
version of facetime uh you can
communicate with people uh who are on
android uh and on windows devices so you
it's more platforming
uh independent now than it was
yeah yeah i didn't know that actually
but yeah and whatsapp is a great tool
too it's very easy to just connect with
whatsapp too although not yesterday
because everything was down but
of course so how do we find these people
to talk to to build our network with
so you can have these conversations
um i'm a massive linkedin fan
um i think linkedin is an amazing tool i
am not affiliated with linkedin in any
way so i'm not gonna pay for saying that
but i think that linkedin is a good tool
if you want to have more professional
um that doesn't mean that you don't have
to put on our persona and be i think you
should bring all your your whole self to
the platform
um it's all about personal branding so
show them who you are
um but i think linkedin is a great tool
because you can
going back to when i said doing research
you can find those companies those
industries that interest you and then
you from there find people who are
connected to those so you can connect
with them via linkedin
so you can
message them you can you know connect it
that way jeff yeah
and i i have connected with so many
interesting people
through linkedin platform uh it's a
great tool and they're it's just growing
and growing and growing and what's
interesting with it is that
it's in a place where facebook was a few
years ago where
you can still
um be a bit you can stand out by being
engaged in the platform not everyone
there's a lot of background lurkers on
linkedin and so by being someone who
is building your personal brand showing
up on linkedin
posting your opinions or sharing ideas
you will actually you're having a unique
and unique opportunity to build your
personal brand and show a professional
network who you are
and that's a really really good way if
you want to take it a step further
yes and i noticed in terms of messaging
people you can now do
video conversations over the messenger
app not just simply scheduling zoom
blue jeans or whatever platform
they were previously emphasizing teams
of course because it's owned by
you can now do native messaging on video
with someone so you can set up the time
and date and just communicate through
messaging app
over video or of course use whatever
platform you're more comfortable with
but the idea is making the personal
connection with someone wherever they
are in the world
yeah that's it and
it's it's a brilliant point you don't
only have to be
doing it
have this video function that you can
connect with people on
um and anyone who has any
um idea about communication we know
their body language is the biggest part
of communication and eternal voice is
the next one and what we actually say is
just about seven to seven percent or
something of of our communications to be
able to do those
video messages you can also convey your
personality and what you're saying in a
much more effective way so it helps
those like me
think i'm much better at connecting with
people through
face-to-face communications than text
and you have a better
shot of conveying who you are and what
you can bring to the table and for those
of you who are uh better with
face-to-face and we're dealing
cross-boundary i always think of i've
started using a service called drift
where you can create short videos and
use that as the way of messaging someone
you know i
i believe you and i connected i sent you
a 30-second video that basically said hi
thanks for reaching out to connect i'm
curious what prompted you to do so
and what can i do to help you message me
we started to have the conversation
about you appearing on the show and you
explained where the commonality of
connection was and
here we are and folks you can do much
the same thing where you're saying
you know i'm interested in a career like
i don't have that background currently i
want to learn from you about what it's
really like to work in the field can we
set up a 10-minute conversation over
video or in person from the same city to
have that conversation it works like a
yeah yeah definitely and you introduced
me to drift video it was just amazing i
was it's a game changer for me
i think it's it's a great way to connect
with people
because ultimately um when you want to
create opportunities when you want to
change your career or if you just want
to explore something that is different
or new
it is connecting with others about
it's about engaging with others it's
learning new things and ultimately that
is about talking to others so it comes
down to making those connections and and
speaking to people and
and showing them who you are and i think
if you just
go back a little bit to my coaching
one thing that i
tend to
focus quite a lot of
it's about
empowering people to bring their whole
to to the game because we have been
taught that we should show up as a
professional persona but actually people
connect with people and bringing your
whole self
um to those conversations and to those
interviews it will it will get you
without a doubt
we've got more steps here
what's the next step in the process for
next step after connecting to people
so after you connect with people you um
need to engage with them obviously and
you then you need to you want to convert
that you want to convert that connection
that engagement into
a new opportunity
so it's about bringing the conversation
this is a very nice chat to
i can bring value to you
so by doing that you need to be super
clear again you need to be super clear
what you want to do what you can bring
what your value is
and you need to be very very confident
in conveying that
so it's about not playing small but
playing big
and being able to communicate your value
to those conversations
because that is when you
will ultimately
land the job because it doesn't matter
that you
have a really nice
diploma from a nice school if you can't
convey how that will bring value to the
company or the opportunity that you want
to pursue
so being able to communicate your value
to the person that you're connecting
with or to that company that you want to
really go for
is really crucial so it's not just
what you want
what you're good at the opportunities
out there but to bring it all together
you need to be super clear on the value
and you need to be confident
in presenting that value
that confidence is so important and i
know people become fearful
when they've engaged in a conversation
where maybe they're collecting
information and now they're going to
take that information and try and be
persuasive not selling
about your ability to support support
that firm
how do you suggest people
to switch the conversation from
information gathering to the actual
or the
this is what i think i can do for you
part of the conversation
yeah good question
i think it's about first
um not approach people
with intention i'm going to start to say
them persuaded to to take me on but
approach people and conversations
with curiosity and interest
and have more
genuine authentic conversations and see
it as making connections and learning
and once you get to a stage when you
think actually this might be a good fit
this is interesting for both parts
then i then ask lots of questions that
you think that you can answer so ask
lots of questions to figure out what are
the pain points why are the gaps what
if they had the money and
time in the world like what would they
want to create and try to get as much
information as possible
and then say
you know what
this that you mentioned here
i've done something similar before
um and that led to xyz would you be
interested in having a conversation how
i can bring value to you
and i wouldn't go for a hard pitch in
the beginning because
i think most of us have been getting
those really hot pictures before and
it's a bit off-putting
but it's about actually
generally see that you can bring value
to it and ask
is it okay if i can
present what i could potentially do for
you and if it's not an opportunity now
perhaps this can happen in the future or
near future or perhaps i can do it in a
another scale perhaps you don't need a
full-time employee but
i would be open to do this project for
so that's another thing not always
someone looking for a full-time employee
if you are someone who
is trying to make a very different kind
of career move
it might be a really good idea to take
on a project where you show your skills
or and where you prove that you can
bring value and that can sometimes um
bring it and bring new opportunities on
actually one of my close friends here in
america did that recently um in my my
husband introduced him to his company
and he had a conversation and he said
you know they they agreed on him doing a
three-week project and then he ended up
getting this full-time
position that because he proved himself
and the value he can bring so if you're
open to
new avenues that could be a really good
way to go
i agree with you wholeheartedly folks
i'll just point out very obviously
why should they hire you
after all you haven't been doing what
they want you to do
what's in it for them i know what you
want but what's in it for them and the
notion of offering to do a project for
gives them a test case
where they're giving us something that's
of some value to them probably not the
most important thing on their plates but
it's something of value to them and
assuming that you do great work
suddenly you have an
and you're able to be more persuasive
because you've demonstrated something to
you it's a great story mckayla do you
like people volunteering
as well
should they excuse me be paid for work
it's a difficult question
i know that there are
people advocating both things i think
you should be
i guess it depends on what you're trying
to pursue
um because sometimes we
tend to agree to do lots lots of work
for free
and because we don't feel confident to
ask to get paid for it
um and and actually you want to be
for what you're doing and what you're
doing is bringing value
and and someone paying for that is quite
you know you it's a value so so they
should pay you to do that and the more
they pay you the more value you can add
it's a bit it's a tricky question and
there's no simple answer and that's okay
it's not a simple answer though i think
you should
absolutely if it's if it's if you're
beginning of doing something and you do
something to try to try it out or to
gain a little bit of experience
absolutely you know try it
but be careful to not do too much
unpaid work because
ultimately you are bringing value to
something so you have the right to get
paid for it
i agree
what haven't we covered yet that we
really should
well i think we covered a lot of the
purposes actually i think we've done a
good way to to take it through but
i think that if i if i want to summarize
it and just give a bit of pointers it
would be that
when we are looking to
leave a job or change job or do
something different or we're not happy
where we are
and don't jump in before doing a little
bit of reflection work and research
it would probably the grass is not
greener unless you are you know watering
that grass first so i think you should
be a bit
be a bit careful about jumping head
first into new things before you
know that it's the right thing for you
because that will
that will save you time energy and pain
by by taking it
a little bit slower in the beginning to
be able to get right
i agree wholeheartedly sometimes people
in their desire to get away from
flee to something just as bad
because you haven't taken the time this
is a place where patience is important
patience doesn't have to be multi-year
after all if you're doing multi-years
because you need training in something
that you don't know that's important for
the new role
but this investigation process this
exploration process
this converting an informational
interview into an assignment and thus
the potential for work this doesn't have
to take
a year
doesn't even have to take six months
although if it did
it's no big deal
we just want to make sure that you don't
make this
a mistake going to something out of
where you find yourself in a bad
absolutely absolutely i mean my program
is each week so i promise clarity
and focus
within eight weeks so it definitely
shouldn't take
12 months it doesn't have to be no
no and speaking of which michaela how
can people find out more about you and
the work that you do in your program
well um
connect with me on linkedin if you feel
you feel like you want to it's uh
michaela contreras um and i'm sure that
you can find it through my name if you
search for it otherwise i have a website
and my company is called the
for everyone
yeah so t h e
m i k
o l o g y
dot com
so it basically means democology is the
teachings of michaela so
um it's um
it's the tools and process
that i used on myself and also using my
clients to get that clarity uh
um and really um actionable plans so you
know exactly what to do and
have the confidence to go for it in the
way you want to as well
so that's how i
um how i appreciate really but if you
just want to have a chat just as we said
you know send me a
message i'll be happy to just have a
connection call um like we were in the
real world
um and i'm always always happy to have a
good a good chat so i don't feel
uncomfortable approaching me if that's
the case
and folks don't have the link in the
show notes as a way of making it easy
for you
thank you
and folks we'll be back soon with more
i'm jeff altman the big game hunter you
can visit my website the big game hunter
dot u s i've got thousands of posts
there to help you you can watch them
read them listen to them they will help
you find work more quickly
manage more effectively be a better
handle workplace related issues there's
just a lot of information there to help
you if you're interested in one-on-one
coaching with me you can schedule time
for a free discovery call or schedule
time for coaching
i'd love to help you there's also my
courses there that you can order too
whatever works for you
works for me lastly connect with me on
linkedin in forward slash
in forward slash the big game hunter not
sure that you saw the interview because
i like knowing i'm helping some folks
and once we're connected your network is
going to grow a lot this what tends to
happen is my network is much bigger than
hope you have a terrific day hope you
enjoyed this and most importantly be
take care


Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2200 episodes.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Schedule a discovery call at my website,

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Learn to interview like a pro. “The Ultimate Job Interview Framework” Kindle and print versions are available on Amazon.

Classes On Skillshare

Become a freelancer or hire one on I use it and I may wind up hiring you! To set up your freelance business correctly, you may want to incorporate

Join Career Angles on Facebook and receive support, ideas, and advice in your current career and job.

Connect with me on LinkedIn Mention you listen to the podcast or watch my YouTube channel.

Job Search Going Nowhere? “Diagnosing Your Job Search Problems” for Kindle on Amazon and receive free Kindle versions of “No BS Resume Advice” and “Interview Preparation.”

If you are starting your search, order, “Get Ready for the Job Jungle” on Amazon

Watch my videos on YouTube at, the Job Search TV app for Roku, fireTV or a firestick or for Apple TV, and 90+ smart tv’s.

Since 2007, FlexJobs has been the #1 site for work at home

Thinking of making a career change and need some ideas that fit you. CareerFitter offers a free test and if you want more you can upgrade for the paid version.

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