Career Makeover: Laurie Wiker

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Laurie Wiker worked in banking for 14 years, assuming various positions. Over the course of her career, she worked in project management, quality assurance, and training and development with the same employer. Her final position was assistant vice president in information security.

Career goals

Laurie is transitioning her career from banking to the health and wellness industry. In pursuit of that goal, Laurie has completed wellness coach training and obtained certification in personal training.

Currently, she is working two part-time jobs in her new field. One is at Cardio-Kinetics, a provider of preventive medicine and exercise service. She is also freelancing for the as a wellness columnist.

She will need another source of income or another opportunity to help her replace her previous income.

Laurie Wiker

Profile: Laurie assumed many roles in the banking industry, but wants to shift into a health and wellness job.
The problem: Laurie faces two of the classic problems of anyone seeking a new career path.
The plan: To change careers, Laurie should focus on changing her role and then her industry — or vice versa.


Laurie faces two of the classic problems of anyone seeking a new career path:

  • She wants to move into an industry in which she has no directly relevant experience and to do so from an industry that has little in common with her new path.
  • She is being forced to make a change at a time she would not have chosen, when millions of qualified people are on the job market at the same time.

In addition, she lives in a city that is far from the epicenter of the kinds of corporations she would be interested in working for. And to complicate matters, she does not want to relocate until her son graduates from the state university in four years.

Finally, Laurie has made a couple of all-too-common errors in her career marketing.

First, she is trying to be all things to all people in a catch-all resume that lists skills as far apart as project management, event coordination, fund raising, quality assurance, strategic planning, Microsoft Office and vendor relations. These are listed side-by-side, confusing any recruiter or employer doing the screening.

Also, she could be doing more to build relationships and demonstrate her value and may come across as “asking for work” even if she doesn’t specifically state that she’s looking for a job.

In a career transition, this is the main problem that people run into — acting as though they need the work.

Prepared by Alanna Fero, author of “Love Made Visible: Values-Driven Approaches to Work/Life.”

Next: The plan.

The plan

Career change is one of the most difficult transitions any of us ever makes. But Laurie feels passionate about her new direction and is committed to moving from her old career in banking to a new one in the wellness industry.

The plan for Laurie is to break her desire to change roles and change industries into two separate (and therefore more manageable) steps: change industry and then role or change role and then industry.

Step one: Research the top wellness-oriented companies in the market

To break in to any new field, you need to know it well and then look like you belong. You do this by researching the market and creating a market-friendly brand.

Career help in 5 steps
  1. Research the top wellness-oriented companies in her market.
  2. Determine which roles to assume.
  3. Create multiple, fully customized resumes.
  4. Begin networking.
  5. Get training.

Tip: Get the job-hunting basics down by reading “8 great ways to land a job.” In our Spotlight with Dr. Louis Frankel, she explains the concept of branding.

I always tell my clients that they want to be experienced by their ideal employer as a lost member of the tribe, stolen at birth and now miraculously returned to the community.

The first order of business is to know the target. Then she needs to speak their language: borrow the keywords and cultural descriptions they use in their branding and sprinkle them into her profile, skill set and job descriptions. She should choose 10 to 20 keywords from their branding to use in hers.

For example, do they speak of prospects, buyers, clients, customers, members or stakeholders? Those are all words for the people who pay for products or services, but they carry radically different tones.

Step two: Determine which roles to assume

Laurie should determine the kinds of regular roles she could hold in a wellness organization and the kinds of wellness roles she could hold in a regular organization.

Laurie has held many roles in banking that could transfer directly to the world of organic food manufacturing, fitness equipment sales or retreat center operations if she got the mix of vocabulary, tone and “spin” on her experience right.

These options are probably Laurie’s best chance to stay over $60,000 in her salary in her first move.

Laurie also has basic training as a wellness coach and fitness trainer, and she could quite possibly step into a wellness adviser or employee engagement role in a financial organization.

The key will be knowing what job titles are used for these positions, and where these positions fit on the organizational chart in each industry, so she knows where to focus her networking.

This will likely mean Laurie may have to drop down to $35,000 to $50,000 in salary, but it will put her in the best training position for the long term.

Step three: Create multiple, fully customized resumes

For each role, Laurie must create a customized resume — anywhere from three to seven versions of her resume.

Screeners, whether external recruiters or a prospective supervisor, give resumes a quick scan for fit before reading in more detail. They are looking for three to five “must-see” keywords and sounding alarm bells when content doesn’t pass muster.

To earn a closer look and then an interview, especially in an economy where thousands of candidates may be lining up for the same job, you must meet and slightly exceed expectations — and do everything possible not to deviate from them.

Though her own research will ultimately make this determination, Laurie will likely need resumes for training, project management, vendor relations, manufacturer’s representation, quality assurance, wellness coaching and employee engagement.

Step four: Begin networking

Networking may even involve volunteering or interning for the right companies.

Some 75 percent to 85 percent of jobs are never publicly advertised. The ticket to a new career is relationship-building.

Yes, Laurie should certainly respond to postings with the appropriate resume. And she should also put resumes on file with specialized recruiters in those areas.

But, more importantly, she needs to get out there and do some industry research.

She can add to this some targeted volunteering or even an unpaid internship that would put her in the company of people who might be her supervisors, peers or clients in her ideal job.

What is critical here is not to ask for work. Even without using the words, “asking for a job” is a tone, an energy, an attitude, a neediness. It comes through when candidates talk and it holds them back.

Finally, Laurie needs to send some exploratory letters, have some phone chats, then in-person meetings, and then continue to follow up every few weeks by e-mail, just touching base and keeping the relationship current.

If she does this with 50 to 100 well-chosen people in the companies of interest to her, the odds are in her favor to receive an offer in three to six months.

Step five: Get training

When Laurie does land a wellness position, she should negotiate ongoing professional development as part of the employment package.

Once hired, she should request training specific to the position as well as mentorship that will allow her to develop relationships and grow her skill set.

Alanna Fero

Prepared by Alanna Fero, author of “Love Made Visible: Values-Driven Approaches to Work/Life.”

Next: Career Makeover: Char Winckowski.