My associates and I come in touch with candidates (or their CVs) looking for a career change for a whole variety of reasons, such as:
- Career Burnout
- Career Interests / Passion Changes (we do evolve after all)
- Been forced in Wrong Career
- Negative Job Outlook in your Expertise
- Technological Evolutions make Jobs Obsolete
- Change of Values & Priorities (e.g. switching to nonprofit sector)
- Personal Reasons (e.g. family relocation, financials, etc.)
- Other – such as age discrimination.
Switching careers in any case, is a difficult decision which is wrought with many other complex issues.
The easiest thing is to job- hunting within industries and role-types where you have already built- up ample professional experience and ideally roles where you have proven yourself. On the other hand if your career has become stagnant, a switch would be most likely the right move for you so you can get your career going again.
Over the years, I have read several books and articles on Career Changing, but to my humble opinion, I have not found the definitive Golden Path to career switching. But I do welcome any relevant advice, so I can share it and help people succeed. Meanwhile, kindly allow me to offer some suggestions please.
Career Switching tips
Please keep in mind that this is a just partial list:
1. Start with a Self- Assessment
Just take the time for a real inventory of your accomplishments so far, your sharpened skills, and also YOU as a person; that will help you to define and itemize all your transferable experience and skills.
2. How will your future employer perceive you?
Simply ‘view’ your career/ work- history through your future employer’s eyes:
Has your career path till now been a consistent one? In what ways?
Does it show natural progression? Have you acquired more skills and responsibilities?
Have you always met all your KPIs and got 100% of any annual bonus you every had?
Employers they never view directionless job-hopping as a positive thing. It is a lot different to change jobs to get more and diversified experience and responsibilities and it is a lot different if you were: an office manager for 3 years, a restaurant manager for the next 3, a dj for the last 2 years and a real estate agent in between… and now you want to become a marketer.
3. Focus Your ‘Switching Effort’.
It seems to be a Best Practice if you focus all your job hunting in just 2 or 3 target industries. But do use google and do extensive industry research -including news resources, so you do become familiar with:
- Current challenges and opportunities (e.g. you are looking for a job in car sale? such google ‘current challenges in automobile sales’, for example)
- Check daily on news and issues affecting your targeted industries
- Subscribe and read, relevant Industry-newsletters – there are so many of these in the internet
- Start using the ‘relevant’ terminology/ lingo/ language/ industry terms & buzzwords
- Find out who are the Key Players in your geographic area; also prospects and culture
- What is the Growth or Contraction Rates for that industry? Become familiar with those numbers, so you can also ‘carry’ them on during a formal or informal interviewing conversation.
4. What is YOUR Value.
Having done all of the above 3 steps, might help you in figuring out what is the special value that you could offer in the new Industry/ Market where you are doing your Career Switch.
Get a clear and very thorough understanding of what your previous professional experience has in common with the targeted industry. Use the new industry language’ to translate the relevance of your career accomplishments & all functional expertise, into terms that will be meaningful to the people (interviewers, hiring managers, future colleagues) in your new industry.
Kind ‘reminder’: Use quantifiable accomplishments and achievements accompanied by numerical amounts such as currency units, percentages, etc, especially if you are a senior job- hunter.
Kind suggestion: see Whitmore’s SMART Model to do all these.
What makes you uniquely qualified over another candidate who has the industry background? Think about it.
5. ‘Sell’ your Strengths
Simple example: if you are applying for a marketing role, select and highlight any marketing elements from all your previous jobs, downplaying all other, less relevant aspects. Show confidence in your abilities and your past achievements.
Sometimes, your strengths are to be found also in quantifiable achievements in community, voluntary, part-time or temporary work;. Never assume that specific skills or added relevant qualifications do not count – they all count. But be extremely selective of all these: use and include only information that is relevant; otherwise you’ll blur the focus of your CV.
As a Headhunter, I do not include nor do I mention my cooking & singing skills.
6. Are you …’MOOCing’?
So you think that you want to try a new career in that particular field but you never bother to follow some MOOCs on Coursera or EdX or NovoEd or FutureLearn or OpenStudy or the African Management Institute?
In 2016 and in dealing with younger recruiters: lack of MOOCs in your CV translates to lack of motivation for a career change.
(MOOCs=Massive Open Online Courses; a lot of them are free or low cost)
Kind suggestion: if you plan to switch to the nonprofit sector, kindly consider following the free 7 courses of Philanthropy University (PhilanthropyU.org), so that you can familiarize yourself with the sector, the current thinking an the relevant terminology.
7. Include a Cover Letter – Always!
This is the ideal place to explain the why and the how of your career change and highlight your skills and how bringing them to that new role will benefit the employer- company.
Grow your network / expand it to include people in your new industries.
Don’t just LinkedIn- connect with them! Talk to them too- meet them, please!
These people might be able to give you job leads, offer you all sorts of advice and information about the industry or even a particular company or what salary to expect, etc.
Ask them to introduce you to others and keep continuously expanding your network.
You can broaden your network also through joining professional organizations, finding alumni from your school or even via conducting informational interviews.
9. Find a Mentor.
Changing careers is a major life decision that can get overwhelming at times. Find a mentor who can help you go through all these rough rides.
A mentor does not have to be a highly- placed manager or director and s/he could also help you by taking advantage of his/ her network.
10. What Else?
- If you are senior enough in your field, you should explore doing some consulting work to prove your skills are transferable.
- Maybe your job-search should focus on SMEs that may not have the means to fill key roles.
- Consider volunteering for a not-for-profit organization both as a way to gain valuable experience and new networking contacts in your target industry.
- Recruiters will rarely help you because they are paid by their clients to ‘deliver’ candidates whose skills and experience exactly match their requirements.
- Work for a Startup
Are StartUps Ideal for Career Switching?
My husband swears by it! He has been involved wit several startups and he has seen people going in with one role and in a few years finding themselves having happily switched into another role/ functional area in the same startup.
Basically in a small evolving company, all employees -especially the senior ones- wear many hats, so one finds frequently himself/herself faces with a task tat needs to be done and there is no one around with relevant skills, so you have to train yourself almost instantly. I can see it been feasible in an IT startup where you need to pick up a new programming language within ..’seconds’ but I have no knowledge of whether that is realistic in other industries.
The Good News
Industry-changers frequently bring many advantages to a new employer:
- A completely Fresh perspective to find new solutions
- “Rainmaker” reputation
- New commercial contacts and connections
- Experience in a “best-of-breed,” highly recognized organization, regardless of industry (e.g IBM or Johnson & Johnson)
- Turnaround or restructure experience
Networking is the most effective way into the new industry, so focus on building a network in your targeted industries. Join organizations where you will meet contacts, and attend conferences and trade shows. Companies will be more willing to take risks on you if you’ve been referred to them by individuals who can attest to your abilities and potential.
The most successful type of career change involves staying in the same functional area, but transferring your skills to a different industry. Be prepared for a possibly longer job- search.
The final decision on which candidate to hire, is always about the candidate who is the most convincing about producing desired measurable/ quantifiable results and creating practical solutions to current challenges.
If you know your own skillset and strengths, understand the new industry and have built a new active professional network, you will be well positioned to be the successful candidate.
Good Luck please.