Change can be a good thing.
Looking to transition to a new career? You’re not alone. A growing number of people, especially millennials, are jumping into new careers. But that doesn’t mean a career change isn't a difficult process, especially if you’re trying to move to an industry where you don’t have much, if any, experience. Before you make the switch to something new, do your research and follow these five steps.
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1. Consider your options.
Before blindly jumping into something new, consider the why behind your actions — are you unhappy with your current job and find the work unsatisfying? Is it simply the people you work with that are making you want something new? Take some time to reflect on your skills and interests to identify the work that would be the most enjoyable and rewarding for you. Look at your likes and dislikes, your talents, and your ideal work environment. You can also ask around and talk to other people who have moved on from a career similar to yours.
Some industries lend themselves to an easier career transition than others, so look for connections you can build between your current work and what you hope to be doing. There’s a fine line between blindly following your dreams and starting completely over versus pivoting to a slightly related career where you can capitalize on much of your past experience — consider the pros and cons to starting fresh or staying closer to home. Setting strong career goals can help you visualize what you really want and can be a guiding force through your career transition.
2. Grow your network.
The first step to a career change is to build a strong network of people in your current and desired industries. These people can serve as a sort of advisory board to provide advice and guidance for your new job search. Even more importantly, they can often connect you with hiring managers and point you in the direction of open positions. With relatively little experience in your new career, having someone who can vouch for you and open doors can be immeasurable.
Look for additional ways to build your network by connecting with professional groups in person and online. These groups can help you learn more about the industry and what’s going on and can connect you to a wide range of people who can provide connections, advice, or a friendly smile. Push yourself to get out there and attend networking events, ask for advice, and meet a variety of new people — you never know who can connect you to your dream job.
3. Learn the industry and build skills.
Before jumping into something new, do your research and learn about how people work and talk in your new industry. Every industry has its own standard software and required skills. Is there a computer program you have to learn before you can even be considered for a job? Take the time to create a strong arsenal of competitive skills that will be vital to your new position.
Thanks to the internet and online courses, you can learn most skills, like coding and other software programs, fairly quickly and inexpensively. Getting certified or licensed in the right areas, such as earning your ACLS recertification or passing the CPA exam, can also help set you apart. Having these skills not only looks good on a [[resume/cv]] and can get you past the initial screening, but is also vital to performing your job well and being prepared to make a difference in your new industry right away with little on-the-job training.
You may also need to adjust how you communicate. If you’re switching from marketing to finance, be prepared with the terminology and jargon you’ll encounter. Being able to talk the talk proves you understand the industry and helps you hit the ground running. There’s nothing worse than showing up for an interview or the first day on the job and not knowing what people are talking about. Read industry reports, talk to thought leaders, and peruse job postings to get an idea of the most commonly used terms and how you can incorporate them into your [[resume/cv]] and vocabulary.
4. Tweak your [[resume/cv]] and cover letter.
If you’re competing for a job in a new industry with someone who has years of experience, you’re likely already at a slight disadvantage. Your [[resume/cv]] and cover letter can tell the story of who you are and what you can bring to a new organization. In general, you want to focus on the future by highlighting what you can bring to the company. Your previous experience and recognitions may be impressive, but with a career transition they need to be presented in a way that is understandable in your new industry and can tie the work you’ve already done with the new work you hope to do. For example, being the top salesperson at your old marketing job is impressive, but it doesn’t translate well to the medical field. Use that experience to highlight your people skills and good memory, both of which can be advantageous in a new position. You can also highlight similarities between your old company and the company you’re applying with, such as the size, systems, or revenue.
5. Prepare for the questions.
Once you land an interview, you’ll inevitably be asked about your potential career change, so come prepared with answers. Have a strong response for why you’re switching to a new career — it could be because you want to challenge yourself, help people, or follow your dreams. Stay positive and show how passionate you are for the new industry. You will also likely be asked questions about your previous experience and how it translates to a new position. When this occurs, look for the similarities between your previous experience and your new job and focus on results, such as the number of people you managed, the amount of money you raised for a cause, an increase in revenue, or the amount you improved a program. Avoid using jargon from your old industry and put your answer in simple terms that utilize terminology from the new industry to showcase how your skills can transition to something new.
A career transition can be a long and difficult process, but the payoff can be wonderful once you land a new position. Don’t get discouraged through the job hunting process and try to let your passion show through. If all else fails, look for unpaid ways to get experience or expand your search to other similar industries. Soon you can join the ranks of employees in new and rewarding careers.
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