TopResume's career advice expert tackles how to successfully make a career change.
A big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in our latest edition of #OfficeHours, presented by TopResume! You asked some great questions on how to change careers, and it was a pleasure to share my job-search advice and career tips.
Below is a link to the video from our Live Chat and my responses to some of your questions on switching jobs. For more career advice and information about upcoming events, please follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, and sign up for our free, weekly newsletter.
#OfficeHours Live Chat: Changing Careers
Q1: How do I explain that I'm a good fit when I don't have a traditional background for the role?
“When changing careers, how do you get over the hurdle of "not having the right background” for this role?" - Sean C.
Here at TopResume, we believe everyone has a story to tell, and we're here to help you tell the best version of that story. A large part of that has to do with storytelling and marketing. The reason job seekers need a 360-degree view of their personal brands is because everyone wants to hear a story these days. Think about how can you tell that story. What about what you've done in the past has led you to this role and what skills have you picked up along the way? Look for opportunities where you can spin your story on its head to work for the role you want next.
For example, “This is what I learned about myself... what I'm great at and passionate about… and that is why I'm pursuing this type of position going forward…”
You also want to show how you are taking steps to become a better fit for the company, industry, and the role you're targeting. Be aware of the skills the hiring managers are looking for and figure out how you can demonstrate how you've developed those skills in an unconventional way or that you're actively acquiring those skills or that knowledge.
To show you've been active in their industry, your social media activities can come into play. For instance, if you're trying to move into a creative role, your Instagram account, blog, or online portfolio can be used to demonstrate your relevant skills. If you're trying to highlight your knowledge on a certain topic, you might share articles or publish your own using Linkedin.
Q2: How can I use my new degree to transition from retail to the corporate world?
“I have been a retail manager for over 18 years. I just received my MBA and I would like to change my career into the corporate world. Please advise how would I make the change into corporate America?” - Mark W.
If you had a steady retail management career at one or more companies, start by looking at the corporate job opportunities available within those organizations. It will be easier to transition to a corporate position at one of these companies (assuming you've been a model employee) since you already know something about the company and have relevant industry experience, which is always a plus. In addition, many large companies have internal job boards or career sites just for their employees, which means you'll have an inside scoop on the job opportunities that open up. If those don't work, look at your employer's competitors because you have marketable industry experience in addition to your new credentials.
If you're worried about moving into a corporate setting, leverage the career services offered at the institution where you earned your MBA. Take advantage of what they have to offer because (a) it's free and (b) it's part of their job to help you find a job.
Q3: How do I explain employment gaps during an interview?
“In an interview, how do you explain to a prospective employer why you took time off between jobs to pursue personal goals?” - Lem J.
Frankly, if the interviewer doesn't ask you about your gap in employment, don't bring it up. If you already landed the interview, this employment gap might not matter to them. After all, they invited you in for a job interview, right? Still, you should be prepared with some sort of answer, should they ask you about the gap. It's all about how you spin your career story. Talk about what you did during that time off that helped you clarify your job goals going forward, build relevant skills, or gain experience that will make you a better fit for your new role. It's better to take a little time to figure out what you truly want to do next than to jump from job opportunity to job opportunity without a good sense of your career path. Click on the following link for more tips on how to handle the employment gaps on your resume.
- Changing Careers? Start With a Skills List (Part I of III)
- Career Change Tips: 10 Ways to Make a Shift
- How to Translate Your Military Experience for a Civilian Career