Career change is kind of my sweet spot. I’ve done it myself multiple times, and helped hundreds more people navigate the terrain. I’ve worked with print designers who want to transition into designing for web, and finance folks who want to become creative marketers. Changing careers at any level poses two main challenges:
- How to position your skills and experience from one field, as a valuable asset to your success in a different field.
- How to convince hiring managers that your transition from one specialization/role/career/niche to another will be easy and cost-effective (read: they won’t have to train you. Or worse…let you go).
Repackage Your Skills in a Shiny New Box
If you lack the hands-on experience, your selling point becomes the other assets that you bring to the table – your skills and knowledge. You have your core strengths, the things that you’re really good at, and probably were the basis for pursuing your current line of work in the first place. Then you have your day to day hard skills that are a necessary part of your occupation. And finally, you have your additional soft skills that maybe don’t fit into your day to day responsibilities, but represent additional value you bring to the table. Let’s pretend you’re a Marketing Manager:
- Core Strengths: Relationship building, understanding marketing trends, working in a client facing capacity, identifying additional solutions your client would be interested in investing in
- Hard Skills: Writing interesting copy, delivering presentations, putting together PowerPoint decks, creating proposals, managing marketing projects
- Soft Skills: Website design, HTML, CSS, Adobe Photoshop
Your challenge is to look at all of those skills, and pick and choose the ones that are transferrable to the new career area you want to market yourself to. What value do those skills have to a potential employer in that field, and how can they make you successful? What additional skills do you bring to the table that might differentiate you from someone with a traditional background and multiple years of experience in that field?
Convince Hiring Managers You’re High on ROI
The biggest concern that hiring managers have on their mind, whether they’re the Jr Recruiter or the CEO, is whether or not you will be able to come up to speed and learn the job as quickly as someone with prior hands-on experience doing the role. You need to convince them that you can. Even if you haven’t performed the exact functions of the role previously, what you want to show them are examples of how you overcome challenges, pick up new skills quickly, and adapt easily.
Some examples might include:
- Times where you stepped in and went above your role to help out on a project
- Additional skills that you learned on your own and utilized in your role
- Examples of how you navigated previous instances of change – company restructuring, starting a new career or job, transitioning from a corporate to a start up environment, etc.
- Anything that illustrates your ability to learn quickly and adapt to a new environment
The key is to remember that an organization is making a large investment in hiring you, and their primary concern is receiving return on that investment. They not only want it to be a good fit for the company, culturally and skill-wise, but they also want to hire someone who is going to be happy and thrive in the role, so that you don’t end up jumping ship 6 months later, and leaving them with a big hole in their project team. To recap…
Convince them of your value:
- Identify the skills and experience you possess that will help you succeed in the role
- Communicate why that is of value to the new role or organization
- Provide examples of how you have successfully navigated change or demonstrated growth in the past