Tips for Making a Successful Career Change
If you're making a career change — whether by choice or necessity — you can benefit from following these tips on making your career change a success:
Connect with others in your intended field. When your change is voluntary, at least six months in advance of your leap, join a professional association of members in the career field or industry where you want to go. When your change is involuntary and you’re suddenly left high and dry, assemble a personal network of people who can guide you into your intended field. Find out who’s who and what’s happening with professionals who can connect you with employment. Ask what you should read and what workshops you should attend. Ask if you can visit a professional’s workplace as an observer.
Educate yourself. Seek out short-term certificate programs and workshops offered during industry conferences, as well as those available locally. If you study online, get the scoop on pluses and pitfalls about distance learning. One starting spot: GetEducated.com.
Bone up on the industry. Do some extensive research on your proposed destination. Those greener pastures sometimes bleach out when something about the work isn’t what a changer realistically expects or can do well. This probably happens as a result of skimpy research.
Talk the talk. Learn the lingo of prospective new colleagues. You’ll seem like one of them already.
Brace yourself for interview pitfalls. When you find yourself trapped in a behavior-based interview setting and you’re coming up short trying to answer a question about what you have done that’s relevant to the new career, answer quickly. And then reframe your response segueing from behavior-based interviewing (the past) to situational interviewing (the future): That’s a good question. And here’s what I would do if we decide I’m the right person for this position. I would —.
Make the experience connection. The bridge you use to join the old with the new must be rational and reasonable. Your qualifications have to come from somewhere — skills you already possess, volunteer work, part-time jobs, training, hobbies, and so forth. Strive to present a believable relationship between your qualifications and the career you’re targeting.
Accentuate the positive. Don’t say you hope to change careers because there are no more jobs in your field. An exception might be when a condition is well known, such as real estate agents who got out during the recent downturn in home sales. Even then, add that you’d been thinking about making a change for a couple of years and have decided to redesign your life for a better fit with your priorities and goals.
Tell true stories. Expect to be asked the same kinds of questions that new graduates often face, such as some version of “Why shouldn’t we hire someone more experienced in this line of work?” When you work out your answers, remember to storytell — that is, to back up your claims of superior qualities with true examples of achievement. Otherwise, what you claim will likely be blown off as hot air. You must be believable.
Inventory your core skills and knowledge. Sort through to see which will crossover to a different industry or career field. Push them to the front of your memory where you can find and translate them as needed.