|  January 6, 2014

How to change careers without starting over

You know what they say about those not-so-good work experiences — how sometimes it is just as important to learn what you don’t want to do? So many young professionals will spend a few years in a role or a career path and then find themselves wondering, “Is this really how I want to spend the next few years?”

change careers

If you do decide to make a change careers, you probably want to do it without starting from scratch. Inspired by a recent interview with my dear friend Tracy, I came up with a list of tactics to do just that.

1. Find your relevant skills.
Just because you’ve worked in a different type of role or industry doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills to do the job. Go through the job description and find examples from your past experience where you have done similar tasks or have used similar skills. You’ll want to incorporate this into your cover letter or emails. If you land an interview, you’re going to need this information once again. It is critical to drive home the fact that you can leverage your past experiences in this new role.

2. Go the extra mile in getting your resume seen.
Since your background might be seen as nontraditional, it’s very possible that it might be turned away during the screening process. You are going to have to jump off that resume page and take some extra steps in getting your resume seen and considered. Do what you have to do to get in front of people directly. Find people at that company on LinkedIn and reach out (either with email, inmails, or cold calls) so you can make your case.

3. Network like crazy
The best case scenario is to find someone at or connected to the company to vouch for you. A referral is a really powerful thing that should not be underestimated. A strong referral can be your biggest asset in landing an interview.

4. Know your value.
Be realistic about what relevant skills you do and don’t bring to the table. Going into this change with the right expectations is important. Every career shift is different. If you are making a slight change where your skills really do apply, expecting a lateral move is fair. If you are doing a whole career overhaul and will have to be completely retrained, you may want to anticipate a slight step back — but only to move forward!

5. Make decisions from a place of confidence, not desperation.
If you are making this type of switch, you likely have the luxury of looking for a new job while you already have one. This means you do not have to make any rash decisions. Some companies value career switchers and are open to transferable skill sets. Some are more focused on hiring candidates with direct experience and would want you to take a pay or title cut. It’s important to be realistic about what you can expect (see No. 4) but you do want to end up at a place that appropriately values your skills. This will set you up for success in your new role.

Ultimately, it won’t be easy, but it’s certainly possible, and I see people make moves like this constantly. As you embark on this type of journey and take the energy to shift gears, really think through what is most important to you in your new path. Being really honest with yourself about where your passions lie and what you’ll be the happiest doing will help make this process worth all of the effort!

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