For many of us who are looking to make a major change in our lives, a career change can make a major impact on our overall well-being and happiness. After all, we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, so it’s crucial to find something that challenges and inspires you on a daily basis. If you’re doing something right now that you wouldn’t necessarily classify as your “dream job”, don’t worry. With a little bit of hard work and planning, you can position yourself to transition into a new career that makes you excited to get up and go to work.
Career-changers need to take a different approach to job search as changing careers has a unique set of challenges and obstacles that must be overcome. As a job seeker, you need to understand how you can most successfully position yourself to reflect your new career goals. It’s important to determine whether or not your “old” skills apply to your new career target and if you’ll be able to convince people that you are the person for the job even when you’re competing against candidates that may have more relevant experience.
The key to a successful career change is all in the approach. Knowing where you want to go is half the battle. The other 50% is about putting together a strategy that mitigates the fact that you’ve never officially done the job before, but instills confidence in people that you have the background, capabilities, and passion to take on the new role. Here is a list of five things to do get started:
1) Ask why would an employer take a risk on you
If you don’t have a traditional track record in the industry you’re looking to break into, you should put yourself in the shoes of a prospective employer and try to figure out what they’re looking in a candidate. What specific skills, achievements, formal education, or professional development do you have that applies to this job. Can you convince the employer that you have what it takes?
2) Be bold
If you’re looking to change careers, you need to radically remake your resume to reflect your new ambitions. You can start by developing a persuasive narrative in which you show how your skills match up with those most in demand in targeted industry. For example, if you want to transition out of your role as an office manager and become a human resources generalist, open your resume with a strong Summary of Qualifications that tells the reader how your time as an office manager has enhanced your skills in communicating with employees across the company, understanding critical policies and procedures, and creating administrative efficiencies – all things that a company would look for in an human resources generalist.
3) Prove your knowledge
You don’t necessarily need to have formal, on-the-job training to prove to a potential employer that you are capable of contributing to their organization. Read books and newsletters, join professional associations, go to education events and trade shows. Scour the Internet for industry-relevant web sites and forums. Learn the jargon of the industry you want to enter. Stay up to date with the newest trends and technologies. In other words, become an expert.
4) Build a network
The single most effective way to uncover new opportunities within your chosen field is to start connecting with people who are already doing what you want to do. Be creative in your approach to contacting with people who may be influential within your targeted industry or who may be able to point you in the right direction. Do your homework before you reach out to people so that you can speak intelligently about the job and inspire confidence that you are worth investing their time in.
5) Look beyond the traditional job search documents
While your resume and cover letter will certainly play a role in your job search, don’t stop there. Because employers will be looking at your resume to find how your past experience matches their current needs, you need to find other avenues to convince hiring managers that you’re the right fit. Write an article. Start a blog. Build a dynamic LinkedIn profile. Social media and Web 2.0 sites give job seekers an incredible opportunity to cultivate a personal brand that didn’t exist just a few years ago. Those who take advantage of those opportunities will be rewarded while those who don’t will have a much more difficult time.
Making a career change can be both challenging and exciting. The largest obstacle you will face is the resistance of others who doubt your qualifications in your new field. The key is to stop looking for your dream job and start doing it.
Thomas Wolff is a copy editor turned professional resume writer and has been the Managing Editor at Resume Mastermind since 2006. He works with professionals from all walks of life to help them communicate their value in the workplace and build their personal brands.
Related: 10 LinkedIn Tips to Get You the Job.