Changing a career takes a lot of motivation and energy and can often feel tricky and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be like that. All you need is to have a strategy, some basic guidelines to help you painlessly get through the process, and these tips will help you get going:
1. (Re)evaluate your interests, values and skills.
Start with an honest self-evaluation. To find a new career path you first need to assess what is it that you enjoy doing, and what is it that you dislike. Think about your core values, your newfound interests, and look for a satisfying role that matches your potential and current skill set.
2. Consider your career options.
It’s wise to, at least, have an idea of what you can expect on the job market. For that purpose, do a preliminary research and comparative evaluation of few career areas of your interest. A simple Google search will give you a wealth of information, but don’t forget to also check job websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor, and others.
3. Be willing to start near the bottom.
You may be higher in the hierarchy at your current position, but if you want to move into a new career, you have to be willing to go back to the basics and start all over. Your talent and experiences are important, but you’ll still have to prove yourself again at the new workplace. Be prepared for some mundane work at first, and keep in mind that every bit of experience you get now will soon lead you to bigger and better things.
4. Start networking.
Research shows that only 14.9% of hires are made through job boards and classified ads. LinkedIn’s 2016 survey revealed that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking and referrals.
Get personal. Reach out to your contacts, and see if they can help you connect with hiring managers and decision-makers in the industries of your interest. Maybe they can even put in a good word for you and vouch for your abilities, competence and dedication to anyone doubtful about your lack of experience. Attend events and expand your circle of professional connections. LinkedIn is a good place to start.
5. Learn all you can about your new job.
Take a crash course, get certified, even earn a new degree if you can. Without experience, education is the only thing that can help you bridge your background to a new career. It’ll give you some kind of basis to build on, and it will show your interest and commitment to potential employers. You can also ask personal contacts in your target industry for informational interviews.
Hiring managers certainly won’t expect you to know as much about the job as an experienced candidate, but you’ll still have to demonstrate some basic understanding of the industry, its standards and practices, as well as a willingness to learn and adapt fast.
6. Put in time to gain experience.
You might not be instantly able to get paid work in the new career you want to move into, but you can definitely find an unpaid one. Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door of a new industry, and demonstrate skills you have that aren’t visible in your CV. Plus, you’ll get an inside glimpse into everyday work on the job you desire, and see if you’ll actually enjoy it.
If you have spare time outside working hours, you can also moonlight for a smaller fee, for friends and family, or people they know who may need your services. The experience you’ll end up getting will convince hiring managers that they’re not wasting their time with you.
7. Tell your story, if not your history.
Without relevant experience, your resume is not a great opener in dialogs with employers and clients in your newly started career. The best tool you have in your hand is your own story. So tell it, share your passion. Tell hiring managers why is it that you want to change careers, and show how your existing skills, newly acquired education and/or volunteering experience, support your application for the job. Be specific and persuasive. Personality and culture fit are often valued more than experience, or the lack of it.
8. Focus on your soft skills.
Identify the transferable, soft skills you’ve acquired on your previous jobs, and play them up in your CV, cover letter, on your LinkedIn profile and during interviews. They’re valuable in every industry.
You can also consider creating a skills-based, functional CV to apply for jobs in your new career. Unlike the traditional, it focuses on who you are and what skills and talents you have that are valuable for the position. You can include your work history at the end, but the goal is to grab recruiters’ attention and keep them engaged in a conversation about what you can do, not just what you’ve already done.
9. Prepare for interviews.
There’s no doubt that you’ll be asked during interviews why you’re changing careers. Prepare to explain that. Don’t try to hide your background, but be honest, and briefly clarify the reasons upfront, leaving more space to express your enthusiasm for this new career you want to embrace.
The fact that you’re fresh in the field can also be an advantage. You’re bringing in a new perspective to your role, and this can give you a chance to stand apart from the crowd in the eyes of employers.
10. Give it time.
Getting a job in a new career field will take time. Be patient. Believe in your goal, stay motivated and focused; it’s worth it.
And work on yourself. Use the available time to improve or learn new skills that are relevant to your new career path. Freelance, volunteer, or check for opportunities at your current workplace that will help you gain experience. Be prepared for when the right moment arrives.
As you see, changing a career doesn’t have to be complicated and stressful. You just need to decide what kind of work brings you joy, and develop a strategy to convince employers to give you the chance. Who knows, maybe starting a new career from scratch turns out to be the best change you’ve ever made in your life.