There are many moving parts to every job search, and it is far too easy to feel overwhelmed. When it comes to switching industries or pursuing a new role, we face a whole host of added internal and external challenges - the uncertainty about the duration of search and the “fit”, lack of understanding on how to effectively brand yourself in the new market, small or nonexistent network of industry contacts, and insufficient work experience, to name a few.
In my career coaching practice at GotHired, many of our clients are career changers, and we’ve encountered every possible scenario of effective and efficient transition to a new role, industry and geographical location. If you’ve already given a thought about your career options have chosen a new path, this article offers practical and actionable tips to help you land a job in a new role or industry. And if you’re certain that you are ready to embark on a career change but still exploring your options, read on, and you will find valuable resources to help you make that decision as well.
And without further ado, here are my top job search tips for career changers.
Your job is to interview someone that has been through a successful career transition with a goal of uncovering their story. This is as much an act of reassurance as it is an act of discovery. You will discover choices you may be able to apply to your own career, and develop a relationship with the person you are interviewing, and both of these things combined can lead to introductions and career opportunities.
People appreciate being given a chance to tell their story and, let’s be honest, we simply love talking about ourselves. Most won’t pass up on the opportunity to share their success and help others by doing so. But don’t confuse it with an informational interview. You are not trying to learn about their job. Imagine yourself as more of a journalist with the goal of uncovering their journey rather than an eager job seeker.
Here are a few questions you could ask:
- What options were you considering before you made that decision?
- How did that particular transition come about?
- How did you feel before/after you made that career move?
- How did you end up meeting the person who helped you get the job?
- What contributed to your success?
- If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
- If you were to do it all over again, what tactics and tools would you use?
- Who else should I talk to?
Attend Networking Events
Let's face it. People do business primarily with people they know and like. Resumes and cover letters alone are often too impersonal to convince employers to hire you. And job listings tend to draw piles of applicants, which puts you in intense competition with many others, especially if you consider the fact that that you may not have direct experience in the role or industry that you are transitioning into. Plus, the job you want may not be advertised at all. Networking makes you a recommended member of a much smaller pool, leads to insider information and job leads, often before a formal job description is created or a job announced.
Let’s debunk some common networking event myths. You don’t need to be an extravert to enjoy it. You don’t have to meet everyone in the room. Release yourself from the expectation that you need to “work the room” and leave with endless lunch and coffee meetings set up. You don’t have to go too far out of your comfort zone to find value in attending events. You can use the experience to:
- Familiarize yourself with the industry language and trends
- Practice different ways of introducing yourself
- Get recommendations on professional development resources
- Improve your listening skills
- Get job leads and volunteering opportunities
- Find a job search buddy
Check out meetup.com, internations.org, networkafterwork.com, networknite.com and eventbrite.com for countless networking opportunities in your city.
Choose five or more friends who you are close to and whom you respect professionally. Send each friend a personalized email requesting a meeting or call to talk about your career. Feel free to use this template:
“I’m looking for my next opportunity at the intersection of x, y and, z. I haven’t left yet, but I’m ready to wrap up my time at [company name] doing x, y, and z. Would love to chat with you and fill you in on what I am thinking about and hear the latest from you. It would be great to catch up.”
Here are a few of questions to keep the conversation going when you are meeting with someone who knows you and your career trajectory well:
- How could my skills be put to use in the industry that you inhabit?
- I want to work at the intersection of x, y, and z. What opportunities come to mind that would be suited for me?
- Is there anyone in your network that has successfully made a similar change?
Studies have shown that close friends aren’t usually the ones who find you a new job -- it’s the friends of your friends who reach a broad enough circle to overlap with your employment needs. So ask friends to become your own personal PR machine, spreading the word about your talents to their larger circle wherever it’s appropriate, such as on LinkedIn, among colleagues, or in their social outside of work circles.
Find volunteering opportunities
Chances are you require skills that you’ve yet to develop. You can bridge the transition by opting for an opportunity that guarantees exposure and first-hand experience and allows you to give back to the community and find purpose and meaning. Volunteering also allows you to try on different organizations, roles, issues, etc., without job-hopping. Of course, volunteering isn't the same as being on staff, but it can expose you to the work in a more profound way than conducting an informational interview with an employee.
Start thinking about building a portfolio of projects and gaining practical experience relevant to the target industry and job function. Here are three websites to help you find volunteer opportunities:
And before you worry that this unpaid experience isn’t valuable, a LinkedIn survey states that 41% of LinkedIn hiring managers consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience when evaluating candidates.
Find a Mentor
First, it’s critical to know that, to find great mentors, you don't want to reach out to strangers. That's not how you’ll find them. Sheryl Sandberg, in her book Lean In, likens asking strangers to be mentors to the behavior of the main character in the favorite children’s book Are You My Mother? The book is about a baby bird that emerges from its shell in an empty nest, and goes in search of its mother. The little bird asks everything it sees (a kitten, hen, dog, cow, steam shovel), “Are you my mother?” The answer is always the same. “No!” This is just like a professional asking a stranger, “Will you be my mentor?”
Sandberg says: “If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor, it is obvious. The question becomes a statement. Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works.”
Instead, find great mentors through the inspiring people you're already interacting and working with now. They need to be people to whom you have already demonstrated your potential – who know how you think, act, communicate and contribute. And they have to like, trust and believe in you already (why else would they help you?). They also need to believe with absolute certainty that you'll put to great use all their input and feedback.
Find your mentors among the people you know who are ten steps ahead of you in your field, role, or industry, doing what you want to, in the way you want to. Connect with new people who you can help, and who will find it a mutually-rewarding and beneficial experience to support you. If you don’t know of any inspiring people that fit this bill, you need to go out and find them. Here are some great tips from Kerry Hannon about finding a mentor.
Revamp your resume to get noticed
Over the last six years at GotHired, we’ve written thousands of resumes and cover letters, and the majority of our clients fall into the category of career changers. Here are my top tips that helped their resumes stand out and generate interest from employers.·
1. Begin by analyzing five to ten job openings and finding commonalities in requirements.
2. List target job titles at the top of your resume to make it easier for recruiters to make a connection.
3. Start your resume with a value proposition statement rather than a career objective.
4. Focus on your transferable skills that are must-haves in the new role.
5. Format the resume as a combination of functional and chronological resume type.
6. Showcase your accomplishments rather than job duties.
7. Include all relevant volunteer experience, academic, and independent projects.
8. Incorporate quotes from your references that attest to your value in the new industry/role.
9. Attach a cover letter explaining your reasons for a change and listing the most pertinent career highlights.
Feel free to take advantage of our complimentary resume critique and career consultation service. Schedule time at https://www.gothired.net/book-appointment/
Whether you need information or inspiration, the Internet is filled with plenty of places dedicated to helping career changers make decisions and fulfill dreams. Spend some time learning and reflecting with the following five useful career change websites listed below.