Updated: August 2022
The job search can be intimidating if you are hoping to transition to a new career path. In fact a career change is one of the toughest job search scenarios because that job searcher is usually lacking relevant work experience. While career change may be difficult, it is not impossible. You just have to focus your efforts on certain job search non-negotiables. In this post we will share 10 career change non-negotiables and tips for making a successful career change.
1. Get really clear on your job goal & commit to staying focused on the goal
The first part of any successful job search is gaining clarity around your job target(s). This serves several purposes. 1) It will help you stay on track and build your brand around a stable target. This in turn will 2) help your network and hiring managers to know exactly where your interests lie. Since the average job opening attracts around 250 applications, hiring managers and HR will not take the time to try and piece together your experience. Therefore you will need to be crystal clear on what it is you are going after. If you have multiple targets, be prepared to have multiple brands ready for the various types of job applications you will be sending. If you are unsure as to what to do next in your career, you may need to engage in deeper career exploration.
2. Get really clear on your relevant positioning and selling points for the new target
Once you have set your goal, you’ll have to define your positioning. This is probably the most important step of the whole career change strategy because as a career changer, you will be making a very clear break from your past experience. You need to be able to translate your past, irrelevant experience using language and a story that creates a clear, relevant transition into your future career path. This may require a bit of soul searching but it’s a critical step that can’t be avoided. Having relevant connection points from your past is important in making connections to the hiring manager’s needs. The idea here is to be able to convince the hiring manager that you are capable of doing the job well. Since your resume and LinkedIn profile will be doing most of the “talking” for you every piece of relevant experience counts! I recommend really taking the time to analyze your entire story. Think of both your professional experience and volunteer roles when doing this exercise. It may be helpful to create a master resume and then highlight relevant experience only so that you have a visual of each and every relevant component.
3. Create a rock-solid elevator pitch that sells
Once you have your positioning in place, you’ll need to know how to sell yourself over the phone or in person. The elevator pitch will be critical in communicating your relevant professional value from step 2. Therefore it will help for you to know your relevant transitions. When you meet people who can potentially help you make your career change, be ready to pitch on the spot. I find that it helps clients to write the pitch on paper first. Then practice it until it rolls off the tongue. Voila – elevator pitch done! You will also want to craft some supporting power statements to insert into longer networking and interview conversations. These will really illustrate your relevance and therefore help to convince your contacts of your potential qualifications despite the change.
4. Pinpoint your most relevant skills
Strong positioning & elevator pitch are more big picture summaries whereas your skills illustrate the fine detail. Because you may not have the direct experience or skills it’s critical to focus your efforts on transferable skills. After you are very clear on your positioning and pitch, you’ll need to do a deeper dive into all of your past experience in order to identify your transferable skills. Transferable skills will be your ticket to walking the walk once you get past the elevator pitch or initial meeting.
This fine detail works to support your transition story because it conveys that even though you may not have the right experience, you actually do have the right skills to change careers. The more you familiarize yourself with your relevant experience, the more confident you will be in interview or networking situations.
5. Make your Linkedin profile relevant to your target
Linkedin is a critical part of the job search. When trying to make a career change it’s important to translate your new target positioning as much as possible. Without a targeted profile, visitors won’t understand what you are about (or trying to be about). Furthermore, you won’t attract the right recruiters or hiring managers because they won’t be able to find you. Or worse yet, you will be appearing in the wrong searches. Therefore, fully optimizing your LinkedIn profile is a must.
Some obvious places to communicate relevant positioning are in the headline and summary or “About” section. Branding the experience section – your current experience in particular – is also important. No relevant current experience? Start volunteering with organizations or associations within your target industry and list these as current positions. This way, when people land on your profile the first thing they see is how you are currently relevant to your target, despite lacking years of experience. You can also beef up your endorsements in your target category and join relevant groups.
Just a word of warning: This can be tricky if you are hoping to transition while currently employed as you don’t want your boss to see the new story unfold before his/her eyes. However, try to subtly tailor your profile as much as possible and as appropriate.
6. Make your resume relevant to your target
Once your online profile is relevant it’s time to make your resume relevant. Examine all of the transferable skills you hashed out in step 4 and start to create compelling bullets based on the most relevant skills to your target. Avoid including bullets that aren’t particularly relevant. Resume writing for a career change is indeed a skillset. If you are unable to achieve strong branding to make the case for your change, you will absolutely want to recruit the help of a professional resume writer. It is a worthwhile investment and will result in more interviews in the near term.
7. Get some outside help (not just a 2nd set of eyes)
This is a critical step but one that is all too often overlooked. If you’re not a superstar writer or expert in your industry, find someone more knowledgeable to review your materials. This does not mean Joe Shmoe recruiter or cousin Betty. I’m talkin’ about someone with specific expertise around resume writing or hiring within your target industry. If you ask just anyone to review your resume they’ll likely scan for grammar but they won’t be tuned into what hiring managers actually look for, creating a huge missed opportunity for you. If you’ve never worked with a branding or resume writing professional, do some research, check reviews and familiarize yourself with the process.
8. Stay accountable
Accountability is key in the job search, especially in the world of career transition because it’s likely to get discouraging along the way. Pinpoint a friend, coach, mentor, or colleague to keep you honest and lovingly call you out when you slip into slacker mode. A hefty dose of encouragement in the job search goes a long way so don’t wait until you hit a wall to seek it.
9. Network, network, network & network some more!
HUGE! Become a networking machine. Don’t just connect to people online and hope for the best. Take it offline in the form of informational interviews or volunteer work. Every in-person encounter you have with a new contact in your space is a foundation for a relationship that could turn into a winning referral. Check out these simple ways to network if you’re feeling a little rusty.
10. Become your new brand inside and out
Last but certainly not least: transform yourself into your brand. Your positioning and supporting materials will help you start to feel comfortable in your new skin as you work to transition careers, but don’t stop there. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Stay on top of industry and professional trends. Join relevant associations. Share content. Start conversations in Linkedin groups or answer questions on Quora. Be your new career path and you will eventually become it.