Updated: May 28
Author: Michael Scaletti
Changing careers is scary. Generally, once we’ve been on the same career path for a while, we get comfortable. Comfortable can be nice, but eventually you may decide that it’s time for a change. Whether that is too look for higher earnings potential, to follow a passion, or simply to find a new challenge for yourself, once you’ve made that decision you need to figure out how you go about it.
Research, Research, and More Research
The first thing you need to do when deciding on a career change is your research. You need to find out everything you can about your new industry, and how you might fit into it. Is the industry growing or shrinking, and what is driving that trend? Is that trend likely to continue? Is there a particular language or jargon you’ll need to be fluent in in order to be successful within that career space? Who are the leading figures within that industry? Identify the thought leaders and influencers, as well as any relevant associations or organizations that you can reach out to. What are the relevant skills and education needed to break in to the industry? What about to excel in it? All of these questions and more should be answered before you even take your first step onto a new career path.
Trace Your Path
It’s easy, when looking at a new industry, to make assumptions about the skills and education needed to succeed, but that can be a trap if done blindly. Instead, one of the most productive ways you can go about learning what you need to know is to figure out what type of job within the industry you want and then trace that path back to where you currently are. Read job descriptions for the positions you’d like. A lot of job descriptions. What are the common threads for what different companies are looking for. Look at the requirements listed, and then figure out how you get to a point where you meet those requirements.
Highlight the Relevant Experience You’ve Earned
It should go without saying at this point, but you should always tailor your resume to the job you’d like to get. Since you’re changing careers it is likely that the resume you previously used is not highlighting what you need it to to succeed in your new industry. Look at the job description for the position you are applying for and see if you can’t pick out a number of keywords that are stressed or used multiple times throughout the description. Now figure out a way that you can adjust your resume to better highlight those keywords.
Networking is useful in any career path at any stage of the game. The old aphorism about it not being what you know but rather who you know isn’t ENTIRELY true, but there is some validity to it. This is doubly true when you’re trying to break into a new industry and don’t have extensive relevant experience. Connections can get you an in into an industry that you might struggle to break into otherwise.
Also, talking to someone who actually works in an industry is a great way to get a truly realistic view of what working in that industry would be like. It’s easy to make assumptions about what doing a job is like when you’ve never done it, but getting a first degree account will help you know for sure. Schedule an informational interview with an industry insider if you can.
Use a Temp Agency (Like Us!)
Companies are often far more willing to take a risk on a potential employee with limited relevant experience when that employee will be a temp. Hiring a full-time worker can mean investing a lot of money and time in training and establishing the new staff member. And firing someone who doesn’t work out can be fraught with complications, including the potential for litigation if the worker claims wrongful termination. All these downsides may make employers unwilling to give you a chance. But these complications don’t exist with temp workers. If an employee comes in through a temp agency, the understanding is that the job isn’t permanent, so an employer isn’t taking on any risk if things go wrong.
Temp roles can also help you build your resume and get the experience necessary to land the job you’d really like.
Keep Working at It
The final thing I’d like to say is that changing careers takes time, effort, and persistence. It’s not easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Keep doing your research, keep growing your skill set, and keep doing the work, and eventually you will be rewarded with a foot in the door. From there it’s just a matter of using that as a stepping stone to achieve the career goals you’ve set for yourself. Good luck out there!