How To Plan Your Career Change
“Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
That sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it? What a remarkable concept to have a job you look forward to going to every day. Some people are fortunate enough to land that job early on in their career, some work a job for years out of convenience and complacency, but face a mid-career change. And some of us end up in jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with what our degrees are in. Anyone else know a liberal arts major working for your local electric company? We’ve all been there. No matter the circumstance, changing careers can be extremely difficult, specifically when your experience doesn’t exactly meet the requirements of the industry you’re looking to switch to. Navigating this unique space is challenging, time-consuming, and requires diligence and patience, but can be so rewarding when done successfully.
The first step of your plan is to research what skills you’ll need for the industry you’re looking to enter. You may have a background in that field, but if you haven’t worked in that industry in a number of years or ever, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to brush up on some skills. Look into free resources online to hone your skill set whether that be through free courses, YouTube videos, or paid certifications. If you aren’t sure about what field you’d like to work in, try taking a career assessment test. The test will provide you with insight on potential careers that best match your past experience and personality.
After you’ve assessed your strengths, your weaknesses and you’ve got an idea of what direction you’d like to take your career, research job titles within that industry. What does a quality control manager do anyway? It’s a position within your industry of interest, but would you even like that job? What’s the primary function of a sales service coordinator? It sounds fancy, but what does the role entail? Knowing what type of positions you’re looking for will be key in helping your network help you.
Next, you’ll need to make a list of your known contacts within your new industry. You’ll then do more research to expand and grow your contact roster. Lastly, you’ll list these contacts in categories under A, B, and C. A contacts are people that you know well. B contacts are bridge contacts. They may not be able to help you directly, but they can connect you to a person who can. C contacts are people in a position of power, they are decision makers such as a hiring manager. How you will approach each contact will differ depending on your relationship with them and their rank within a given company. Check out my post on 5 Steps To Best Utilize Your Network to learn more about this.
If you don’t have any contacts in the industry you’d like to switch to, do some research on where people in that field hang out. One of the best strategies is to find events where there will be an expert panel. The people on these panels are usually speaking because they love connecting with and helping people meaning they’re easy to approach once the event is over. Take notes during the panel discussion and always ask questions at the Q&A to follow. Panelists also tend to be industry leaders and decision makers. This is one of the best places to get advice and find quality individuals to add to your network.
So now you’ve done your research, honed your skills, found your industry, and grown your network. Let’s also assume that your resume is up to date. Jobs should just fall into your lap, right? If only it were that simple. One of the hardest pills to swallow during this process is realizing that you are likely going to have to start at the bottom and work your way up, not only in terms of the position but in terms of the company. It’s pretty hard to go from being a manager of a retail store to a coordinator position at Facebook for instance. Facebook is one of the top and most competitive companies to get into. So how do you get around this caveat? LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is an amazing research tool for job seekers, especially when doing a backward search. Start your search by looking for jobs at your dream company. After you’ve found that position, type it into the search. You should get a list of people who have held that position at that company. Click on their profiles and review their job history. You’ll find that very few people from top companies went straight from college to their current position. Most of them are sure to have done internships. See what positions worked as their building blocks to that dream job. Those positions and those companies are the ones you need to aim for. Research those companies (look at their website, social media, articles written about them, projects they’ve spearheaded and clients they’ve worked with) and then work your network to see if they know someone at that company that they can connect you to.
Job searching is hard enough when you aren’t looking to change careers, so diving into something new is even more difficult, but it’s not impossible. It can take anywhere from six months to two years for you to land a job in your desired field of interest, due in large part to the time it takes to build rapport with your network and getting the timing right (the right job opening at the right company). However, if you follow the steps listed above, you’ll be well on your way to a career you’ll love and never work just another job again.
XOXO - Mechelle