As staffing professionals, we hear time and time again variations of this theme: “I want to change my career.” Usually this statement is accompanied by demands for high pay since higher pay is one of the main reasons people want to change careers. “I want to be appreciated” “I want to work better hours” or “Company A looks like a great place to work” are all statements and demands we’ve heard over and over.
The number one question you SHOULD be asking yourself when looking to change careers is “How can I add value to a new employer?” If the answer isn’t clear, you’ll need to spend some time researching and assessing your skills before you make the leap to the job search. Here are some tips to get you going down the right path.
1. Know Your Value and Use Examples to Show It
If you’re going to convince a new employer you’re the best candidate for a job, you have to believe it yourself first. When you value yourself, you start to describe your work history and experience in another language. Start by writing out everything you do, in detail. Include all of your tasks and your accomplishments. This will help you to see your experience in a fluid way that can apply to many settings. You weren’t a “customer service representative” you were someone who “assisted customers with orders, promoted new products and services, and addressed customer complaints professionally.” Learn to spin your past positions in this way, and you’ll find it much easier to explain how your work history lends itself to the transition you’re seeking.
So when asked about working with customers, for example, incorporate an anecdote about your interactions with people from your current or previous jobs, even if those people weren’t customers, per se. Then, explain how you would put that experience to work in your new role. The skills you used to manage conflict with a co-worker or to explain a difficult concept to management are the same ones you would use with customers, after all. If asked about problem-solving, talk about a time you actually worked through a conundrum or came up with an innovative solution. Even if the industry was entirely different, the ability to think critically and problem-solve speaks volumes of your competence level. When you provide examples, an employer knows you’ve actually done the things you’re claiming, and that ought to give you a leg up in the interview process.
2. Don’t Show Up Empty-Handed
Go out of your way to show an employer—literally—that you’re capable of taking on this new role by bringing evidence with you. This might include sample work, training certificates, or a mock grant proposal, marketing plan, or something else that makes your abilities concrete. Are you transitioning from a non-tech field into a job that requires technical skills? Bring training certificates for those online courses you took. Submit a link to an online portfolio before the interview with samples of your work.
If you don’t have the exact “evidence” that an employer is looking for, create it. I certainly don’t mean that you should fabricate experience, but you can develop samples that demonstrate your abilities. Applying to teach, but have no formal teaching experience? Create a syllabus and lesson plans based on what you plan to do in the role. Eyeing a graphic design job though you boast little real-life experience? Put together some sample products for the company you are applying to. Going after a position that requires lots of public speaking and outreach? Upload some short videos of you delivering a brief but powerful message. Think creatively about how you can show an employer your value based on your past accomplishments.
3. Get Comfortable With Imperfection
It’s OK to admit you don’t know everything and that you don’t meet every qualification. Very few job candidates meet every single criteria of any given job. But don’t just say, “Gee, I don’t know,” or “Well, I’ve never done that,” when asked tough questions. It’s okay to acknowledge the gap, but remind your potential employer of some other experience that will help you minimize the gap. And be confident when you answer these hardballs. If you sound afraid of tackling a new role, why would a new boss feel good about hiring you?
4. Prepare for “The Question”
Finally, don’t wait until you’re in front of your interviewer to consider how to explain the reason for your career change, because, make no mistake, you will be asked this weighted question. Plan ahead, and practice your response so you aren’t trying to articulate it aloud for the first time in an important interview.
People make this decision for a wide variety of reasons. Whatever your motivation, leave any associated baggage at home. Again, it’s OK to briefly acknowledge that circumstances are less than perfect. Maybe you were laid off or you arrived at the realization that the field you’ve been working in isn’t one you want to stay in for the rest of your life. Avoid blabbing about how lame the industry is, how horrible your boss is, how bleak the future looks. Keep it simple, positive, and future-oriented. “I feel like I have done a lot of great work over the past three years in [name of industry]. But, I’ve reached a point in my life where I feel like it’s time to move on. I’m ready for a different kind of challenge.” From there, you can segue into how you plan to make your current skills and experiences work in your new career.
Never lose sight of the fact that you are a multifaceted person capable of accomplishing many things and wearing different hats. Your skills and your experience are unarguably applicable to more than a single job. The more clearly you can articulate your value and connect the dots between your past experience and new opportunities, the more possibilities will be available to you. But you’ll need to put in the time and effort to show a new employer what YOU can do for THEM.
Need help connecting those dots? ETS recruiters are here to help. Don’t throw your resume all over town hoping to land the perfect interview. Let your recruiter guide you through the process. Schedule an appointment with an ETS Recruiter now!