Making a shift in your career is exciting. There are so many new experiences ahead of this bold choice! As you no doubt already know, breaking into this new field will be a challenge. A challenge that will no doubt give way to great opportunities ahead.
About two years ago, I moved from being a social worker to work in the Fashion industry. I had no idea what would come of this choice, but I took an “it’s now or never” kind of leap. One day I was working on case notes, and the next I was working with designers. What I’ve learned is changing careers is humbling, vulnerable and uncomfortable. I had to let go of the importance I felt having made it to a certain place in my previous career, because no one in fashion cared about those accomplishments. Changing careers is also exciting and rewarding. I have gained experience in areas of real interest and accomplished projects I would have only dreamed of without having taken this big leap.
My experience has given me some insight into entering the intimidating world of career change. It is possible to impress employers, even when your resume may not look like the others. You can be the right candidate in the jobs you seek when you show them what you can bring. Here are a few ways to position yourself, as you chase those dreams.
1. UNDERSTAND THE VALUE OF YOUR EXPERIENCE
Chances are, you possess education and experience in one industry. Chances are, you will feel way behind in a new one. You knew this would be the case, but it still stings. Changing careers means learning anew, and you now have a new world to dive into from ground zero.
But, there is a silver lining in this - you offer something likely none of your soon-to-be peers have. You have unique experience and insight from a different background. You will be able to fill a void that may be a blind spot in your company and industry. Your presence will be putting collaboration into practice by offering the best of another industry to a new one. Help your hopeful new boss to see the massive benefit you will be to this new company, as you bring expertise and skills honed from another. Here is the most important part: Believe it! You won’t be able to convince an employer in an interview that you’re a unicorn if you don’t believe it yourself.
2. STUDY THE INDUSTRY
Walking into an interview for a job in a new industry will probably feel vulnerable. It may feel like stepping into a foreign country, where you quit learning the language in middle school. It is so easy to feel intimidated and knocked off your game right before an interview knowing you might be the least qualified person in the room. My palms are sweating already!
Have you heard the phrase “fake it ‘till you make it?” It’s true! None of us fully know what we’re doing. But the concept can be best achieved with thorough research on the industry you are entering. The best way to combat any lack of confidence is to harness the power of knowledge! Learn about the general history of the field. Understand major changes that have happened and which new trends are emerging. Learn about companies that serve as big players today. Get to know the history of the company you’re applying for. Knowing a basic overview of this new field will afford you talking points in the interview, offer you a chance to form an opinion on certain industry related topics, and help highlight areas where your own experience can be of help. The adage ‘fake it till you make it’ works best with some good research in your back pocket.
3. CONTINUING EDUCATION
Changing careers will many days feel like ‘drinking from a firehose’. New information will be flying from every direction as you prepare yourself to start collecting and retaining new expertise. Before you head into an interview for a position in a brand new field, take some time to build on your education concerning your new industry. Now is the chance to start bridging the gap between your resume and your new peers’. Enroll in a course at a local college. Take a course online through Lynda. Big or small, have some form of education to show managers in a new field that you are taking the initiative to grow professionally. This will help employers see that you did not make an impulsive career move or change careers out of boredom. Even a little bit of education can show you are invested in this new direction. Taking this initiative can also alleviate some responsibility an employer may feel when planning your training.
Breaking in to a new field is the hardest part of making a career change. There will be times you are not taken seriously or completely ignored. The setbacks will come, but keep at it. As you start this new adventure, remember: you do have influence over how you are received in a new industry by setting yourself up for success ahead of time.