Making a career change is a tough road to follow. Those with lots of experience feel the need to start over in a new career—and expect an entry-level salary to go along with it. Others just don’t know how to go about it.
But you can. Here’s how to start.
Know why you want to make a career change
All interviews are about three questions: your skills to do the job, your motivation to do the work and how well you can fit in with the team.
When you get to a face-to-face interview, your motivation to do the new job will be front and center to a hiring manager. You will need some good reasons for wanting to move into a new line of work—and whining about how H-1B visas are killing your work or how all the off-shoring is nailing you won’t be the right answer (even if it is true).
No, you must have positive reasons for being drawn to this field and this new job. What about it makes you want to do your best work?
The reasons are many—wanting to be closer to helping people, wanting to get closer to your passion of ____, or wanting to do something more challenging after reaching boredom from doing ten years of programming in COBOL.
The motivation requires stories that will show the difference between what you were doing (say, the tipping point that made you decide to make a change) and what you want to do.
Update your resume to match your new career choice
Remember, your resume shows you can do the job by having the right job skills to do the work. Your face-to-face interview will show your motivation and your ability to get along with the team. But you won’t get in the door unless your job skills match up with the position.
First, grab anything in your background that matches up with the hard job skills needed for the new work. You might not think right now that having a governmental agency as your customer means much. But if you now decided to have your career be that of a person advocating for something that involves working with government, that experience is priceless to include in your resume.
Second, look carefully at the skills needed in the job description and then use anything in your career that matches up to those skills and list them on the resume. You might surprise yourself at how many skills you actually have for your new line of work.
Third, work harder at showing your soft skills—how you work with different managers and teams to still get work done—because people tend to forget the key soft skills needed to work in a challenging environment. By listing them, you have a higher chance of getting the phone interview where you can explain how what you did helped get the work done.
Soft skills are not soft—they mean a lot when it comes to working with a diverse (or difficult) group of people. Showing that on your resume makes a difference in getting the interview.
Use adjacency to supplement your job skills
Adjacent skills are those that “sit alongside” your current skills. Sure, you may process distributions of retirement plans, but you also know how to report against those distributions in relation to your business dashboard. Your reporting skills are “adjacent” to the work you do in your primary job.
The adjacent skill may lead you to your new career. And, those skills may be the ones that show you can do the work in the new career.
People think those little skills sitting off to the side of their primary work don’t mean much. But the truth is those skills show you have the primary skills needed in the new job, but you’ve never had the chance to really show those skills off in the workplace.
You’ve got more than you think
The longer your experience, the better able you are to work yourself into a new industry or a new line of work. Once you show you have the job skills, all that experience can shine by showing how you are motivated to do the work and how you can fit in with the team.
Go for it. If you have a job and want to change careers, what’s to lose?