Are you faced with making a career change? Are you unsure of how to start your job search? Do you feel like you will be starting over when you finally land that first job in the new career? You are not alone.
Many people are switching careers these days. Making a career change does not mean that you must start at the bottom rung of the new career’s progression ladder and work your way up.
How, then, do you successfully make the transition from one career to another without having to start over at the bottom of the pay scale and responsibility level for the new career? The key lies in identifying, understanding, and effectively presenting your Transferable Skills. Identify your transferable skills and you can find a higher level position making more money if you correctly target those skills to the new career.
Many people have experience, an education, or a degree in one career area and now find themselves in a situation where they are trying to enter into a new career. These people fear that they will be pigeon-holed due to a singular focus in their past position(s). This simply doesn’t have to be the case. You just need to present your skills in a light more favorable to your new career.
Consider the following 6 steps to changing your career. These steps serve as a framework on which to make a career transition and should not be viewed as a definitive 6-step process. The details will depend on you as a person and your particular situation. As a whole, these steps are essential to your continued career success and also your personal growth.
1. Conduct a Self-Assessment
Conduct a self-assessment of your knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA’s). Write down on paper all of these that you possess. Take a couple days of quiet time to really think about this step. Writing them down on paper is crucial. Thinking about them in your head or recording them on a cassette tape is not the same as having a written list and will not be as valuable. Write down as many KSA’s as you possibly can. Think about what you have for past employers regardless of the job title. Once you have the list on paper, put it aside, take another day to think about it, and then come back to it and write some more. You will undoubtedly have thought of a few more items to add to the list. Not only will this step help you identify your key knowledge, skills, and abilities, but it will also be an essential ingredient when it comes time to write your resume.
2. Learn all you can
Learn all you can about your prospective new career. Make a list of skills the new career requires. Learn what skills it requires, learn what activities you will have to perform to be successful, and know what it will take to advance in the career. Visit your local library to do research. Network with people in that career and ask them questions. Have a firm grasp of what is required. Go on informational interviews. Sit down with professionals in the career and have them describe their work to you. Ask them questions about what skills you need to be successful in that career. Have them suggest clubs and professional organizations you can join. Also, be sure to ask them for advice! Describe your situation to them and ask them for their advice on how they would proceed if they were you.
Are there any opportunities to perform volunteer work in the new career area until you find a full time position? This is possibly the best way to find out about the career and start honing your skills. If so, go ahead and volunteer so you can learn about the career, gain valuable experience, and network within the profession. Remember, you are building a track record to which you can point and demonstrate your ability to successfully perform the duties of your new career. You should never underestimate the power that volunteer work can carry. In fact, volunteer positions can carry just as much weight on a resume as salaried positions can. In addition to the valuable experience, the opportunity to network within the career will be very valuable to your future success.
3. Identify your Transferable Skills
Go back to your written list of knowledge, skills, and abilities and identify your *transferable skills*. How do you identify and use your transferable skills? Which of your past KSA’s meet the requirements of the new required KSA’s?. Look at all of your knowledge, skills, and abilities and see which ones may be applied to the new career. I guarantee many of them will transfer over to the new career. It may not be obvious immediately, but once you think about it, you will see that you already have a skills set that will help get you started. Write down specific events of when you’ve used these skills in the past. Have you presented results or information to a manager? Could you just as effectively made such a presentation to a group of sales prospects? Members of the Board of Directors? Recruits in a college admissions office?–just to use a few examples.
Cross-match your past skills to the new skills you will need. Where is the crossover? Remember, possessing one skill may enable you to apply that skill to more than one area. This is not a one-for-one matching of skills possessed to skills required. Being a good communicator, for example, may enable you to speak well on the phone to make sales calls, speak face to face and in multi-people meetings for soliciting investor capitol, or being the CEO and announcing a major corporate merger. Many former teachers go on to become very successful sales professionals due to their ability to communicate, persuade, inform, influence, and educate. In the corporate world they become “trainers” and “educators”, not “teachers”. Try to view your KSA’s in a general sense so you can re-frame them to more directly apply to the new career.
4. Develop a Strategy
Develop a strategy to effectively assimilate your transferable skills to the new career. This should include developing sub-strategies for all of your communications tools. These tools include: your resume, letters of introduction, cover letters, and your interpersonal and networking communications. Put “spin” on your skills to show how they will enable you to succeed in the new career. Have you done volunteer work that shows you have the concrete skills the new career requires? Use those experiences to provide evidence that you can do what it takes to be successful.
5. Ask for Honest Feedback
Go on more informational interviews and ask for honest feedback on how effectively you communicated your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Ask in advance if you can come in for an informational interview at the end of which you would like to get feedback. Many professionals are very open to this approach. Ask how you could present your skills more effectively or more attractively an employer. Take a pad of paper on write done ever bit of advice you get. Then, start incorporating these ideas and suggestions into your overall communications strategy.
6. Start the Job Search
Once you have a strong overall presentation or ‘total package’, start the job search using a “rifle” not “shotgun” approach. Go on job interviews for only those jobs that fit into your identified career direction. Then, don’t stop until you find the right opportunity. Aim for the bull’s-eye that you have identified as your ideal job. Do not try to pursue jobs that don’t quite match your personal goals for they will only distract you and waste your precious time and efforts. If you will forgive the use of another outdoor analogy, you should go fishing with a hook rather than casting a wide net. Once you have a very clear understanding of your transferable skills and how to best present them, then, and only then will you be able to quickly and easily apply your KSA’s to landing a great job in your new career.
On a final note, choosing a career should not be an exercise in market demand. You should not try to see what the market demands and then try to fill it. You should decide what you want to do and then find the right market. Sure, market demands has an impact on the decision (there can only be so many astronauts), but it should not be the one factor that makes you choose a career.
Identification of your knowledge, skills, and abilities and then pinpointing your transferable skills are the keys to successfully landing a great job in a new career. If you use these 6 steps, you are well on your way to lasting career success and personal fulfillment.