The new year has brought with it contact from a number of people who have decided to change careers and who are looking for advice on how to do so. For earlier generations it was common, for people once they had found a job, to stay in that position, for most of, or even for their entire career. In contrast, it is becoming increasingly common for people to work in a range of completely different positions.
Depending on the degree of change, this can be either a relatively straight-forward or difficult goal to achieve. If you find yourself thinking of a change in career, perhaps returning to an area you formerly trained in but never gained much experience in, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of success.
Be prepared to start again
Changing career means you should be prepared to accept a lower level position compared with the one you currently operate in and very likely this will mean a drop in salary. If the thought of this is unappealing you may need to revisit what’s most important to you. With the right attitude and application there’s every possibility you’ll be able to work your way back up to, and beyond your current level of seniority and earnings.
Identify and market your transferable skills
Even if preparing to break into a role in an entirely different area to where you are at currently, there will be skills you have acquired that are transferable. Identify what these are and promote them in your CV. Use a covering letter linking them to the role you are applying for and display them in a context that the hiring manager or recruiter will understand.
Refresh your technical skills and knowledge
Knowledge or technical skills you gained from study at the beginning of or during your career may need to be updated depending on the amount of time that has passed. As an example, roles in IT are more likely than those in, say, human resources to change quickly as new technology comes and goes, whereas the principles of human resources are likely to be more resistant to change. Reading widely on the industry you are wanting to break into/move back into and/or undertaking further study will help you to acquire knowledge and skills that are up-to-date.
Make use of your professional networks
Becoming a member of relevant groups or member organisations, including groups on social media sites such as LinkedIn can also help you acquire knowledge that is current and it can also help you identify senior people who have a depth of experience who can help you break into your target area.
Make changes to your CV
Don’t let your CV pigeon-hole you into a certain type of position. Ensure that it clearly shows all of the transferable skills you have acquired during your career and is written in a language that will resonate with those in the area you are wanting to break into. Use a covering letter to speak positively and directly to the hiring manager/recruiter about how you will apply your skills in the position you are applying for and the reasons why you are wanting to change career. If you can demonstrate you understand this is an entirely different role in a different area to where you are based currently, and that you haven’t misread the job advertisement, they may intrigued enough to meet with you.