Careers can evolve and progress over decades or they can move rapidly—prompted by life-changing circumstances such as retrenchment, a personal revelation, or the ill-health of a family member. If change is being forced upon you or you have decided to take the plunge and follow your “bliss” be prepared to become more agile—in your thinking, in the way you approach your job search, revamp your resume and in how you present yourself to others.
Meet Erica. Erica has been a team manager in customer service for years. Her leadership role grew from being a call centre operator and over time she has moved into management roles. Six months ago Erica was sent on a training course by the company to learn more about safety awareness. The aim was to cascade the information she had acquired to her team so they understood about the importance of safety. To most people, a training course is just another workplace obligation, but for Erica, this one was a revelation. The more she heard about safety, its impact on morale and staff wellbeing and how to identify workplace hazards, the more her interest soared. For the first time in years, Erica was excited about going to work as each day held the promise of something new.
Such was her passion and success over those six months, the spark of an idea began to form. Could a change of career as a Safety Advisor or Consultant become a possibility? Erica was excited but concerned. With a background in customer service and team leadership and just six months in safety, how could she convince people she was a viable candidate?
Meet John. John is a senior manager in training and development. Last year he accepted a redundancy from a multinational vehicle manufacturer and struggled through the multitude of emotions that unexpected change can trigger. John emerged from the experience bruised, but ready to fight another day. He scored another role and settled in well until last week when the company announced more than 300 staff would be made redundant nationwide. John was one them.
Two redundancies in two years and John is reeling. He spends the week analysing his talents and thinking about his future. The emotional strain of another big company and another potential redundancy is something he can’t even contemplate.
An idea pops into his head. Real Estate! He’s personable and friendly and every weekend he scours the real estate pages in the newspaper to keep an eye on the prices in his suburb, what sells and recent auctions. The more he thinks about it, he sees how a change of career could be a blessing and his enthusiasm grows as he researches the training and licences he needs to achieve his goal. A nagging voice within makes him doubt how success will be possible. He’s never sold anything, let alone a house! How does he convince others he has what it takes?
Erica and John have the same problem. Convincing decision makers of why they should be chosen in favour of other candidates who most likely have a great deal more experience is tricky. Ultimate success requires perseverance, an abundance of conviction and self-belief, outside-the-box thinking, an agile mindset, and the ability to focus on the future with barely a glance to the past.
First the resume. The resume is the logical place to start as it will be the document that most employers will ask for in response to job applications or networking. Writing a resume for a career changer means the jobseeker has to be utterly ruthless about culling information from his or her past and be prepared to erase job descriptions and some achievements entirely if they hold no relevance to the future goal. It means to analyse tasks and skills from a career lifetime and capitalise on the skills shared by both.
At the end of the process, the resume must look as if it is written for and by a candidate who is qualified solely for the desired position. Obscuring the vision with irrelevant information is to make your presentation confusing to the person who is reading it.
Make no mistake. This can be a gruelling task and it can be surprisingly upsetting to let go of achievements or information that you hold close to your heart. Many people choose professional resume writers and branding strategists as objective experts who know the process inside-out. If this is not an option due to financial, personal or time constraints, then start by listing your transferable skills and under each skill compose an achievement from your past that aligns with your future. This is how you begin to create a new story for yourself.
Next, who do you know? Who can help you get noticed? Career changers who apply for jobs by traditional means such as newspaper classifieds or on job boards such as Seek.com are often doomed due to the sheer numbers of qualified, experienced candidates in their fields who use these channels. Networking is the single most effective strategy for career changers to get seen by a company through recommendation of an existing employee who can vouch for your fit with the organisation.
Who can you have a coffee with, find out about the industry, get insights into the way things are done, and who can get you before decision makers? You can try sites such as Linked-in or even Facebook to reconnect with people who can give you a leg up.
Social Networking. Social networking such as Twitter and Facebook may be something new to you and you may feel a little uncomfortable in embracing these tools. However changing your career is all about stepping outside your comfort zone so take the plunge wholeheartedly. There are professionals, particularly on Twitter right now who work in the job you want, are in the industry you want to enter, or who place candidates into your desired field. Learn the ropes of how to do it, the etiquette of participating in public forums, search for the right people to follow, initiate contact, make friends and once you have done that, ask questions. People are always there to help and provide guidance. Never, ever forget who you are, the image you are building and what you are trying to achieve. Statements that are rude, off-colour jokes and more will all combine to build a picture of who you are and how you will be assessed. Think to yourself “Would this affect my relationship with my new employer?” before you act.
Social networking isn’t just microblogging on Twitter, adding connections on Linkedin or joining friends on Facebook. It is all about building a network and getting known. Try searching for blogs and articles on your area of interest. If you have a constructive or interesting comment to make or information to add, comment at the conclusion of the article. Anyone searching for your name will find a consistent pattern of an individual passionate about your new field.
Create your own blog or resume website. Many sites are free such as Blogger or you can look at VisualCV. Your blog will provide you with a forum to talk about what you know and establish your credentials as an expert. Place your blog address on your resume too. When recruiters or employers search for your name, your blog will add to your personal brand. Again, make this a professional blog. No bad language, no pictures of your cat or your cute baby (no matter how proud you are!)
Changing careers can be an exciting, roller coaster ride of triumphs and disappointments. But if you look at it, not just as a change of career but as an opportunity to do and try many things you have never tried before, then it can be a whole new world of experiences, opportunities and lifestyle.
Question is: are you up for it?