Have you ever been told that in order to transition to a new role… you first need experience?
But HOW do you get experience without the experience?
How do you get the hiring manager from your dream job to give you a chance?
Let’s dive right in with 11 Tips to approach this Career Change – Catch 22.
1. Understand Your Target Job
Before you land your dream job…. You need to thoroughly understand the role you are applying for.
I don’t mean just read the job description.
I mean get into the head of the hiring manager. Think of your hiring manager as your “client.”
Martin Yate, author of “Knock Em Dead Resumes” talks about creating a Target Job Description. This is where you Google or LinkedIn search at least 6 job descriptions for your dream role.
So if my dream role is Public Relations Specialist, I’m going to find at least 6 job descriptions for this role (from 6 different companies.)
Print out your 6 job descriptions.
On a fresh Google doc, start to categorize your findings.
List the header “Common to All 6 Descriptions” and list any qualifications, requirements, or descriptors that were common to all 6 job descriptions.
Next list the header, “Common to all 5 Descriptions” and list any qualifications, requirements, or descriptors common to all 5 descriptions.
You get the picture. Keep going all the way down to “Common to 1 Description.”
Now you can understand what descriptors and qualifications are MOST IMPORTANT to your client, the hiring manager.
This is a great reality check, because not only will you understand what hiring managers are TRULY looking for… you can also ask yourself “do I have those things?”
2. Sharpen Your Skills
OK, if you are going through a major career change, this is the part where you may feel discouraged once you realize you may not have exactly what they are looking for.
Better to know now and go out and get those things, versus blindly applying and wondering why you aren’t getting any calls back.
(Disclaimer: You do NOT need to have 100% of requirements – but aim for 70% or more.)
Based on the Target Job Description you created in step one…. What skills do you need to go out and get?
Are there certain programs or systems you need to learn?
Are there specific certifications from which you would benefit?
List them out… and go out and get them! Now more than ever, there are so many ways to gain these skills either online or in person.
3. Network With Your Chosen Industry
The fact that 70-80% of jobs are landed through networking (NOT just applying online) will actually work in your favor as a Career Changer.
You don’t have to rely soley on the ATS Resume Robot which might knock out your application because you are missing key experience.
Get out there and speak to humans with whom you can build relationships in order to land your dream role!
- EXPAND YOUR NETWORK: What can you do to expand your network in your new industry or field of choice? Start by sending personalized LinkedIn connection requests to your new “people.”
- IN-PERSON EVENTS: What in-person events, seminars or talks can you attend where your industry hangs out? (For example, if you want to transition into Public Relations… research “Public Relations Networking Events” to attend. Google will tell you to check out prsa.org for in person events.)
- ONLINE FORUMS: What online spaces does your target industry/role hang out in? Look for online forums for your industry or Facebook and LinkedIn groups for professionals in your industry, etc.
- BUILD RELATIONSHIPS: Once you’ve joined these online groups, how can you engage, build relationships, and add value?
- ASK SMART QUESTIONS: Ask your new network questions to learn what the best of the best in this industry looks & sounds like. Or ask them how they broke into the role. Or ask who else they recommend you speak with (keep the ball rolling!)
Listen, I’m an introvert so I get that this is not the easy part. But as a career changer, it’s the most important part!
4. Network Within Your Current Circle
Let’s not forget about networking within the circle you already run in.
Even if the majority of your network is not a member of your industry of choice… they still may KNOW someone who is.
Your former colleague’s husband could work in your dream industry. Or your neighbor’s cousin might work in your dream industry. You get the picture.
Reach out individually to everyone in your current network and let them know exactly the kind of role you are looking to transition into. If this is your passion, tell them so! People are more likely to help others when they know it’s not just another job but a dream you are fulfilling.
Ask if they know anyone in the industry they could introduce you to, so you can learn more about how to make the transition. (Note: you are not asking them to hook you up with a job – that’s too much pressure – you’re just asking them to make an introduction.)
5. Find a Side Door
This is one of my favorites. Don’t jam your way through the front door where you are competing with 100 other experienced professionals. Find the side door.
For example, if you are an SEO expert who wants to transition into becoming a Public Relations Specialist … Seek out Public Relations firms and offer to work on their website SEO for a discounted rate in exchange for some free interning hours shadowing PR work.
In essence, you are seeking out Win-Win relationships…. in order to GAIN the experience you need.
This may be a tough pill to swallow for some seasoned professionals… but the easiest way to get the experience you need in order to make your career transition is to go out and get it, whatever it takes! Find opportunities to volunteer in this new capacity in order to gain experience, references, and testimonials! Consider volunteering your time with smaller organizations that would be ecstatic to have your help.
When I first started career coaching, I coached for free in order to improve my skills, gain experience, and get testimonials.
If you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to get it.
Leverage Your Current Job
Seek out opportunities and projects in your CURRENT JOB that will allow you to flex this skill set. If you have a boss you trust, you could share that you are passionate about xyz topic and in addition to your current work, would love to take on some of these projects.
Bonus! Once you have some projects under your belt, create a portfolio that illustrates why you are perfect for this new role. Check out visualcv.com for an online portfolio option you’ll be able to send to prospective employers with the click of a link.
6. Highlight Your Transferable Skills
Some common transferable skills include: Critical Thinking, Communication (Written, Listening, Verbal, Technological Communication), Multitasking, Teamwork, Leadership, and Creativity.
So the question is… which transferable skills are necessary in order to be successful at your dream role?
Review your “Target Job Description” for transferable skills that seem to be listed in the majority of the job descriptions you reviewed.
Now re-brand your LinkedIn, Resume, and Cover Letter with these skills. Provide relevant, quantifiable, and specific examples of HOW you used these skills in previous roles.
Once your marketing material is updated, use these skills to craft your Elevator Pitch that you will use when networking or in interviews.
7. Think Outside The Box
The last thing you want to do as a career changer is apply to hundreds of jobs and then sit back and wait.
Try emailing companies that are NOT currently hiring your dream role position.
Why? Because you will no longer be competing with other professionals who have tons of experience.
Let these companies know why you are interested in THEIR company specifically, that you understand they are not currently hiring, but you’d love to introduce yourself in case a role ever opens up.
Then launch into a killer intro as to WHY you are passionate about this role, what you would bring to the table, and your Unique Value Proposition.
Again, you may also consider offering a couple hours per week offering pro bono work in your new field. This will allow you to gain experience AND build a relationship with a potential hiring manager at the same time.
8. Value Validation Project
Google “Austin Belcak Value Validation Project” and read the first article that pops up.
Austin provides an example of how to go well above and beyond a company’s expectations in order to get their attention.
Essentially, he walks you through how to identify your new employer’s pain points…and then create a short deck proposing how you would solve it (based on the scope of your new role.)
Sound like a lot of work for a job you don’t have yet? Perhaps….
But will it get your foot in the door with your dream employer? Very likely, yes.
You may not have 5 years experience in your new field….. So you, my friend, need to find other ways to stand out and get noticed.
Creating a Value Validation Project will show your potential employer….
a) You are highly motivated and want this role.
b) This is the kind of innovative employee you are (that goes above and beyond.)
c) How you think…. This is not about getting the answer right on how to solve all their problems…. It’s about showing them that you are aware of their pain points and giving them insight into how you think.
9. Become a Thought Leader
Position yourself as an expert. Research your new role, topic, latest industry trends, etc, like crazy.
Show up consistently by posting blogs, sharing articles or videos on topics that will show you are an expert at this new role.
You can get started by inviting people who work in your industry of choice to be interviewed for your blog or video podcast. Now you are both gaining expertise AND building your network with peers (or potential hiring managers) in your career of choice.
Once you apply for your dream role, the first thing your hiring manager is going to do is visit your LinkedIn page. Imagine them seeing your profile activity and posts connected to topics immersed in your new role of choice.
10. Develop Your Story
Inspire your hiring manager with a compelling story. What is it about this new career field that you are SO passionate about? How does this new career path align with your values, personal mission statement, and life plan? How did you figure out this new career path was your perfect fit? What have you been working on to prep you for this career change?
Instead of worrying about not having enough experience… flip that on its head and reframe your narrative. Describe how YOUR unique experience will actually be beneficial to this role.
Work your story into your marketing material (LinkedIn summary, Resume, Cover Letter) and Interview Prep. You might even create a short video on your story and post to LinkedIn or provide as a creative cover letter.
11. Get Support.
Don’t go at this alone.
There are lots of nuances and strategies to making a 180 degree career transition.
Consider speaking with a Career Coach, who will….
a) Personalize this career change strategy for your specific situation
b) Coach you on Mindset. If you are telling yourself you are not good enough or don’t have what it takes to make this transition, you could benefit from mindset coaching. If you are clinging to Limiting Beliefs that you are too old, or can’t get a job without experience you could benefit from mindset coaching.
c) Keep you accountable. Career change can be overwhelming. A Career Coach will be your biggest supporter AND keep you accountable to doing what you said you were going to do (which is much more effective than making a silent promise to yourself.)
Career change is hard work… but when you’re chasing a dream, you are willing to do the work.
And remember…. EVERYONE once had zero experience before they went out and got the experience. Everyone.
Tenacity + Grit + Mindset + Perserverance + Passion = Career Change Success!
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Let’s do this.
Betty Kempa, CPC, ELI-MP, is an executive career coach helping mid to senior-level corporate women transition out of unfulfilling jobs and into their dream careers.