Charting the Course of Career Change

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As a recruiter, one question I often receive from people looking for jobs is whether it’s possible to find a role working on something different than what their experience is in. For many it’s because up to this point in their career, they have only been given a chance to work in one area, or because they see industry wide trends (such as the increasing use of analytics) and they’d like to develop new skills in this area to stay relevant within the industry.

If you’d like to work in a space that you’ve not worked in before, here are some considerations that can help you land a position:

  • Be willing to relocate – having a wider range of cities you can live in increases the number of companies that can consider you. If you’re set on one geographic area, it greatly limits your opportunities and typically takes much longer to find a role.
  • Be willing to consider taking a step back financially – if you have more than 6 years of experience realize that many of the jobs at your level will entail management responsibilities. It’s more difficult for a company to feel comfortable hiring someone without direct experience if they need to manage others’ work in the department. You may need to step into a role that has less management experience than your current role, and unfortunately that can also represent a step back financially. The goal is that by gaining this experience you will broaden your background which in the long run leads to higher wages, more job opportunities and greater job satisfaction.
  • Consider joining a smaller company – companies with fewer employees often require that employees have a broader range of responsibilities with a wider reach into different business lines and functions. At a smaller company, it’s possible to find a role where they leverage your past expertise but offer you the opportunity to work in new areas as well. Consulting companies might also be worth considering because they provide a mix of projects you can work on. You may be able to lead engagements that leverage your knowledge while also putting you on projects that expand your experience
  • Join a professional society that offers classes and training in the area you want to gain experience in. Even though it is not direct experience, you will gain exposure to the concepts/skills needed in that space. When an opportunity arises in that field having taken courses on your own demonstrates your commitment level. This will also allow you to develop relationships with people who work in that space, which could lead to job possibilities.
  • Open doors with your current company – build relationships with co-workers in the departments you are interested in gaining experience in. Seek out and volunteer for opportunities to work on cross functional teams. Make it known within your own company that you would like the opportunity to be considered for roles in that space.

The final piece of advice is to do deep research on the job you want. Be sure to understand the positives and negatives of the job. Talk with people who are successful in the role so that you understand what it takes to do the job well. With this information, when applying for the job, you will be able to speak more accurately about what motivates you about the new role and sell the skills that could transfer from your previous role.

– Dan Karrow

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