With the end of 2020 looming, many of us are hungry for a fresh start. This past year has been challenging and stressful. Whether you lost your job due to the COVID-19 pandemic or are merely looking for a new career direction, 2021 might be the time for a “new you.” But – if the thought of switching jobs or even industries is enough to give you pause – don’t worry. Here are three very achievable steps you can take to start the next chapter of your professional journey.
Before considering a career transition, do your research. Look into subjects, industries and careers that interest you. Start by understanding what makes you interested in these topics. Why do you want to work in that new field? What excites you about the industry or the job? Anytime you make a career transition, you are bound to be asked why. Identify those reasons upfront and spend some time knowing why the new career is a good fit for you.
Another way to educate yourself about a new field is to take some time to meet people who work in the industry or who do the job in which you are interested. This is a great time to work on your networking skills. Network with professionals in the new field and request short informational interviews. An informational interview is a meeting to learn about the real-life experience of someone working in a field, position or company that interests you. These type of meetings can help you better understand the essential skills and requirements needed for a position, as well as the pros and cons you may not have considered. Your new network will be able to provide advice on skills to develop, certifications to earn, groups to join and people to meet, which may make your transition easier.
Reimagine Your Brand
Once you have done your research, it is time to reframe your skills and experience to show who you are becoming, rather than who you have been. Consider your previous jobs and experience compared to the requirements of the new role to determine the required skills and strengths they have in common. The good news is that many of the skills that are highly desired by employers are transferable, which means they can be used in many different jobs and career paths. For example, if you want to make a transition from customer service to project management, your creative thinking, problem solving, and leadership skills are all applicable to the new field.
Continue to expand your professional network into the new industry through introductions, group participation and social media. Make sure to follow thought leaders on social media, who will provide you with the industry trends, lingo and current events relevant to your new career path. Make a list of industry keywords, which can be used in your LinkedIn Profile, Resume and writing samples.
Consider volunteering in a capacity that is closely related to the new job, career or industry. Going back to the example of moving from Customer Service to Project Management, find a local nonprofit that needs assistance with the management of a project and volunteer to be part of the team. Not only will this give you some firsthand experience, but it will continue to expand your new network and recommendation pool. In this example, you need to start seeing yourself as a Project Manager. Intentionally adjusting your identity and brand towards the new direction will help you and others see yourself in the new role and enable you to confidently share with a potential employer why you are the best candidate, even if someone else has more experience.
Update Your Job Search Tools
A critical step in transitioning your career is to adapt your job search tools. Your resume and LinkedIn profile will need to be updated with relevant experience, skills, keywords and new industry language. Ensuring that your information is relevant will help to explain to potential employers how your background fits and successfully translates into the new career.
Focus your skills section on the soft and transferable skills, which directly apply to your new desired position and leave out anything unnecessary or that now seems out of place, considering your new direction. Your resume Professional Summary section and your LinkedIn About section are particularly good places to communicate how your background is relevant and valuable, so you will want to spend plenty of time reviewing and revamping these sections.
Be sure to update your list of references to include those who can specifically speak to the strength of your relevant transferrable skills. When a potential employer reaches out to references during a career transition, they will be more interested in hearing the benefits you bring to the new position than just how you may have been successful at tasks in a previous industry positon.
When you interview for a new position, the interviewer will most likely inquire about your background and the reasons for your career transition. Practice responding to these questions with confidence. Remember that your answer should focus on how you are different from the rest of the candidates because of your non-traditional background and the added value you bring to the positon, team and company. The more confident you are in your answers and ability to do the job, the more the employer will feel comfortable that you are a good fit. An important aspect of a career shift is the realization that your varied background and experiences are not barriers, but advantages.
One last thing to remember is to be patient and persistent. Successful career transitions are not achieved overnight. Don’t get discouraged with small steps, but continue to steadily move in the new direction. With the right mindset, proper preparation and confidence, you can make 2021 the year of your new career!