5 Ways to Change Careers

The problem with trying to change occupations or industries, is that most people don’t have the skill set to support a broad leap in jobs. So they end up willing to do practically anything other than what they are currently doing, and subsequently flounder in their job search.

After 15 years in recruiting, helping companies to find and hire teams of highly specialized consultants and executives, my job is now to teach employers and recruiters how to find and attract talent better. But one of my primary passions remains helping job seekers along in the career process. I donate time speaking to career groups, and regularly do calls with job seekers in distress.

One of the main subjects discussed, especially this deep into what’s turning out to be a fairly long recession, is transitioning industries or occupations. Many people just aren’t having enough success in their current vocation. Or it has been a struggle in their industry for so long that they are burned out.

What many of us struggle with in changing occupations is lack of focus, and poor understanding of our own market. We think the grass looks greener over there. But over there is across a big pond. The odds of jumping across it are low. So, instead, we should think of side stepping around to get across.

Moving to adjacent or complimentary industries is a straight forward option that most of us don’t think to consider.

If you want to change careers, look at the companies that align with or serve your current industry.  They may not be what you think.  Look at every vendor to your current firm and your competitors’ firms.  Chances are those vendors hire people like you in some capacity.  Then you can start side stepping around the pond to the place you want to be on the other side. 

Here are 5 ideas to help job seekers who wish to change careers

  1. Look at adjacent/complimentary industries or companies, and vendors to your current firm or competitors firms.  Ask who supplies your company with various items or services, who does your web site, PR, marketing, CRM software, office supplies, food service, etc.  Chances are there is a company that services your current employer, or one like yours, who would be interested in hiring good people from inside the operation.  Think about how you can apply your existing skills in other areas vs. completely changing skill sets.
  2. List other things you do as ‘jobs’.  If you are on a board, volunteer, help a friend, whatever, there is a story there and you use certain skills to do it.  Probably those skills are something you are passionate about.  List those things on your Linkedin profile or resume under “additional engagements” just as you would a job.  It is experience… use it.
  3.  Start a project online to study the industry or skills with which you want to work.  Get a friend or colleague to help.  Create something that a company you are targeting might find valuable.  Document the process.  List it on your resume as a real job (you’re not fabricating anything if this actually becomes part of your experience).
  4.  Start an industry blog about your target industry or occupation.  Post articles, both re-blogged from others, and original material that you research and write yourself, that people in your target market can use in their work, retweet, reblog, etc.  You might even document your job search process.  Highlight the knowledge you are gaining as you strive to master expertise as you go along.  You will start to pop up on the radar of employers and recruiters in the industry you target.
  5.  Focus, focus, focus. Make some lists: What you get paid to do, What you like to do, What companies will pay you to do that you like.  In that final list is your focus.  Check out my post on How to Create Focus Lists to Narrow Your Job Search:

When you decide who your targets are, and who the players are within those companies, network with them, be supportive, retweet, like, and share their posts.  Cozy up and get friendly…and listen…before you ask for anything.  Post useful information, tips, and articles in groups and places you know they participate. 

Then, when you have become a valuable resource, let them know that you think they are great, and that you are very interested in their organization. Invite them to a phone call or a cup of coffee.  Be honest and tell them you want to change careers and you think their company is a good prospect for you and you for them.  Ask about the best way to get referred in.  Chances are, if you have proven yourself knowledgeable and valuable, you will get an intro to the firm.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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