As the calendar turns over, you may be considering the possibilities 2018 has in store for you professionally. Is this the year you’ll take that leap and switch careers?
Perhaps you’re ready to leave your role as a patent lawyer to pursue product management at a startup? Or maybe you’ve been wondering what it’d be like to shift from teaching computer science at the local high school to programming wearable technology in a global corporation? Maybe you love what you do, but you’d like to have a direct impact on specific populations by switching to an industry like healthcare?
If you’ve been pondering the idea, but aren’t sure if a career switch is right for you, ask yourself these questions:
What kind of switch do I want to make?
There are different types of career switches, each with varying degrees of difficulty. Industry switches (same function, new industry) such as moving from data analytics in eCommerce to a similar job in academia, are the least difficult since you have a work history that aligns with the key duties of the job. Functional switches (new function, same industry) are more challenging. For example, you may wish to transition from recruiting to sales in big pharma, and while your industry knowledge will help, your resume won’t have the experience a hiring manager will expect. The most difficult are double-switches (changing both function and industry), which are completely doable, but may take considerably more time and resources.
Bottom line: The further you stray from a ‘traditional’ career trajectory, the more effort it can take to make the switch.
Do I need to return to school?
While some fields such as nursing or law require specialized degrees and professional licenses to practice, many career switches can be made without the additional time and expense of another degree. Before you start completing graduate school applications or collecting M.B.A. rankings, research to find out how much hands-on training, relevant experience and job placement assistance the university offers and what percentage of graduates make career switches like the one you’re seeking.
Bottom line: Experience trumps coursework and after your exams, you’ll still have a tough job search waiting for you.
What am I willing to sacrifice?
Making a career switch (especially a double-switch) can sometimes mean relocating to a new city, a decrease in salary, a loss of perks like accrued PTO, or the need to start in a lower position. While interesting work and an exciting new career path can ease the blow of some of these losses, it can still be tough to swallow a major change in professional identity after attaining status in your current field. For many career switchers, these changes are temporary, and some even catapult to higher salaries and levels in their new careers once they gain traction. However, only you can decide what sacrifices you’re willing to make for your switch.
Bottom line: The more flexible you’re willing to be, the easier it will be to make a career switch.
How do my transferable skills stack up?
Transferable skills are those that transcend a variety of industries and functions such as the ability to influence others, lead teams, set strategy, manage ambiguity, communicate effectively and be resourceful. The more transferable skills you’ve mastered, the better you’ll be able to present yourself as a strong candidate in your career switch. Having concrete examples of when you’ve overcome adversity, created success within ambiguity and dealt with setbacks resourcefully will go far in showing a hirer that you can figure things out and contribute to the bottom line, even without the standard background.
Bottom line: Hiring managers are looking for agile, motivated candidates who can hit the ground running with little hand-holding.
How healthy is my network?
It’s common knowledge that it’s not the most qualified person who gets the job, but rather, it’s the most well-connected. As a career switcher, this can work in your favor if you’ve built a strong web of contacts in the area you’re targeting. Getting a referral is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door in a career switch since it allows you to bypass steps in the job search process (e.g., applying online) that typically derail non-traditional candidates. If you don’t have a robust network, get started: attend industry events, research your second-level contacts on LinkedIn (a rich source for switchers!) and re-warm former connections. With social media, it’s never been easier to build a thriving network.
Bottom line: Your network is your lifeline to a career switch, so thoroughly invest time cultivating it.
Am I determined?
A job search is frustrating. Adding a career switch to the mix can make it that much more aggravating. As a switcher, you’ll be competing with traditional candidates who have the expected work history and experience. This means you have to dig deeper to show hiring managers you’re worth rolling the dice on. Sending applications and engaging headhunters won’t work since those strategies are designed for traditional candidates. Be creative, use your network and demonstrate your adaptability. Rally support from family and friends who can remind you when things get tough that obstacles are just par for the career switch course.
Bottom line: You’ll face more hurdles than traditional candidates, so know this going in and be tenacious!
Making a career switch may not be as easy as finding a new role in your current field. However, if you’re ready for a change, why not make this your year? You have a long career ahead and the extra time and effort you put into finding the right role now can put you on the path to a more fulfilling future!
Reposted from: Forbes.com