The stigma of “career hopping” is waning. Employers no longer shy away from job seekers who are looking to change their role, or even industry.
My own career path has been an interesting and varied journey. I began in the shoe department of Nordstrom, where I started working on the displays and quickly rose through the ranks, turning my focus to developing the brand’s now-famous reputation for customer service. Then I got a job at Microsoft, overseeing sales and guiding the technology buying process for customers. After Microsoft, I worked with two interactive marketing agencies before founding my own customer experience (CX) agency, Tahzoo.
Through this journey, I’ve learned the importance of thoughtful research, self-evaluation, and persistence. If you are looking to make a career change, here are some tips for how to make it happen.
Introspection is key to a successful career shift. Before you even start a job search, take a look at your current role and identify what elements most interest and excite you and where you excel. Can you run a team well? Do you always secure new business? Are you a “customer whisperer”? Then, look at the areas of the business where you wish you had a more active role, or where you would like more expertise. Don’t take a narrow view of your role, but look at where your strengths play into the overall business.
Determining your strengths, weaknesses, and goals will help you decide what the next step in your career should be. For example, I knew I wanted to work for a tech company when I realized just how much technology was impacting the entire retail process, from the manufacturers all the way to my role in the display department. I wanted to get to the source of the technology–I wanted to work for a company that made the technology. And I made that happen.
Once you’ve identified your strengths, find a job that will play into those skills. Figure out what your strongest skill set is and play that up. These need to be the skills that make you a valuable employee across the board. You need to be confident in the skills you identify–if you’re in an interview and put on the spot regarding your lack of industry experience, your ability to convey confidence in your unique skill set will be crucial.
In any company, it takes multiple perspectives to solve a business problem. As a job candidate, you can show your value by displaying the characteristics that will make you an efficient problem-solving employee, and show how an outside perspective can benefit the business. Perhaps your solutions and approaches are nonconventional to the industry. Even better. Bring the next company you work for a fresh look and new thinking. If you can demonstrate your commitment and confidence in the value that you know you will add to a company, that will make you an attractive candidate to hire.
It’s also important to go the extra mile. Think of new and different ways to leverage the knowledge you have to add a different perspective to a new industry. For example, if you’re looking to move from sales to marketing, think of how your experience dealing with potential customers can help you in your new role. Anticipate what the next trends and changes in the industry will be and apply your skill set to those changes. In order to commit to the career change you want to make, you need to always be looking for the most impactful and relevant skill you can bring to the new industry.
If you’re making a big jump and switching industries, you will lack the knowledge that coworkers who started in that field have built over the course of their careers. This can seem daunting, but my best advice is to read up! Gather all the information you can and get to know the industry lingo, jargon, and terms. Tap old colleagues who might know more. Prepare to be a fast learner and a continuous learner. When I made the move from Nordstrom to Microsoft, I read every computer magazine I could find. And when I decided to take on agency life, I made sure I understood the intricacies behind how agencies were run, and practiced the language my new teams would speak.
I made a huge shift in my own career–from shoes to CX. Pivoting isn’t always easy, but it’s certainly worth it to take risks and to not be afraid of change in pursuit of your passion. By following the above tips, you’ll be able to ease the transition as you grow in your career.
As CEO, Brad Heidemann drives the strategic vision for Tahzoo and directs the overall planning and execution of the business. He has grown the company from a few employees and some great ideas to an agency that serves the Fortune 500, maintaining offices from Amsterdam to Seattle. Follow him on Twitter @Brad_Heidemann.