Ready for a career change, but worried you don’t have the experience or skills to land a job in your desired field? Filling your resume with your previous work experience that has no similarity to the job you’re applying for is likely to land your resume in the trash can. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck in a career you hate forever.
Dawn Graham, PhD, career coach, psychologist, and author of the book Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Career–and Seize Success, says rebranding your professional experience is key to a successful career switch. “When you’re making a switch, you need to be a good fit for the role, and while some of your skills and experiences may be transferrable, many may not be,” she says. Here’s how you can prove that you’re worthy of the title, even when your resume shows no previous experience in the field.
1. Change your social presence
Use social media to your advantage to rebrand yourself in your new career area. Follow thought leaders in your target industry and comment on their posts. Connect with relevant industry groups and associations, share relevant and interesting articles within your online network, comment on posts, attend the biggest industry conferences, and develop a network of contacts in the industry. “Technology makes it easier than ever to market yourself in a way that appeals to the audience you choose,” says Graham. The more you can demonstrate that you’re serious and invested in your new target industry, the more credible you will seem.
2. Find your transferrable skills
Rebranding yourself takes time and introspection. Everyone has transferrable skills, even if you think you don’t. Graham gives the example of a recruiter who wants to move into social media marketing. “You can show off your customer research, analytics, and technical savvy skills,” she says. Demonstrating how you can reach new customers using the same skill set you used to uncover qualified candidates is a way to prove that your experience is relevant.
To determine your skills, Graham recommends breaking down achievements. “If you contributed to saving a large client, consider the steps that got you to that result–perhaps problem solving, diplomacy, creativity, and influencing.” Do the same with other accomplishments and you’ll soon notice a pattern of core strengths. Try going through this exercise with a colleague or manager who may be able to see strengths that you are overlooking.
3. Do your research
In order to find out what skills and experiences are most relevant to your new career choice, spend time learning as much as you can about your target position. Speak with professionals in your target industry, look for volunteer positions in the industry, take courses, and attend professional events to learn what experiences and skill sets are most valuable in the new industry.
4. Don’t lead with your title
While most of us use our job title when introducing ourselves, this can be an error when you’re switching careers. Many companies use language that doesn’t translate outside the industry. A title can cause confusion for someone in another industry, and biases their opinion toward your application. They may think right away that you’re not a good fit without reading further into your experiences. Instead of focusing on your title, place the emphasis on your value–the skills you developed in that position.
5. Know your audience
In order to highlight your value and position yourself as a good fit for the job, you need to know the challenges the hiring manager is trying to solve. “Many job seekers have incredible accomplishments, but without knowing what is important to your audience, you risk leading off with accomplishments that, while impressive, lead the hirer to think you’re not a fit for the role,” says Graham.
When in a job interview, make one of your first questions about the challenges the company or department is facing at this time. Once you find out the hiring company’s pain points, you can select the achievements from your background that best align with what the hiring manager is looking for in the role.
6. Cherry-pick experiences
Some of your best accomplishments and achievements may not be impressive to the hiring manager if they have no relation to the job you’re applying for. To be most effective in rebranding yourself professionally, select the parts of your experience that align most closely with your target role. To make your application in this new field stronger, highlight these experiences in your LinkedIn profile. If hiring managers are reviewing your resume and then jump over to LinkedIn and see a whole different type of experience highlighted, they may be confused and cause them to put aside your resume. Rebranding your professional experience may mean dropping what you think are some of your best accomplishments, but by focusing on “fit” first, you will have a better chance of a recruiter recognizing you as a potential candidate for the position.
7. Justify the switch
“Every hiring manager wants to know why this job at this company at this time,” says Graham. Your answer to this question will be especially important if you’re a career switcher. Graham argues that switchers can have the upper hand in answering this question because they have most likely spent a great deal of time studying the industry, thinking about what they want in a job when making their career switch decision.