Whether you are looking to make a slight shift in your career direction or want to effect a more dramatic career change, there are many things to consider.*
It’s unusual to make a direct lateral or upward move when you switch careers. (In other words, mid-level attorneys rarely immediately become mid-level screenwriters.) It’s more likely that your first job in a new career will be a lower step onto a different ladder.
This investment may be the proverbial one step back to take two steps forward, or it may be an actual investment in training or education that will position you to make your desired career change. Either way, this investment will clearly demonstrate to potential employers that you are committed to this new direction and they will be more inclined to take you seriously.
Grow Your Network
Changing careers often means changing your personal identity, and that can require changing your immediate circle of contacts to include people who were not previously part of your network. Hang out and associate with people who you want to be like, not the ones you are most comfortable with.
Understand Your Transferable Competencies
Understand the top five competencies required for your desired career and be able to describe yourself and your experience in those terms. Show employers how your competencies are completely transferable to the job for which you are interviewing (even if they never ask you directly!). Doing so will reduce your perceived risk as a candidate in the employer’s eyes.
Accentuate the Positives
Talking about how your last career was boring or a mismatch is not very enticing to your potential employer. Cull some positives from your last experience, describe them, and then talk about how you’d like to build your career going forward. For example, “My career as a CPA allowed me to interact with clients at a senior level, which I enjoyed very much. I am now looking to apply my analytical skills to a more creative endeavor, while still putting my client skills to use.”
Avoid Ego-Based Phrases
Certain phrases, like “I’m too senior,” “I’m too expensive,” or “I’ve already paid my dues,” suggest both a sense of entitlement and a sense of insecurity. Delete these from your vocabulary.
*The contents on this page have been excerpted from Next Step Partners’ Career Handbook for Working Professionals.