How can I move into a totally different career? I often get asked this by clever, capable people whose hearts are set on a new career and whose heads are telling them, ‘No way! You’ve got zero experience!’.
If you’re setting out to compete with people with ‘experience’ in your next career, try doing these three things.
Get your head in the right place
Start by putting your lack of experience in perspective. See it as a problem you can solve rather than a monster obstacle you’ll struggle to defeat. Before you even begin to assess your experience alternatives, consider this.
More than ever, companies are hiring for cultural fit and aptitude and training for skills. Knowing this should shape how you research likely organisations and pitch yourself (more on this later) to potential employers.
Put culture and values front and centre when you’re delving into the background of companies you’re targeting. When you get a good match, audit your transferable skills; chances are you’ve got loads of these. Think, problem solving, lead generating, project managing, learning new technologies, mentoring, being a renowned cake and coffee maker.
It’s too easy to take our skills for granted and overlook how capable we are. Ask a friend or a colleague to help you compile a list, plus hard evidence of your ability to use your skills in ways likely to fit your new career.
Once you’re armed with a solid grasp of what you can offer, besides drive and ambition and fresh insight, it’s time to make your next move.
Get as close as you can to your target career. Besides confirming (or refuting) your decision, you’ll get a reality check on which skills, experiences and qualifications actually matter and how to acquire them.
There are loads of ways to get experience, including:
- Activating your networks as well as cold contacting to get to talk to people in your target career.
During these conversations test all of your assumptions around the skills and training you think you need. Ask people about their current challenges and offer to help. Simply asking if there is a way to get involved starts to build your credibility in the area. It makes you memorable, shows you’re genuinely keen and happy to lend a hand.
- Volunteering, work shadowing or doing pro bono work. If you can trade time for experience, offer your services for free.
If you spot an opportunity to lighten the workload for someone who shares their time and expertise with you, follow that up. Work out exactly how you can help and contact them again with a proposal.
Make a hit list of attractive companies including smaller ones whose teams are likely to be stretched, explain your aims and make them an offer.
- Developing a side project. If you’re not ready to step back from your day job, maybe your enthusiasm for change will sustain nurturing your new career interest in a side project. This can also validate your desire for change and launch you in the right direction.
Maybe you can freelance for local businesses or test your fledgling skills on family and friends. Think running a boot camp session in your garden or offering a lunchtime mindfulness session. Offer to cater for a party or research holiday options for someone who is short on time or talent for doing these things.
Perhaps you can negotiate fewer or different hours in your day job to focus on building up your side project and growing your experience.
Pitch yourself differently
While you may not have oodles of industry experience, as a career changer you’ve got plenty of sought after strengths. First up you’re sufficiently curious and brave to be transitioning to a new career. You’re keen to learn, and you’re passionate about pursuing opportunities in a field you see as meaningful and fulfilling. Furthermore, you’ve got heaps of ‘other’ experience, which will give you a fresh perspective on your new role.
In short, you have an impressive story. Make an impact by telling it differently. Try:
- Creating a skills based CV that highlights the depth of your transferable smarts and shows how adaptable you are.
As with any CV customise it for every application, quantify your achievements and show you’ve researched the company.
- Compiling evidence of your experience as you build it
Set up a blog, build a website, create a print portfolio, make a video.
Record your experiences as a freelancer or a volunteer, acknowledge the people and organisations that support you, celebrate your side project successes, document new training.
Although a total career reinvention might take more time and tenacity than less dramatic moves, it can be among the most satisfying things we ever do.
Looking for a complete career change? Let’s get started.
By Jo Green, Career Change Coach
I know that when you find what you love, heart and soul, your life changes. I work every day with people who are reshaping their current careers, starting new enterprises or searching for a new direction. Basically I help people who don’t like their job to figure out what to do instead!
As a Careershifters and Firework Advanced Certified Coach and experienced career changer myself, I can help you figure out what fulfilling work looks like for you.
Drop me a note to organise a free 20 minute consultation to chat about your career change and how coaching could help.