Credibility is the big challenge to making a career change. Do you have the qualifications to succeed? Can you convince an employer that it’s worth the risk to employ you?
The key way to overcome these challenges is to do your homework with people who have been successful in making such a career shift. Find people who have backgrounds similar to yours and became successes at the kind of position you seek. If you can find them in the employer’s organization, that’s especially powerful. If not, tap your network, professional associations, LinkedIn, and other resources.
Ask the people how they leveraged their skills and experience. Explore what they needed to learn and do differently. If you can’t find people like yourself who made the transition successfully, at least interview people in the kind of job you want. Learn what’s required and how your skills and experience apply.
You need to go a step further, however, to become more credible. The problem is that your past career has branded you. That is, it shapes how others think of you. You need to put forward a new brand that will attract the employer’s interest. Think of your brand as a promise that creates a preference for you. It’s not enough to promise what you want. You need some proof that you can deliver what the career change requires. You might shadow someone who has a job that you’d like. Demonstrate an ability to offer helpful ideas. You also could take the initiative to analyze a situation and offer some opportunities for improvement. An employer wants evidence that you can execute the career transition.
In your interview, address the career shift issue head on. An employer needs to know that you’ve really thought through the change and have invested yourself in being ready for the transition. Don’t forget to highlight the upside of someone coming in with a fresh perspective to offer better ways of doing things. Give examples of how you’ve done this in other jobs or life experiences. These insights help reduce an employer’s risk aversion to trying a career shifter.
In today’s fast-moving economy, more and more people will need to shift careers over time. Learn the skills to navigate these changes, and you’ll enjoy the transitions.