If you’ve ever contemplated changing careers, you know it’s not an easy decision to make. Even if you’re unhappy at your current job, change is scary, and it’s difficult to throw in the towel after you’ve spent years building up expertise in a certain area.
If you’ve weighed the decision and determined it’s the best move for your career and happiness, how do you make it happen? How do you convince an employer that even though you have little to no experience in the new field, you deserve to get the job?
To that end, what do employers really think about career changers? Do they applaud them for taking initiative and seeking out something about which they’re passionate? Or do they look at them suspiciously — if they left their last career, who is to say they won’t do it again?
“An employer can view a job seeker making a career switch in a couple of ways,” says Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing. “The negatives are that they are tired and/or bored. There is also a suspicion that the switch may be forced. What did he do? The positives are that this is someone who is following their passion and wants to contribute in a new way in a new sector. As opposed to being tired and bored, they are enthusiastic and energetic.”
What’s interesting is that the unstable economy might actually work in a career changer’s favour — at least when it comes to employer perception. “Although traditionally, employers might have been cautious about job seekers looking to make a career switch, many hiring managers and recruiters now realize that a transition might be necessary in a tough job market,” says Kat Krull, associate marketing manager at résumé-building company Resunate.
Proving your passion to employers
How can a job seeker looking to change careers convince an employer she is serious about her decision and committed to making the switch?
“Managers have come to expect career changes when they post a position,” says Lynne Sarikas, Executive Director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University in Boston. “They want to see someone who has done their homework about the company, the position and the career path. They want to know why you are making the change and how you will contribute to their organization. The most critical factor is fit. Do they feel they can work with you and that you fit well with the team?”
Sarikas provides the following five tips for convincing employers you’re the right fit for the job:
1. Focus on transferable skills. Don’t try to sell them on everything you have done in the past. Focus on the skills that you bring to this position that will enable you to succeed. Do you have unique skills for this role? Why should they hire you?
2. Prove your track record. Have you already successfully transferred to a new industry or a new department? Have you learned a new system or process? Show that you learn quickly, set high standards for yourself and quickly become an expert in your area of responsibility.
3. Show your passion. Let them know why you are so passionate about this opportunity and what you can bring to the company. Be sure not to come across as the “flavour of the month” but as someone committed to success in this field.
4. Know your competition. You will be competing for this position with people who have done this job before. Sell the hiring manager on the unique strengths and perspectives you bring to the position.
5. Execute flawlessly. Be sure your résumé has no typos or grammatical errors — same for your cover letter. Prepare well for the interview. Have questions prepared to ask the interviewer. Be sure to send a handwritten thank-you note. At every step of the process you want to stand out and be remembered for positive reasons.
By Debra Auerbach, CareerBuilder Writer