Let's face it: the days of yesteryear when people slogged away in one profession or job have long gone past the wayside. Today's work force is now highly motivated, mobile, and extremely transient. Various numbers being tossed around these days range from 5-8 years at a single position before employees start poking around for new opportunities. Oftentimes, this can mean a lot of inter-industry switches…you simply trade one company or organization for another while moving up, but usually, you stay within the same field. But what happens when the field you are in is in the midst of a major upheaval, or is even (gasp) dying? Or, for many people: What does one do when you just get plain bored? Understanding the transferrable skill sets you have in your career arsenal are pivotal to whether you can make an effective leap between entirely different fields. Many people have interest in other areas but completely lack the building blocks to make a transition to an entirely different sector. What happens then is like watching a train wreck in slow motion: the person wants a job in the new field so badly that they end up convincing themselves that their qualifications match, when in fact, they do not. I call this career blindness. They simply can't see that they aren't even remotely qualified. The end result is that the job seeker ends up beating their head against a brick wall and doesn't understand that they haven't matched their background in terms of 'apples to apples' to the job opening. And the employer ends up not even considering the application because of this very mismatch. The clarity in making a strong case for an employer to hire you comes from understanding the top 5 things you'll need to know before changing industries. 1. Make sure your skill sets match. Focus on the FUNCTION of what you do to uncover the transferable skill sets. Be brutally honest with yourself…do you have what the employer is asking for in that particular industry? Remember, if you are 'kinda' qualified, the Wall Street Journal had a recent article that stated that even if you are 80% qualified, the people who are getting the jobs are 110% qualified. Be confident your core transferrable skill sets are deep enough to actually able to do the job. 2. Back out of the industry-specific jargon. Nothing destroys a résumé and a job seeker's prospects when they are making a jump to an entirely different field when the document is muddied with a lot of industry-specific jargon. Remember to "speak" the language of your target employer and only talk about what is relevant to THEM. 3. Assess your network. This is a good time to do a self-diagnosis on your connections. Are your contacts all concentrated in one industry? Now would be the time to start breaking out of the mold and stretching into new territory close to your new career destination. 4. Build your connecting skill sets. Professional development (including classes, workshops, executive / leadership programs, conferences) can help add to your overall knowledge base and bridge any gaps between industries. 5. Conduct informational interviews. Zapping your résumé off to a target company sans any kind of internal contact could spell certain death…you need to start talking to people who can give you the inside scoop of what a particular position requires. You can gain valuable "inside" information on unwritten expectations for a job, and that could give you the time to fill in those holes to complete your background. Have you ever changed careers? If so, did you have a successful transition? Please share your thoughts and stories – the other readers would love to hear about the lessons you've learned! Dawn Rasmussen is the chief resume designer and president of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services.
September 14, 2011