Fancy a career change? It’s usually straightforward finding a similar role in a work sector you know well – but how do you look for something entirely different?
6 D’s to get quicker results when changing sector:
1. Dump your preconceptions
The job market is increasingly flexible – every year people make sector changes. Don’t assume these moves require retraining. Too many people ignore interesting jobs because they assume that employers will only look at candidates with relevant, recent experience.
This is sometimes true, but it often depends on the range of talent available – and also on the employer mindset. Sometimes employers are keen to train up potential or bring in expertise acquired in other fields.
2. Decode employer reluctance
On the whole employers prefer applicants whose knowledge and experience are a close fit; if you have never worked in a sector before it’s hard to be taken seriously.
If your CV uses language and describes contexts which seem alien, this magnifies the problem. The aim of your research (see below) is to work out an employer’s wish list.
Your next task is to translate your experience and know-how into meaningful terms – skills only become transferable when you describe them in language that employers understand and get excited about.
3. Deconstruct job boards
Job boards are useful because they point to organisations which are actively recruiting. Study job ads carefully: they reveal job titles, organisational needs, working cultures, skills and competences sought, and the language employers use to describe top talent.
Make sure you supplement this desk research with real conversations with anyone who knows the sector so you get a feel for what job descriptions mean in practice.
4. Dig deeper in your research
Most applications from out-of-sector candidates fail to show real knowledge. It can easily seem as if you are playing with the idea of change, and you’ll probably go for a safe job.
Show you’re not vaguely interested, just dipping your toes in the water. Make sure your industry research is up to date, and talk about the range of organisations you’ve talked to. Research target employers as if you were investing your own money in them.
5. Desist from random applications
If you send a CV which doesn’t come close to matching employer needs, you’ll get the same results whether you use it ten times or a thousand times. Untailored applications from candidates with unconventional backgrounds are quickly ignored.
You’re far more likely to break into a new sector after meeting people face-to-face – so they can see your enthusiasm and commitment. Get in front of people in your target sector, asking smart questions which will help you craft an on-message CV.
6. Demonstrate your unique value
Rather than apologising for your unconventional background, celebrate it. Talk about the way your experience and skills are not only different but add something unusual which isn’t replicated by ‘identikit’ candidates.
You’ll have to push open more doors than candidates with predictable CVs, but do so with informed enthusiasm.