Challenges for Career Changers
50% of my coaching clients are career changers aspiring to move out of their existing sectors, some perhaps that have been hard hit by the recession (automotive, logistics, manufacturing, financial services) and into hot predicted growth areas for 2010 such as Clean Tech, IT, renewable energy, healthcare, personal development education and re-cycling. Many job seekers complain bitterly of the struggle they go through, as recruiters and companies alike take little or no account of what they believe to be their highly valuable transferable skills. This can be true. Employers frequently want new hires to be immediately effective and “copy and paste” executive search and recruiting techniques are often applied to meet this demand.
This is the line management and HR mantra. Many other career changers would love to change function, simply just for a change or to meet some longer term professional goals: purchasing into sales, finance into SCM or HR into marketing. Others decide to invest in an MBA, a common route for a career changer. However, whichever sector or function you decide you want to move into, it’s not enough to fire off a standard CV and hope that the person reading it will have a deeply mystical experience and miraculously be able to see your future potential.
You will need to convince them that not only do you have what it takes to make the move, but provide substantial evidence that you are also highly committed. I am a dedicated recycler, but does this mean I could pursue a career in that sector? I seriously doubt it.
How do career changers do that?
- Establish your vision, passion and goals and develop a clear career plan: identify the sector, location, function, the type of company, the role you envisage and the market it serves.
- Examine the fit: This is when a SWOT analysis is useful: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. What skills do you need to acquire?
- Consider your salary package. Sometimes when switching sectors or function, it might be necessary to revise your salary expectations.
- How low will you go? Some companies might expect you to completely re-train and work your way up from the bottom. I had the pleasure of meeting Krish Krishnan CEO of Green Ventures at the end of last year, who told me that his company has an in-house academy in Mumbai where all new recruits follow an intensive two year training programme. There, traditional thinking learned outside the sector is stripped away and replaced by a new “green” approach. Being prepared to go through this process requires self insight and an understanding of what you are prepared to do to get into your newly chosen profession or function. I switched to sales from a Corporate HR role in my early thirties. This involved moving from a management position to a junior “feet on the street” sales function. This did little for my feet, but proved invaluable to everything I’ve done subsequently.
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- Research the chosen area thoroughly and study developing trends. Become familiar with the major players and their activities.
- Subscribe to relevant web sites, journals, news feeds , blogs
- Learn the language of your potential new career. Become familiar with the buzz words, jargon and acronyms.
- Network in person – attend conferences, workshops, whatever is available, Join professional bodies and perhaps look for social groups active in the sector – this is very easy for example in the Green Sector , where there are a myriad of opportunities to contribute or volunteer.
- Network online. Join relevant LinkedIn or other online network groups, start building up your contact base. Ask and answer questions. Post discussions. Comment on blog posts. Demonstrate an active interest. Start a blog , join Twitter, look for other organisations on Facebook. Show you mean business.
- Draft a new CV incorporating sector keywords where possible. Leverage your functional expertise. Identify your transferrable skills. Some recruiters advise the use of a wholly functional CV – I would strongly caution you against doing that , limiting that to the mission statement only. There is no faster way to hit the reject pile than recruiters scratching their heads and having no clue where and when you worked and what you did when you were there!
- Tweak your elevator sound bites – incorporate your new goals and vision into easily an digestible pitch
- Can you volunteer for a relevant, related and useful project in your current job that could give credence to your commitment ?
- Can you re-train by attending online or night classes? For some sectors or activities it might involve going back to full-time education.
- Find a mentor – who can help and sponsor you?
- Identify the HR or hiring contacts – your current company might offer opportunities to transfer into a new function otherwise consider moving. You might be able to find contact names via LinkedIn, on the company their website, or simply call and ask!
What else can you do ?
I posted a question on LinkedIn to see what other people already working in the Alternative Energy sector or who were also aspiring to join it could share. Their responses were all of the above! The message across the board is to educate yourself ( to acquire as much knowledge as you can from outside your target sector or function) implement what you have learned and above all….. network, network, network!
So – Good luck!
For additional information regarding specific job trends and projections in forthcoming years, see Bureau of Labor Statistics.