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How to Change Careers

March 2, 2015

Changing careers is common for many people. Whether you’ve simply discovered you actually hate your current career path or your industry has made it impossible for you to continue being employed. It doesn't matter if you’re in your twenties or fifties, when you change careers it often means starting over.

How do you transition careers successfully? 

Changing jobs is difficult, but changing careers can be an overwhelming undertaking. We wanted to know what our hiring experts believed about switching careers—namely how to transition careers well.

Sara, a hiring expert from American Express, gave this very insightful take on career change, “First, focus on building your knowledge of your areas of interest by networking with individuals in your company to learn more about the work that they do. If Marketing [for example] is a focus for you, then seek out people in that area to learn about their projects, the day to day, core skill sets and talent attributes.

Once you have determined this is where you want to focus, analyze your current and previous work and role to see where the alignment of skills and experience are with Marketing or your chosen focus area. Be sure to recognize gaps and either be prepared to address them in an interview or find ways to build these skills and experience.”

It’s key to understand that while you may have an interest in the new career path that doesn’t mean you have the necessary skills required for it. The good news is there are a variety of excellent resources, both free and paid, that can help you make the transition. With iTunesU you can now sit in on college classes that are tailored to the field and career you'd like to join. There are also endless ebooks that you can download for free if you do a simple internet search. Make sure to research the book reviews because while some are excellent, others are downright terrible.

Following Sara’s advice is important to understanding some on the job realities that no classroom or book will accurately communicate. The point is to gather as much information as possible and learn at an accelerated rate so you can put yourself in line with other individuals in that field.

How do you put a resume together for your newly desired career, when most of your experience is in a completely unrelated field?

Steve, an expert from Caterpillar, gave this advice when it comes to tailoring your resume for a career change, “Any time that you are applying for a position for which you do not possess a great deal of on-the-job experience, it is critical for you to structure your resume in a way that emphasizes the other aspects of your background. Next, you should focus on your leadership experience and other types of activities in which you participate on campus, in the community, at church, etc.  In particular, focus on any leadership roles that you have assumed in these activities.  These activities are important to list, in my opinion, as they speak to your character and the type of person that you are.  This is what could differentiate you from other candidates.”

It is likely some experience you’ve had in previous positions would lend to your career change. If you worked in finance but want to move to marketing you may want to highlight report writing skills or your project management abilities. Remember that any aspect of your life can be included on your resume if it serves a purpose to show experience or character. So like Steve said, include volunteer work and any leadership experience as it will definitely improve your resume.

Changing careers can be challenging, and it can cause a great amount of anxiety. However, it can also be exhilarating and life changing. The keys to making the change will be allowing yourself enough time to gather the kind of knowledge necessary to make the jump, and utilizing your existing network to get where you want to go. And if you feel like making a career change is impossible, just remember what Walt Disney once said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

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