Unhappy in your current job? Ready to change to a new career? Start taking steps now to position yourself for your future career. Good or bad job market, employers prefer to hire candidates with directly relevant experience. So your best chance at successfully breaking into a new career is to gain a relevant background. Pursue as many of the following career transition methods as you can to build the appropriate background:
Internships. If you want to leave your current job immediately (or already have), work as an intern while applying for permanent jobs. Internships are real work experience and the best way to make your career transition. Internships are usually unpaid, so consider working part-time as an intern and part-time in a paid (non-relevant) job. Although many employers require their interns to be currently enrolled in an academic program, some don’t, so make your inquiries at your employers of choice.
Classes. Take relevant classes or pursue relevant certificate programs on nights and weekends. Consider going back to school full-time for the appropriate degree. Many graduate students and students pursuing a second bachelor’s degree are career changers.
Groups. Join every relevant professional group you can find. Take on leadership positions or at least be a very active member.
Projects. Complete projects in your free time that have you performing the work of your new career (even though they are just for you).
Networking. Find every professional contact you can in your target field and have informational interviews with them. An informational interview is a non-employment meeting to learn about a job from someone currently working in that career. Ask your friends, relatives, former professors, and fellow alums from any schools you’ve attended for contacts in your new field. Stay in touch with the contacts you meet-they can be a key resource as your job search progresses.
Include all of your career transition methods in your resume and interviews. Here’s how:
Resume. Internships should be included just like a permanent job under the Work Experience section of your resume. Classes, class projects, certificate programs, degrees, and extracurricular activities should be detailed under the Education section. List professional groups and personal projects under an Additional Information section at the bottom of your resume. Your informational interviews will have taught you the appropriate buzzwords for your new career-incorporate them wherever you can in your resume.
Interviews. During your interviews, bring up everything you’ve done to build your relevant background. You will have learned a lot about your new career from all of your preparation, so speak with authority and confidence in your interviews. Talk as if you have been working in the job for several years-this will make the employer more comfortable with the idea of offering you the job.
Build a background for your new career using the methods listed above, incorporate this background into your resume and interviews, and before long an employer will recognize your qualifications and commitment and open the door to your new career!
-Scott Smith, MBA, JD, Author of Find Your Perfect Job: The Inside Guide for Young Professionals