Several shifts have taken place in the workforce and job market since the recession several years ago. This impacts the way we hire and retain top talent, how we conduct our job search. It also includes how we define career satisfaction and how we successfully execute a career transition.
As a resume writer, brand strategist, and career consultant, a consistently recurring theme that I see in conversations with clients is an increasing desire, need, and willingness to embrace the potential for career transition. This includes recent graduates and professionals looking to re-enter the workforce. It also includes individuals shifting away from struggling industries and those looking to apply their transferable skills to a new specialization.
The potential for change is no longer limited to a lateral or upward movement within one’s field. It’s multi-directional, and it’s about recognizing opportunities to which we can match our own value and expertise.
Here are a few key areas to consider and integrate into your overall career or job search strategy when making a career transition.
The Importance of Storytelling
The success of a brand, and in my humble opinion, a resume as well, rests in its ability to craft an impactful, interesting, and relatable narrative that speaks to its target audience and communicates the value it has to offer. There are a thousand casual shoe brands out there – what makes the TOMS brand unique? The brand is rooted in a narrative around how their product not only brings value to its customers through comfort, utility, and style but also how its philanthropic-minded practices as an organization add to the greater good, by donating goods and proceeds to communities in need. That’s a much more powerful story than simply touting product features and benefits.
The same principles apply to your resume and personal marketing strategy. What other unique assets or attributes can you bring to the table versus someone with a more traditional background in the field you’re looking to transition into? If you lack direct experience in that industry, for example, what transferable skills and personal qualities do you consider strengths that will add value in some way? The resume can be a tricky place to delve into your reasons for making a career change. So utilize the cover letter, LinkedIn, social media, your website, or even your bio to craft your narrative and tell a story about why you chose to pursue a new focus, and how you’re positioned for success.
Start Rebranding Yourself Before You Make a Career Transition
Market yourself to the job you want, not the job you have. People often feel hesitant to speak of themselves in the context of an area in which they lack experience; but if you’re looking to change careers, start a business, or tap into a new industry, this is exactly what you need to do. There may be some limitations, particularly if you are actively employed and want to keep your plans out of earshot of your current employer. Practice speaking about yourself in the roles you’re targeting; it will help others get a sense of how they might be able to help you, and you’ll build comfort in branding yourself as Jane the Writer, versus Jane the Lawyer. A few additional tips:
- Align your LinkedIn and social media profiles with your target position. This includes updating your location (if relocating), industry and your headline if appropriate.
- Start connecting with thought leaders, hiring managers, and peers in your target field. Build mutually-beneficial relationships. Then leverage them when the time comes to make a move.
- Identify companies of interest and build a list of top prospects to pursue. Get to know their culture, product, and audience.. Identify any applicable connections between your experience and those areas.
- Discuss your plans openly with friends, families, and colleagues if you feel comfortable. They can offer potentially beneficial feedback. And you will start to solidify your new “persona” and bring energy and effort to those goals.
Identify (and Fill) Potential Gaps
The biggest challenge candidates meet in navigating career transition is remaining competitive against peers who bring more traditional experience, practice, and skill sets within their target field or industry. While you may have transferable skill sets that can apply across industries or specializations (client relationship management, communication, presentation and public speaking, writing, etc.), it’s also important to identify the gaps. What critical skills or experience do you need (and may potentially lack) in order to convince hiring managers that you can be successful in the role? How can you build those skills, or even compensate for those areas with other attributes?
A recent client was looking to leave a 15-year career in the financial sector and honor her personal passion for fitness by targeting a client-facing role within a wellness startup. Problem is, she has neither startup nor wellness experience on a professional level, which impacted her competitiveness. She did have the transferable skill sets in terms of account management, client services, leadership, and project coordination, but it would still be a tough sell against more traditionally qualified peers.
She recognized a need to appear technically savvy in order to appeal to a dot-com organization where the product is heavily technology-based. So she decided to take coding and design classes to build her knowledge in those areas. Would they be part of her day to day work? Not likely, but it demonstrated initiative. It also highlighted that must be able to speak the language of technical and design teams.
The ways in which the modern job market has seemed to embrace career transition is certainly beneficial. It’s opened up a plethora of opportunities. We can now repurpose and leverage our talents in new ways. We can build exciting brands poised for growth. Perhaps for the first time, we can create careers and lives more aligned with our values.
But it also poses a distinct challenge in how to effectively market oneself and instill confidence in hiring managers. So you must anticipate and respond to those challenges with a solid brand. You need a compelling narrative and professional portfolio of tailored marketing tools that help you tell that story. And you know that communicating your unique value is the key to a successful career transition.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brooklyn Resume Studio.
About the Author: Dana Leavy founded Aspyre Solutions, focusing on small business development and career consulting. Her mission is to support creative and socially-conscious small businesses. She also offers career transition coaching and business consulting for creative professionals and entrepreneurs.
Dana has helped hundreds of professionals execute effective career plans to find and DO the work they are passionate about. She has presented seminars on navigating careers, transition and work-life balance to several colleges and universities. Her advice has been featured on MSN Careers, Fox Business News, NewsDay, CareerBuilder.com, GlassDoor and About.com. Follow Dana on Twitter!