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Which Came First: The Job or the Experience?
How to Make a Career Transition Requiring Experience Without Experience
“Thank you for applying. We regret to inform we have selected another candidate with more relevant experience, but encourage you to check back for future openings.”
Frustration seeps in. You’re convinced that making a career transition is impossible. You might be muttering to yourself, “How am I supposed to have experience if no one will give me any damn experience?”
But before you decide to throw in the towel and think it’s impossible, I want you to look at the millions of LinkedIn profiles that clearly made a successful transition. Profiles that have:
- Internet Merchandising Manager to Fashion Editor
- Commercialization Analyst to Account Manager
- Product Development Business Coordinator to HR Consultant
- Merchandise Analyst to Associate Buyer
- Financial Technical Analyst to Analytics Engineer
- Sales and Catering Associate to Public Relations
These examples above are just random profiles I pulled in the last 10 minutes of searching through people whose career history read big career jumps. So how did they do it?
Step 1: Stop applying online!
In order to make a career transition, it’s really important to not apply online. Putting in your application is great if you already hold the same title or similar title to what you are applying for. For instance, when I was recruiting for Software Engineers, I invited only those who had the exact software or programming language I was looking for. Even better if they were coming from a direct competitor! But I was rejecting all of the candidates who didn’t have a Computer Science degree and a former Software Engineer title in their background. I didn’t even give them a second glance or read their cover letter... because it was my job to find the best possible match.
This is most likely where you are running into a wall if you feel you keep getting rejected without a chance to explain yourself. So how do you explain yourself?
Step 2: Walk the Walk, Brand Yourself, and Make Meaningful Connections
I’ve never been a fan of the phrase, “Fake it until you make it.” Talking the talk is not strong enough. With a simple Google search or an extensive interview, a savvy recruiter can easily gauge how serious you are about this new field or industry you’re trying to break into. Maybe you work at a non-profit or a bank and you dream of working at a tech startup. Instead of saying, “I’m passionate about technology,” how can you demonstrate this? You don’t have to develop your app or start your own dot com but you do need to illustrate in some way you’re spending your hours doing something related to enhancing your knowledge in this area.
Here are 6 Simple Ideas to Break into a New Industry or Role:
- Assess what you want to be known for. When you understand what your personal brand is, you’re able to start putting in the strategic actions to create a consistent image. I encourage you to find people in your target field. People who are considered thought leaders, influencers, or simply someone who is in the position you would like one day. What are they doing that really stands out? How are they demonstrating they are passionate about the topic? Use this as inspiration as you assess what your personal brand is.
- Network with people who would be your future colleagues. If you’re looking to make a transition, where are the people who could be your potential coworkers hanging out? If you’re wanting to leave financial and go into legal, what are the local legal associations and what are their upcoming events? Start your search with good old Google and look for industry organizations in your local city. Then expand this to Eventbrite and Meetup. There are events for everyone everywhere... you just got to look. Once you find one, mark it on your calendar, and strive to make meaningful connections.
- Curate your social media. If your social media is currently filled with photos of you doing keg-stands or wearing crop tops, consider hiding or archiving these photos. I always ask clients, “If we were at an interview and conducted a Google search of you on a big projector screen – would you be mortified with the images and posts that populate?” If your answer is yes, make sure you take the time to audit everything from a prospective employer standpoint. Once it’s clean, go back to the first idea listed in this article and ask yourself, “What would make me feel proud to display?” If you can start curating posts and content to demonstrate your interest in this new area, post it! You don’t have to post daily or even weekly, you just want to make sure what the other person sees validates your interest in the specific role or company. If you can create original content, that’s great... but simply sharing interesting articles or videos around the web is better than nothing!
- Build an online portfolio and publish original content. Speaking of creating original content, this is really a helpful way to not only stand out from the other candidates you’re coming up against, but a way to be found. An online portfolio can be created across a multitude of various platforms. The important thing is to find out where your audience is and figure out what is the best way to showcase your knowledge and interests in this field. For example, if you’re an aspiring writer, it may not make sense for you to make videos on YouTube (unless you want to teach writing). It may make sense to start your own blog, publish articles on LinkedIn or Medium, or pitch ideas to larger publications such as EliteDaily. Or if you want to branch into graphic design and you’re currently a financial planner, it would make sense for you to start a website and possibly post your designs to Instagram or DeviantArt. Maybe you are a graphic designer wanting to become a financial planner, how can you start demonstrating your knowledge in personal finance? If you go back to the first idea listed above, you can find a lot of suggestions that work best based on your research from those you look up to in the new space you’re wanting to transition into. The point is, you want to be able to show tangible examples of the work you’re so passionate about.
- Get certified or take courses online to demonstrate your seriousness. If you know you’re certain you want to move to a new role or field and you feel your skills are lacking, then I highly encourage you to pull up Coursera, Udemy, and YouTube to type in the specific skills you want to acquire and see what courses are populating. You don’t necessarily need a certificate or a new degree to make a career transition (unless it’s very highly scientific and technical or requires a specific level of education). Often employers are willing to train but they need to know you have the basic foundation and willingness to learn. As an example, I was once hiring for a Marketing Specialist. A candidate, Ashley, was referred to me by a current employee. Ashley had a background in interior design and held zero marketing titles in her past. But as I spoke with Ashley, she was able to articulate how her interior design background actually transfers to the new role, and over the past year, she had taken classes online and subscribed to marketing industry magazines to learn as much as possible. She even shared a 30-day plan to catch up to speed as quickly as possible. The hiring team loved her enthusiasm and her self-starter attitude and decided she was committed to learn and would do a great job in this role... beating out all of the applicants that did have marketing in their current titles!
- Start giving and asking how you can help. When networking with old or new connections, it’s important to start giving back. Offer to help someone with one of your current talents and skills in exchange of learning new information about the area you want to tap into. The secret to networking (and life!) is to give more so you can receive more. Giving can also come in the form of volunteering. As an example, I’m currently volunteering my time for a non-profit. Many non-profit organizations are sustained by people who are able and willing to volunteer their time. They are often more than happy to receive your help, even if you’re still learning! When I joined the non-profit, I asked if I could have a position in the sponsorships team... I know nothing about sponsorships. I told the Director that my skills and knowledge are definitely more aligned with the membership team, but I’m interested and eager in learning more about how sponsorships work. This opportunity has allowed me to gain valuable experience as well as receive mentorship and learning opportunities from others I am working alongside.
Take Inspired Action
Making a career transition is often a process. It can be difficult to make it happen overnight, but if you start putting these suggestions into action, you’re going to be well equipped to connect with the right people and convince them you’re worth taking a chance on. Job searching can be a time consuming process so make sure you’re spending your minutes wisely and putting all of your concentration in the area that will deliver the most results.
If you found this article helpful, you can learn about how Emily Liou, Career Happiness Coach at CultiVitae guides corporate professionals to wake up happy on Mondays! Emily works with ambitious corporate professionals in her private coaching program called The Corporate Ladder of Purpose™. She also teaches job seekers how to conquer every stage of the job search process through her comprehensive e-course and group coaching program, The Happily Hired Formula™.