Congratulations on deciding to pursue a new career path! Now comes the tricky part.
Before you can start working in your new field, you have to convince others that you are qualified and capable of performing this type of work. This is where most career changers struggle as they attempt to answer questions such as:
“What jobs and fields am I qualified for?”
“How do I describe my previous experience on my resume? In an interview?”
“How do my skills translate to a new field?”
If you want to stand out from the crowd and land a job in a new field, it’s essential to assess your own experience to work out how you can fill gaps in the sectors you want to move into.
Here's what you need to know to prove to recruiters and hiring managers that you're the perfect fit.
What Are Your Qualifications?
The best place to start is by simply looking at the requirements for the position and asking yourself: Which of these requirements do I already fulfill?
Unless you are making a significant jump from one industry to another, such as marketing executive to neurosurgeon, chances are that you will tick off a few of the skill requirements from your previous positions. These qualifications are important as you can easily draw parallels between your previous expertise and your new role without needing to elaborate or explain the correlation.
Maybe you have those 5 years of leadership experience they are asking for, maybe you have public speaking experience or you have experience in training lower level employees. Emphasizing these areas is important, as this step will provide you with the skills that you will want to draw the most attention to within your resume. By focusing in on those qualities that make you an obvious fit, you can then present yourself as a seamless hire, even with your less than traditional experience.
Regardless of industry, employers will always appreciate an employee who is able to get things done and produce results. This is universal and can greatly help your chances at landing a position outside of your current industry.
For this reason, it’s always smart to highlight the results you achieved in your previous positions rather than simply listing your duties and responsibilities. This is particularly relevant when changing industries. Employers will, more often than not, care much more about what you actually accomplished in your previous roles and less about how you specifically did it.
For further clarity, let’s look at an example. Imagine an employee named Connor who previously worked in venue event coordination and is now looking to make the switch into a sales position for a software company. He knows that his previous skills dealing with customers and clients will help in a sales position but he is nervous about his perceived lack of qualifications.
Here is a bullet point from Connor’s current resume.
Responsible for planning, organizing, and executing fundraisers and black tie galas.
In order to emphasize results, Connor should quantify that point with some numbers while also tying it back to a larger, company-wide objective. In doing so, that bullet point could look like this:
Strengthened company and venue relationships with 70+ clients and potential customers by providing exceptional service and attention to individualized requests.
Not only is that second option far more impressive, but it also touches on some qualities that would be important in a sales career—including relationship-building and organization.
Build Skill Bridges
When applying for a position in a different industry, it is your responsibility as the job seeker to make your previous experience appear as relevant as possible. Often times, this means that you will need to connect the dots for the hiring manager and bridge the gap between the skills you possess and the skills that the position requires.
In some instances, this could mean cutting out things that won’t apply to your new industry. This can include aspects such as highly technical skills or specific pieces of software. Challenge yourself to relate existing experiences to this new field. Let’s use Connor as an example again. Based on his research he knows that meeting quotas is a key part of success in a sales position. While he didn’t need to meet specific sales goals in his previous roles, he does have experience building relationships with clients and ensuring repeat business. He could emphasize that in a bullet like this:
Consistently organized successful events leading to repeat business among 30% of clients through successful relationship building, proactive outreach, and effective communication.
This statement proves a few vital things about Connor that make him a fit for a sales role. He is proficient at building professional relationships, he recognizes the importance of being proactive and he is comfortable speaking with clients and customers.
Don’t Overlook Your Soft Skills
Soft skills are often seen as non-important requirements that your eye typically glazes over, especially since they are more difficult to quantify as more technical capabilities. But, these skills really do carry weight in a job search. Think about it this way. Would a company want to hire a salesperson who wasn’t skilled in communication? Probably not.
The fact that soft skills are important is great news for those looking to switch industries as they are the skills that most industries are looking for and are easily transferable. Things like time management, organization, or multitasking will be desirable in a wide variety of fields.
While your resume can't consist of only soft skills, calling attention to these qualities can help to fill in some gaps and present you as a well-rounded and qualified candidate.
Making the switch to a new industry can be a daunting experience but that shouldn’t prevent you from trying something new. Don't beat yourself up over the idea that you don't fit perfectly into the mold of people who normally fill these positions. Instead, emphasize your passion for this new field as well as the valuable things that you do bring to the table. Do that and you will be sure to catch the eye of a hiring manager that understands you don’t need to be a typical choice to be qualified for a position.