Pulling off a career change, at any stage in life, can feel like an intimidating prospect. Pulling one off when you’ve already accumulated significant experience in your field may feel even more daunting.
Maybe you’ve finally begun to feel burnt out by your industry after spending years or decades in it, or you’ve recently discovered a career path you weren’t aware of when first entering the workforce. Regardless of your specific situation, the challenge you face as you stand on the brink of a mid-career change is the same. How do you enter a completely new field when you don’t have any experience in it, and without sacrificing the accomplishments you’ve accumulated in your present field?
1. For starters — remind yourself that you AREN’T back at square one, even if it feels like you are.
More than likely, there are skills you’ve been using in your current field that will translate to your next one, if indirectly. Say you’ve been working in a sales capacity and want to make the switch to a communications role; your experience drafting and presenting pitches will undoubtedly aid you in crafting compelling, persuasive written communication.
Even if there isn’t such a concrete connection between your two fields, as someone who is mid-career, don’t undermine the value of all the soft skills you’ve accumulated. Today, soft skills are being increasingly emphasized; 92 percent of talent professionals and hiring managers ranked them as very important in LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report.
Read more: “All About Soft Skills”
Read more: “How to Get a Job You Feel Unqualified For”
2. If you know you want to change careers, but are less sure about what that new field will be, it’s time to get a better feel for your options.
A low-commitment (and fun!) way to gather up ideas for where your career pivot can take you is taking personality-based career assessment quizzes online. There’s no shortage of them out there, and an afternoon of forcing yourself (but, again, in a fun way!) to answer questions about who you are and what you truly care about may help you sharpen ideas around what your next move should be.
3. Take a class.
If there is a definite hard skills gap between the job you have now and the job you want to have, help bring your career change into fruition by taking a class. Many universities will allow you to take a class for free in exchange for auditing it, and there’s no shortage of classes you can sign up for online, many of them for no or little cost. In most cases, a completely new degree won’t be necessary. Taking a relevant class or two, though, will demonstrate your dedicated interest to hiring managers, not to mention help set you up for a smoother transition. And if a special certification or more structured schooling is needed for your career change, be sure to investigate any scholarships you might qualify for.
4. Work with a career coach.
They exist for a reason. A career coach can build your confidence, hold you accountable, and provide valuable insight into what makes for a competitive candidate in your new field. During a moment of major transition like this, it only helps to know there’s someone with expertise in your corner. Similarly, a recruiter may also be of particular use at this time. There are two kinds, corporate recruiters and contingency recruiters — read up on both.
5. Give your resume a little TLC.
Especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve applied to a new company, make sure that you’re updated on today’s best practices for resumes before casting any nets. Hiring managers in your new field, too, may be looking for the presence of certain resume keywords that, as someone new to the industry, you wouldn’t be aware of. LinkedIn can help you with this; what language do you see others in your intended field using about their experience? Can you pinpoint any patterns?
6. Make LinkedIn your new best friend.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve updated your LinkedIn account — change that. Make sure your profile is as built out as possible, with a professional headshot (yes, you need one!), and highlight your skills and experience in a way that will best translate to your new industry. The same applies for endorsements, too. Is there a former colleague or boss you’ve been meaning to ask for a LinkedIn recommendation? Ask them now, and don’t be shy about including a couple of pointers as to what specific skills or anecdotes you’d most value having highlighted. Most people will appreciate the specificity!
7. Branch out at your current job.
A simple way to get some of the experience you feel you may be lacking? Adding to your job description at your current company. Is there a stretch assignment you can pitch that’ll position you closer to the direction you’re ultimately looking to head, or maybe a relevant department you can figure out a way of working more closely with? This could make a major difference in the cover letter you go on to write for your new role; instead of grasping at draws, you’ll have an applicable story to tell.
8. Amp up your networking game.
A huge percentage of job opportunities today are the product of a personal connection. If your current network is comprised mostly of people who work in the field you’re trying to exit, it’s time to switch things up. Look online for meetups (which are oftentimes free!) that are related to your new industry. Show up. And, above all, follow up. You never know which new connection could lead to your dream job, and as a mid-career changer, these connections matter even more.
9. Look for new roles in the right places.
This last step is the most inevitable — if you’re serious about making a career change, it’s time to start pounding the metaphorical pavement. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. Browse Fairygodboss for open jobs in your new industry, and read what women have to say about working at those companies. Already on the hunt and feel like you could benefit from some words of encouragement? Pop over and make a post in the FGB Feed, where millions of women in the Fairygodboss Community are rooting for you.