By: Alyssa Gelbard
Changing careers is a big decision. It's both exciting and stressful and requires a significant amount of time and commitment. Whether you are making a professional change after 25 years of work experience or after five years, there is more to it than a regular job search.
You're not alone if you feel somewhat overwhelmed and insecure as you begin the process. The voice inside your head asks a million questions -- do my skills and expertise really translate to my new career? Does it really make sense to change careers at my age? Will I make enough money? What if I don't like my new career -- can I go back to what I'm doing now? And, on top of all of this, there are more typical job search thoughts as well, like are my resume and Linkedln profile strong enough? Is a cover letter really important? I haven't interviewed in years, I'm so out of practice.
Regardless of industry, job function or level of experience, making a career change has its share of challenges. Here are some common obstacles and strategies to overcome them.
Lack of Confidence: Feeling self-doubt is quite common when you are considering a career change. Instead of focusing on how you may not measure up, focus on the strong skill set that you developed through experience and expertise. The key is presenting your transferrable skills in an effective way that shows your value to prospective employers.
Fear of the Unknown: Not knowing how you'll fare in your new career can cause anxiety. Doing research can help shift the focus away from what you don't know. Talk to a variety of people in the role you are targeting to gain perspective and insight into what the job is really like, the competitive landscape, industry trends and growth potential. The more you familiarize yourself with what you are getting into, the less fear you will have.
Feeling Overwhelmed: Not knowing where to start in a job search can be daunting, and it's emphasized even more when changing careers. Start by creating a plan of what you need to do. Then set smaller, realistic, achievable goals so you can accomplish one thing and move onto the next (e.g. update Linkedln profile content and headshot). Being able to cross something off your list provides a sense of accomplishment, which will keep you motivated - a key thing during a job search.
Uncomfortable With Networking: Many people feel uncomfortable talking about themselves or having conversations with strangers. Ease into networking by first reaching out to those who you know well (friends, family, close former colleagues) and then attend informal gatherings where you can practice speaking about your career change. The more you do it, the more confidence you will gain. Then you can move onto networking opportunities where you may not know people. The key thing on which to focus during any networking situation is meeting people who can provide insight, connections or guidance, versus meeting someone who will tell you about the perfect new job.
Apprehensive About Linkedln: Even if you're not active on any other social media channel, you should be on Linkedln. It is a vital job search, networking and research tool. There are many ways to maximize its use to gain information/insight, facilitate networking, increase your professional exposure and grow your personal brand as you pursue a career change. You can learn how to use it or improve your current level of expertise through online tutorials, articles, personal contacts, workshops or professional assistance.
Can't Articulate Your Value: Everyone has expertise, skills and unique experiences that make them valuable. If you're having trouble identifying these on your own, seek an objective opinion - from either a personal/professional contact or career consultant. When you talk to someone about your professional experience, they will hear what you're saying in a way that's different from you because they don't have emotional ties to the information (you do). They can help identify and clearly communicate your true value, which is vital as you market yourself in a new direction.
Haven't Looked For A Job In A Long Time: Many people going through career change haven't looked for a job in quite a while, so they're unsure about how to navigate the job search process because things have changed so much (Linkedln, applicant tracking systems, mobile apps to apply for jobs, sending thank you emails etc.). Friends and colleagues who are involved in the hiring process or have recently changed jobs, as well as experts, can be quite helpful by providing guidance and insight into how to conduct a job search. And, without your realizing, these conversations serve as the beginning of your networking efforts!
Arming yourself with information, a clear plan and confidence will provide a strong foundation when making a career change. A job search takes time, so be patient throughout the process. And, since you will be going outside of your comfort zone, take one step at a time and remember that you are making this change to get to a different and better place professionally!
Alyssa Gelbard is the Founder and President of Resume Strategists Inc., a leading career consulting and personal branding firm. Resume Strategists helps clients take the next steps in their careers by providing the tools, guidance and confidence to achieve their professional goals. With clients across a broad range of industries, functional areas and levels of experience, Resume Strategists has particular expertise working with clients who are changing careers.