Breaking into a New Career

Joe Weinlick
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Breaking into a new career can feel intimidating, whether you're a recent graduate or a late-career professional. While the lack of relevant experience or education might put you behind other candidates, it doesn't have to take you out of the running. When you reframe your work history, gain additional experience and stay passionate, changing industries can prove a fun and exciting process.

Find the Holes in Your Experience

Before you quit your job to pursue a new career, take time to research the qualifications necessary for your new career. Compare them to your experience and education, and identify the gaps you need to fill. Do you need to get a special certification? Does your dream job require you to get a different degree? Are you willing to start at the bottom and work your way up, or can you take steps to enter at a higher level? This process is essential because it forces you to face the reality of changing industries, for better and for worse.

Reframe Your History

A new career doesn't mean you need to start at an entry-level position. Many skills and experiences, such as leadership and management, can transfer between industries. Comb through your professional history, and write down the parts that can benefit you in your new industry. Consider the factors that give you an advantage over the typical candidates for your dream job. If you're an engineer switching to marketing, for example, you offer a unique perspective for an agency that works with technical, process-oriented clients. Using your list, rewrite your resume to highlight your relevant skills.

Gain New Experience

Many professionals don't have the luxury of quitting their job to pursue a new career full-time. If you fall into that category, find ways to gain relevant experience on the side. Gain organizational experience by volunteering to coordinate an event for a nonprofit, or offer to write a funding proposal for your child's school to learn about grant writing. Spend your evenings taking a class at a community college, find an online certification course or travel to a weekend workshop.

Network, Network, Network

When you're breaking into a new career, networking is essential. On paper, your lack of experience might turn off employers, so to compensate, spend time building strong relationships with professionals in your target industry. Focus on making a great impression, and show you're confident and professional. Follow your new contacts on social media, and contribute thoughtfully to industry-related discussions. Be open about the fact you want to break into the industry. By maintaining transparency and making yourself a known quantity, you can make it easier for employers to take a chance on you.

Breaking into a new career can be just what you need to reignite your enthusiasm and excitement for work. By moving gradually and viewing the process as a challenging adventure, you can reduce stress and enjoy the transition.

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