Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dealing with career change

From a reader:

Why is it so difficult to change the sectors and profiles one is working in? I have worked in an industry for 3 years, beyond which I would like to try out something new, a different industry. But somehow one doesn't get calls for these kinds of roles or opportunity. For example, someone who has worked as a fresher in the IT industry, as a Business Analyst, does not get calls for sales in FMCG or marketing in a non IT company despite the appropriate educational background. What can one do to pursue such kind of a change?


Good question! Yes, I agree it’s difficult to change careers after spending three years in an industry, but it not impossible. Yes, your competition changes significantly when you want to carve out your career in a different field. Yet, there are ways to get calls from the desired industry. That’s not going to happen if you’re trying to squeeze in time while holding the current job. You’ll have to go the extra mile.

Here are some tips to get you into a career in the industry of your choice:

Understand the industry landscape: While there’s an intention to change your career, you may want to take that step forward with enough information at hand. There’s a ton of information available online, on blogs, networking sites, white papers, webinars, etc. Try and get yourself educated with enough info from the industry. You’ll know whether you have the required info when you are able to answer the question: What does it take to get into the new role?

Map overlapping skills: After you’ve gathered enough info to understand the required skills for the new role, map them to the skills that you possess. It will help you analyze the gaps in certain skills required for the role and work on it.

Start networking: It’s obvious, isn’t it? Your best source for info/jobs in the industry, must and will, come from people working in that field. Get on to those networking sites (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) Just a word of caution, networking is a 2-way street. You’ll have to invest time and effort in discussions and interactions. People will show interest only if you show potential and are aware of the know-how of the industry.

Be flexible: Three years work experience needn’t necessarily mean anything to a recruiter or hiring manager from a completely different industry. They’ll be ready to give you an opportunity, only if you show some flexibility. And flexibility could be around: role, work status (full time v/s contract), salary, benefits, perks, etc. Show them you’re willing to put in extra to learn the ropes. Chances of getting hired on potential are very high!

Get yourself a mentor: This could be the single most important thing for anyone looking for a career change. Invest time in locating the key people in the desired industry and identify a mentor for yourself. Go get yourself a mentor who will guide, train, prepare, provide expertise and share contacts with you, from the field. It will help you improve your learning curve. The mentor wouldn’t do your job for you, but will help you get on the right track to achieve your goals.

Informational Interviews: Well, you done your part of understanding the landscape, networked like never before, identified a mentor. What next? Ask for
informational interviews from experts in the field. If need be, go out of your way to accommodate yourself to their schedule. Remember, you want this more than them. Informational interviews are an excellent opportunity to get you aligned with the needs of the industry. They also act as an opportunity for you to showcase your potential. For all you know, the person taking the interview might actually end up hiring up! You can never rule out possibilities. No?

Shadow-work with professionals: Another area where networking will pay off big time. Try and locate experts/professionals from the desired industry and check if you can shadow-work with them. It’s a great opportunity to learn on the job. If possible, share your views with them. It helps refine your approach to the task at hand. Yes, you don’t get paid. Maybe, you don’t want to get paid, since you have a contract with the current employer.

Patience: Your career change isn’t going to happen overnight. You’ll have to spend loads of time and do the right things to get to where you want to be. Patience plays a big role in your decision. The more you have it, the better it get for you. It might even include lifestyle adjustments (including financial decisions) that need to be made.

Resume that captures your preparation: This is the crucial point in any career change. Do you have a resume that speaks of your effort that has gone into preparing and learning for the role?

Career changes are possible. Really. I’ve seen people make it happen. But there really isn’t any shortcut to reach your goal. Atleast, not one that I know of.

Good luck!