6 steps to successful career change

I have had a fair bit of experience not only changing jobs but also moving into entirely new careers and industries: from engineering to public policy to management consulting to coaching and leadership development.  (So much so that a few years ago Next magazine profiled me in an article they did on changing careers and following dreams.)
Along the way I’ve learned a few things about making a successful transition.  Here are my top six tips for navigating your own career change.

1. Believe in yourself

First, you need to believe in yourself.  Even if you don’t have some specific qualification or past job title on your CV/resume, believe that you have valuable transferable skills and experience that you can apply wherever you go. 

2. Be prepared to be persistent

Commit to breaking into that industry or getting that new role.  Expect that it will be difficult and you may have to face some rejection before you finally achieve what you want.  Be persistent, though, and open to taking an alternative route to get your foot in the door.

3. Do your research

Arm yourself with information about the position you want.  Find out all you can about the industry, who the key people and organizations are, the requirements of the position, and so on. 

Also, if there are specific certifications or experiences that you can gain in your current role that would help you meet some of the requirements of the position you want, consider whether it would be worthwhile to invest in getting them before you try to make the switch.

4. Craft your story

You have accumulated ___ (fill in the blank) years of experience in your lifetime.  They may not have been spent in the exact same industry or exact same position as what you are aiming for but nevertheless, you have accumulated valuable, relevant experience on your journey, which will allow you to bring your own unique angle to the role.  

But don’t expect the recruiter/hiring company to do the translating for you.  It’s your job to tell the story of how your experience is relevant in your CV/resume (and later, the interview), calling out your relevant transferrable skills and explaining how your previous experience makes you the ideal candidate for the role.  

5. Connect with people

Make an effort to connect personally with people who may be able to help you.  Take people out for coffee to learn about them, their work and how they got to where they are.  Share with them your goal of moving into industry X but don’t make the meeting all about you.  Learn what you can about what worked for them and be sure to show your appreciation and respect their time.  Don’t have expectations about getting a job offer from each of these connection but you never know where a meeting might lead.  If someone offers to put you in touch with someone else, graciously take them up on their offer and follow-through in getting in touch with their contact. 

If a meeting is coming to an end and it doesn’t look like anything is going to come from it, you can always finish the conversation by asking, “If you were in my shoes, what would you recommend that I do?”  Or “Is there anyone else that you think I should talk to?”  This may help to generate further warm leads.

6. Collect feedback and adjust accordingly

The older we get, the less frequently we tend to ask for, and get, feedback.  It can be scary and make us feel vulnerable but feedback is necessary in order to learn and to be able to adjust your approach so that you can find something that works.  Before applying for jobs, I have people I trust review my CV/resume.  After interviews that don’t go well, I ask for feedback on why I didn’t get the job offer.  I take the feedback that I get and use that to modify my approach going forward.  Keep up the cycle of collecting feedback and adjusting accordingly until you find the approach that works.