Even under the best of circumstances, a career change can be tough. And without any relevant or transferrable experience for your new job target, the situation poses an even greater challenge.
However, for those who like a challenge, consider this process an important learning opportunity. A bit of strategy, along with some sacrifice, is likely necessary to successfully change careers.
7 Ways to Launch a Big Career Change
Yes, it can be done! These are some proven ways to make a big career leap your new reality.
1. Do Your Homework
The adage “knowledge is power” is especially true when it comes to making a massive career move.
Learn anything and everything you can about your targeted role and/or industry, from educational requirements to the hiring market, must-have skills, and salary norms.
Search LinkedIn (its database is massive) for people who hold the roles that fascinate you, and try and reach out to those who succeeded in changing careers. You can request an informational interview to learn more about their experience.
While much research can take place online, there’s no better way to get the real scoop than finding people who hold the roles you covet.
2. Return to the Starting Block
Often, 180-degree career changes without any relatable experience can be achieved by making a compelling case and convincing the right person or persons that you are worth the hiring risk. In my experience, however, regardless of your current career stature or years of experience, many simply won’t risk bringing you in at a lateral level.
Consider, instead, entering your targeted role a few rungs down the ladder from where you currently stand. While this likely means a pay cut, the good news is your experience will go a long way toward climbing back up the ranks more quickly than a newbie without an achievement-rich career history.
3. Return to School
Whether for a new degree, a new certification, or coursework in your targeted area, there’s no better way to demonstrate your interest and commitment to the field you are targeting than by learning from the experts.
While no doubt the most expensive of the educational options, many graduate programs provide students with case studies, group projects, and unpaid internships where you can begin to build some experience of value for your prospective employer.
While education alone will never be a full substitute for hands-on experience, it can go a long way toward closing the gap.
In addition to allowing you to test the waters with little lost other than your time, volunteering or pro bono work is, in my view, hands down the best way to get some experience that a future employer will find both relevant and valuable. Plus, an employer is much more likely to give you a shot if the cost to them is zero!
Considering a career in graphic design? Offer your services to a nonprofit to help them redesign their website, social media pages, or marketing collateral.
Does a career in financial planning and analysis (FP&A) seem interesting? Offer to help a startup or small business review their finances and expenses to help them identify ways to cut costs.
If you offer to help for free to start, it is unlikely that people will turn you down.
Full disclosure: the FP&A example is a true story. I was recently approached by a friend looking to make a pivot. By analyzing my business expenses, she will hopefully help me save some money in exchange for providing her with some relevant experience. A win-win!
5. Get Creative When It Comes to Your Job Hunt
Applying online for a role when you are a natural fit yields a low ROI. In fact, according to Bob McIntosh, author of the Things Career Related blog, job board success rates range anywhere from 2% to 10%.
When you haven’t been in your targeted industry, or if you haven’t held a role that aligns with your current career aspirations, your resume will fare much worse. This is because applicant tracking system (ATS) software is in play on job boards.
Programmed to look for specific keywords, in the world of online applications, the resume with the most keywords wins. The bottom line? A career-changer resume will never have as many keywords as someone with relevant experience.
To succeed with a massive career change, you will need to rely heavily on your network—family, friends, colleagues, etc.—and convince them to be your ambassadors or cheerleaders. With people in your corner vouching for you or providing personal recommendations, your resume is likely to go much further than it would have otherwise. In fact, over 40% of job opportunities are filled through an employer’s employee referral programs (ERPs).
With a good recommendation from a current employee and the feel of a good fit with the employer’s culture, employers will even overlook lack of experience or qualifications if they like the referred employee.
6. Prepare Your Career Marketing Collateral
When making the move to a new career, your cover letter needs to explain your desire to change and how the leap to the new career is logical for you.
Your resume must contain a summary that showcases what efforts you have made to close the experience gap (i.e., volunteer work, education).
Lastly, your LinkedIn summary should acknowledge that your path has been nonlinear or nonconventional and make a powerful case for how your passion for this new role is worth the risk to others.
In other words, tell your story and make it compelling.
7. Practice Patience
Unlike micro-pivots, big career moves take time. With motivation and commitment, along with sacrifice and a series of small and incremental steps, career change is possible.
The Bottom Line on How to Make a Career Change With No Experience
A major career change may not be easy to accomplish, but consider the consequences of continuing in your current career.
About the author…
Career Change Expert Virginia Franco is a four times-Certified Executive Resume Writer, LinkedIn Writer, Coach, and Career Storyteller. Her experience in corporate communications, journalism, and social work offered her a unique understanding of how people read, communicate, and share information. Connect with Virginia via her website VirginiaFrancoResumes.com, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter at @VAFrancoResumes.
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