Time to Change into a New Career, But No Experience? Don’t Be Scared, You Have More Than You Think
How do you break into a new career when you have no experience?
You’re ready to make a career change. You’ve spent the time reflecting on what you’re good at, you’ve researched the relevant courses and qualifications for your new field. You know which direction you’d like to head in. Maybe you’re just at the beginning of your career, or perhaps you’re changing careers at 40 or over.
Either way, you’re not alone. Career change is becoming increasingly common, with over two-thirds of Australian students now over 25.
But you’ve got a bit of a chicken and egg problem. All the job ads for positions you’re after share something in common: ‘2 years experience in a similar role required’. Okay, but how do you get experience when you can’t get hired… because you have no experience? It’s enough to perplex anyone.
Don’t despair. It can be done – it just requires a different approach.
1. Tell Your Story
Your problem isn’t that you don’t have experience in. Your problem that you need to learn how to tell your story. You have an intriguing story to tell; after all, you’re brave enough to be making some pretty hefty life changes, and you’re going after your goals. So reframe your narrative to show how your past experiences have positioned you perfectly to make this next step.
Once you can communicate your unique value in a powerful; way that connects with a hiring manager, you’ll see that the apparently closed doors just needed a little nudge. A brief, punchy pitch can also come in handy in chance meetings with a potential mentor or career connection. It gives you a ready-made answer when an interviewer says ‘Tell me about yourself.’ Think of it as a chance to open a door into your world and invite someone in.
Here are some prompts to get you thinking about your story.
2. Upgrade your Resume
How can I change my resume for a new job?
Imagine you’re a manager, and you need to hire somebody new for your team. Trying to get a sense of who people are by reading their resume can be difficult. How can you learn much about someone by just listing a few professional experiences?
Hiring managers receive masses of resumes for every position, and so they have to be ruthless when whittling down the pile. As a career changer, you face an additional challenge. You want to communicate career progression and build around a theme, but if you just list your work history, your resume can lack cohesiveness, direction, and continuity. Particularly if you’ve taken time off work to focus on other things, such as travel, family, or caring for a loved one. Bluntly, a gappy or disjointed resume can look like a hot mess without a little finessing.
What you want to do instead is to build a resume that focuses on your skills. Called a functional resume or a skill-based resume, these resumes give a concise personal summary, bring your essential skills up front-and-centre, and then back them up with some substantial evidence, e.g. achievements and tangible results.
3. You Have More Experience Than You Think
When hiring managers ask for X years of experience, what they really mean is they want someone who can do certain things, and has specific skills.
They want evidence that you can do what they want. That you can be the right person for the job. Usually, experience is a good indicator of this, but it’s not the only way to prove that you’ve got what it takes.
Scope out the job opportunities in your new field. Have a look at some job descriptions, and jot down the key things they’re looking for in a candidate. Then think of activities, projects, or experiences from your past that demonstrate these skills and qualities.
For example, have you brushed up on some micro-credentials online, or spent time freelancing? Have you taken on related opportunities at work? Run a blog on a similar subject in your spare time?
If you’ve never had the opportunity to work in the field or take on related projects, don’t worry. There are lots of other valuable experiences you may have had that can show you’re a capable, curious, creative and courageous individual.
4. Leverage Your Life Experiences for Transferable Skills
Transferable skills, or soft skills, are rated as more important than specific skills by many employers. These include such things as teamwork, time management and leadership. People such as Richard Branson have been saying stuff like ‘Find people with transferable skills–you need team players who can pitch in and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs,’ and recommends that employers hire for personality and personal fit rather than a specific skillset. Similar sentiments have come from Google and other giants in recent years.
The thing is, you can always teach someone a specific set of skills for a job, but it’s much harder to teach good teamwork and initiative.
So when it comes to pivoting to a new profession, you’ll want to play up these juicy soft skills as much as you can. And you have more relevant experiences than you think!
Your previous jobs were not a waste of time.
Any previous jobs you’ve had, whether seemingly unrelated, part-time or unpaid, produce the most marketable asset you have as a job-searcher: transferable skills. Did you work in a busy retail store? Not only does that demonstrate excellent communication and service, as well as time management and prioritisation. Such skills will serve you well in a corporate sales role or as an event planner, for example.
Use your relevant interests & hobbies.
Hobbies show that you’re a well-rounded person who takes an interest in the world around them. They also show that you’re a self-starter who can work independently. Being able to show a portfolio of work demonstrates dedication, drive to achieve, initiative and creativity.
Some examples of killer interests that are professionally relevant:
Volunteer work shows that you genuinely care about something and that you’re motivated enough to pursue experiences and achievements on your own terms, not just because someone is paying you for it.
Some examples of valuable volunteer experience:
Use your non-professional experience.
Even things that, at first, seem irrelevant to your professional life can demonstrate some impressive transferable skills. For example, taking time off to raise children is a full-time job in itself that demands problem-solving, team-building, time management and maestro-level organisation skills.
Here are some other examples of high-payoff life experiences that you can talk about on your resume and to hiring managers.
4. Ditch the Traditional Job Search
Unfortunately, the reality is that many recruitment processes today are automated. Computers screen resumes for the required years of experience and keywords. While this can put career changers at a disadvantage, it’s a good idea to break out of the traditional job search anyway, as other ways of connecting with potential employers tend to be much more effective. You don’t have to fit your personality and experience into a rigid context and can connect with a real human instead of trying to game a computer system for a chance of an interview.
Some great strategies for this include social media and building an online presence, especially on LinkedIn. Try uploading a short youtube video telling your story, or create a webpage that communicates why you’re a fantastic hire and invites employers to reach out. Set up a blog around your subject or industry to demonstrate that you’re aware of the problems and challenges and establish yourself as a knowledgeable authority.
Reaching out online is also a great way to find real-life events, talks and conferences around your field of interest. You can make some fantastic connections at these events, gather some highly relevant career advice, and staying in touch with these people could lead to an exciting opportunity down the line.
When you start putting these things in place, every step brings you closer to your new career. You don’t have to do it all at once, though. Over time, all the little things will build up to significant change.
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