Overcoming the Hurdles of Career Change

Making a change in career direction, either within a sector or more significant shift, can often prove difficult. This is because recruiters and potential employers are risk averse and want a square peg for a square hole. Taking a candidate from a markedly different background is often considered risky and it's probably a risk that they do not need to take.

So, how can one overcome this resistance and make a drastic career transition possible? Let’s consider the possible underlying factors at play.

First, you may well have great skills that are highly transferrable, but they may not be seen as relevant or attractive by decision makers in a different area of business. It may also be that you simply lack the skills and or qualifications required.

Second, there may be preconceptions around the issue of cultural fit. Future employers may have pre-existing ideas about the sector that you are leaving and may not see you as a cultural fit with their business. This is certainly a potential hurdle to consider. I have known job candidates fail at interview because of what they were wearing and the sector-specific language they used.

Third, whilst you may be very well-connected and have a great network in your current field, this is likely to be lacking in the field that you propose to move into. This lack of network will prove to be a major barrier to entry because you are unknown and unproven in that new sphere. Furthermore, you are unlikely to have a well-informed insight as to the dynamics of the target firms and know little or nothing about who is hiring (and why).

To address these various issues, think of yourself in terms of being a business wanting to launch a new product in a new market:

  1. Market Research. Within the scope of what you want to do and what you can offer, go and find out what the market wants. What is the level of appetite and how will the market want it packaged? Become very clear about the skills, qualifications and experiences that will be required for you to be considered an attractive candidate.
  2. Create the Product. With what you have discovered, take your current skills and experience and find a way to present them in a way that prospective employers will want. You may have to get some additional training, qualifications and, perhaps, experience.
  3. Build a Market Presence. Diligently build a new network of people within your future field of endeavor. Contribute to that network and become known, liked and trusted. Use tools such as LinkedIn to identify the key people and to reach out. You can use this platform to project your revised promise of value - your professional brand - to the market.
  4. Gather Detailed Market Intelligence. It will pay dividends for you to learn as much as you can about the specific firms that you intend to target. Knowing the structure of the management teams, their current initiatives and business challenges may present opportunities to offer yourself as a candidate.
  5. Launch. Once you have laid this solid foundation you are in a position to signal to the market that you are actively looking. Ask your network to help you out.

I hope this has been thought-provoking and useful. Please get in touch you would like to talk further on the subject of career transition