7 ways to make a major career change, even if you have zero experience
Turns out, that expensive college degree you got led you to a lackluster career, and now, you want a change. The problem is, you know nada about the career path you want to take, and your lack of experience is holding you back from applying for your new dream job. But don't let it—seriously. Your experience in your current job can translate into success in a new field. "Your soft skills—the ability to get along with people, tact, professionalism, solid judgment—count for a lot, and from a hiring perspective, it's a lot easier to teach technical skills than emotional IQ," explains Vicki Salemi, Monster's career expert and a former corporate recruiter.
Of course, if the job you're applying for requires a Ph.D. in microbiology and you've got a bachelor's in English literature, you might be in trouble. You do have to be realistic, but as Salemi says, "Your abilities to think critically, multi-task, meet deadlines, and manage people or budgets will speak volumes about your candidacy [for any job]."
To hedge your bets, there are plenty of steps you can take to get your foot in a field you know nothing about. Here are seven ways you can still make a change.
1. Network, network—and then network some more. It's been said that it's not what you know but who you know that matters. And that sentiment couldn't be more true than when you're trying to break into a field in which you have zero experience. When you know people in the industry, "they can vouch for you," says Salemi. As your advocates, they can point out your killer work ethic and passion—and they can "convince a hiring manager to give you a shot," Salemi says.
2. Volunteer your time. You may not have relevant work experience, but you can add skills to your resume by giving your time for a cause. For instance, if you'd like to move into the financial industry but you've yet to work with numbers, volunteer as an assistant to the treasurer of a local organization. He or she will help you learn the ropes, Salemi says, and could become a reference on your resume. "If you're pursuing a managerial position and the interviewer asks if you've ever managed budgets, you can leverage this as a talking point—why, yes you have!" she says.
3. Focus on your transferable skills. Let's say you want to move from fundraising into sales. Just because you've never had a sales job doesn't mean you don't already have the skills you'd need in your new sales career. In fundraising, "you must have had great communication, public speaking, and negotiation skills," millennial career expert Jill Jacinto points out. "These are tools you need for a sales job as well." Find the common ground between your current job and the one you want, and, as Jacinto notes, "highlight them throughout your resume and cover letter."
4. Rock out to your cover letter. When you put pen to paper, don't focus on what you don't have. Instead, talk up everything you do have going on—skills that will transfer no matter how you spend your nine-to-five, Salemi says. "Amp it up with one or two sentences highlighting your work ethic and ability to get along well with others," she instructs. "Write something like, 'I take pride in my soft skills, management, tenacity, persistence, determination, and a work ethic. '"
5. Take an online class. You may not have a degree in your desired field, but that doesn't mean you can't get schooled in what you'll need to know. "Hit the books—whether online or in a brick and mortar classroom," says Salemi. "In your cover letter and in conversations with the hiring manager, you can say that while you don't have experience in XYZ, you have taken three classes within the past year that cover the topic and as such, you have a keen understanding that your current skill set of ABC is able to transfer into the technicalities." You won't have to fake it until you make it, Salemi says, if you're actually learning these needed skills.
6. Build up your social media presence. You many not consider Facebook and Twitter serious business tools, but they are, Salemi says. If you can build on your profiles to demonstrate your passion for this field—by sharing interesting articles and studies, and connecting with industry insiders—you can leverage your online know-how. These actions "demonstrate you know— and are passionate about—this new field," Salemi says.
7. Look for what's missing. As Jacinto says, "absolutely no one can tick every box when it comes to requirements on a job description," regardless of their experience. But what you bring to the table simply because you come from a different field might fill in some blanks that even the boss didn't know existed. Take this example: "Are you signing up for a public relations role but only worked in finance?" Jacinto asks. "You can lend your financial expertise to that role by showing that you can work with budgets and manage money," she says, something you'll need to do with clients.
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