As a Certified Personnel Consultant working for Find Great People International in Greenville, South Carolina, I receive telephone calls from people who are considering a career change. For some, transitioning to a new career is easier than others. Some professionals already possess a foundation of skills to make the transition easier. I'll give an example. An unemployed network engineer and hobby electrician decides to become an electrical contractor for new construction. His transition might be easier because he needs minimal training to enter the new field. But others require training, or additional schooling, which can sometimes be costly.
Strategy for Changing Careers
It's best to take a strategic approach when changing careers. The first step is identifying a career of interest to you. Then, visit jobsites like Careerbuilder.com,Monster.com, and Hotjobs.com and search for job postings by keywords or titles relating to your newly desired career field. Next, read through the job postings identified, analyze them, and try to determine the knowledge, skills, and abilities employers are searching for in this field. Once you've researched your chosen career, deepen your knowledge through class work or mentoring with a friend whom you respect and whose experience might relate to that field. In order to advance in your field of choice, an undergraduate or advanced degree may be necessary.
Speak to a Recrutier
Another way to make an effective career change is to contact someone like myself - a recruiter or "headhunter" who specializes in your desired field. The purpose of your call is to gather information about your chosen profession. For example, at Find Great People International, we have recruiters specializing in manufacturing, information technology, health care, apparel, finance and accounting, and professional temporary staffing. It may be helpful to jot down a list of questions before your call. When I speak to someone about changing careers, the individual usually acknowledges they do not possess the skills or experience to do the job yet -- but they are eager to break in. I evaluate their skills, based on a series of questions. Sometimes they'll have a foundation for the new career and that's a starting point.
Education: a Positvie Step
Schooling or training is a wise first step for many who shift careers, provided they have the money to pay for it. There are times when I recommend a national training center with locations throughout the U.S. Or, since I specialize in the IT field, I'll suggest a technical training institute, or a technical college that offers supplemental training. Some certifications and trainings in the computer field can range between $8,000-10,000. This may seem steep, but the truth is most places of employment will not hire you without some sort of training.
Step Into Your Field in a Better Job Market
There is a third, bolder angle, which works better in a more robust job market. Simply investigate companies in your field of interest, contact them directly, and ask them if they are hiring entry level. If you are lucky enough to speak to a hiring authority, or someone in a position to be helpful, use the time to sell yourself on the transferable characteristics you possess as an employee.
Transferable Characteristics as an Employee:
- complete projects on-time and within budget
- work well with people
- reliable and dependable
- follow-through skills
- computer skills
Highlight Former Profession
Do not overlook the generic qualities of your former profession, when presenting yourself to a potential employer in a new field. These include verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication, and are considered portable skills. If you feel you are lacking in some of these key areas, then think about acquiring these skills through training. I have often recommended something like Dale Carnegie's course, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." If the cost for this course is prohibitive, then consider acquiring some books or audio tapes which help to build these skills.
To maximize success in your new field, I suggest that during the education or retraining process, you become a member of a professional organization. Plug yourself into an association, either local or statewide, related to your specific industry niche. Go to the monthly meetings. Get to know people. Start selling yourself by way of relationships and friendships. By the time you've finished your education, you'll have a network of people who will be aware of your skills and availability.
Select any one of the three methods I'm recommending, or combine aspects of all three. You'll be well on your way to landing a new position. Your new field might not open up to you right away, but if you are persistent about it, you should be successful.
About The Author
During the past 14 years, Steve Hall has been a consultant with Find Great People in Greenville, S.C. He has successfully found several hundred great people for clients all over the Eastern U.S. His focus includes Retail, Manufacturing, Consumer Goods, Insurance, and Financial Services. For the past five years, Steve has averaged an interview-to-hire ratio of 3 to 1, compared to the industry average of 7 to 1.
In November 1994, Steve achieved his Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) certification. He is one out of approximately 90 in the state of South Carolina with this designation. In addition, he has served as President for the State Recruiting Association and is a tenured member of the Board of Directors for that organization.
Steve Hall received his BS in Marketing Management.