Making a career change or pivot, whether out of desire or necessity, is both exciting and overwhelming. Doing something new and different requires research, communication and networking, as well as focused personal branding efforts. If considering a new direction in your career, here are some ways to facilitate the shift and ensure you market yourself effectively.
- Speak to people who do what you’re interested in pursuing to get a real understanding of their experience. Ask thoughtful questions to learn what it takes to succeed in the role, where the challenges and opportunities are and how they got to what they’re doing today. The insights you gain from these conversations can help discern if you’d still like to proceed in that direction or consider something else.
- Identify the key skills, knowledge and experience that successful people in the target role have. Besides learning from experienced professionals, review LinkedIn profiles and job descriptions. (This research is also critical for updating your resume and LinkedIn profile and writing introductory emails, ensuring you frame and connect your experience to the right keywords and messaging.)
- Assess your qualifications to see if you have any critical gaps. If you do, are they in areas where you can gain some experience in your current position or through volunteer leadership opportunities in professional associations or nonprofits? If not, you can pursue online courses or certification programs. If you still need to acquire applied experience, get creative – offer to help an organization with a pro bono project, for instance.
- Determine what’s critical in your next role, like compensation, flexible schedule, career progression, work/life balance or opportunity for leadership. Clearly defining your priorities is essential with a career change because moving in a new direction can impact how achievable your priorities are. It will also prepare you for productive conversations when networking and evaluating job offers.
- If you have a very specific functional role or industry preference, be honest with yourself why. Are you trying to minimize change and pivot to something closely related to past experience? Have you always wanted to pursue a certain industry or job function, but never had the opportunity to do so? Are you bored (or even turned off) by your current industry that you want to do something dramatically different? How you answer these questions helps inform how you communicate your career goals when networking, applying for positions and interviewing.
- If you’ve identified multiple directions of interest, do you have a strong network established in each already? Career changes and pivots are challenging, but if you have warm contacts in reach, the process can be easier than starting out cold.
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- Update your LinkedIn profile and resume so they position you optimally for the change. Clearly communicate relevant experience and transferable skills. Frame expertise so it’s related what you want to do next and highlight skills and accomplishments most relevant to your goal.
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- When interacting with content on LinkedIn, don’t limit yourself to posts that only relate to what you’ve been doing. Expand scope to include things that are still in your functional area but related to the industry you’d like to break into. Or engage with posts from people in the roles or industries you’re seeking. Do this consistently, and people will start to associate you with these other areas. This will also help you build knowledge about key players, timely topics and trends, which is essential for networking in your desired direction.
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- Talk to your inner circle. It’s important that those closest to you know that you’re interested in making a change and why. These are the people who you can directly ask for help. Identify contacts who know others in functional areas or companies at which you’d like to work and ask for targeted introductions. Make sure that you clearly and concisely articulate what you’d like to do, why you’re making the change and why potential employers should hire you (i.e., what value you bring). Not only is this important for conversations with your closest contacts, you’ll also need to speak to this when networking and interviewing.
Making a career change or pivot is challenging, but not impossible. Self-awareness, with a clear sense of purpose and value proposition, combined with proactive networking and fine-tuned digital presence, will lay the groundwork for making a change effectively.