Making a career switch can be challenging, no matter where you are at career-wise. Maybe you’re an 18-year-old college freshman who self-chose a major that you’re just no longer passionate about. Or maybe you have been working in your dream career for years but are needing a change of pace and don’t know where to start. I knew a few years ago that my current field wasn’t right for me, but I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do next, or how to take the skills I learned from working in sales and apply them to a new industry.

Applying to new roles can be daunting, especially when you have no previous experience in that field, don’t know what field you want to try, or are looking for your first job outside of college. However, there are a few useful strategies you can use to help you as you make this transition.

Identify Core Skills Or Responsibilities In Your Current Role

Evaluate your core responsibilities, focusing on the areas that you enjoy, and find a few fields that share those requirements. Some fields have clear areas that they overlap- sales and marketing, teaching and coaching or leadership, PR and advertising, and some healthcare roles that require the same level of certification.

If your field is more nuanced, consider taking an aptitude test for a high-level assessment of your skills. Or if you have a college degree, look up some of your past classmates to see what direction they went with a similar educational background.

Talk With Different People in Different Industries on Their View of the Role

Once you have a few ideas, see if people in those roles at your company would be willing to chat with you to share insight into their jobs. Invite them out for coffee or lunch and try to really get a feel for what their job looks like. This was one of the most helpful things to me while I was looking for a new career path- I was even able to shadow some people, and it really helped narrow down what I might enjoy doing.

Create A Cover Letter Outlining Core Competency Overlap

Resumes can be just a block of text that is scanned for keywords. If you know that you could kill it in a new role, but don’t have the exact experience required in the job description, create a cover letter explaining your background and outlining why you think you could be a good fit for the role. It can help demonstrate the overlap to the person viewing the letter in ways that a resume can’t.

Search On LinkedIn To View The Background Of People In A Role You Might Enjoy

Search for a company on LinkedIn, then view their list of employees. You can search through this by job title- so find the profiles of a few people in a role that you are targeting and look at their backgrounds and how they ended up in the role. For example, when I was trying to move from sales to recruiting, I searched LinkedIn to find people currently in recruiting and identified their past few roles that led them to move into recruiting. This helped me identify steps that I could take to meet that goal. This also proved that people from my background did make the switch successfully and gave me a bit of hope. Take it a step further and shoot those people a message asking for any advice on applying!

Be Up Front With Any Gap In Experience During Interviews

People often try to skirt around questions if they don’t have direct experience on that topic. I assure you that it is obvious to the interviewer when this happens, and odds are they already know from your resume that you don’t have experience in that area but are trying to see how you answer. Be honest about this gap- say that skillset or program isn’t something you have been exposed to in the past, but you’re excited to learn. This shows that you are honest and allows the interviewer to see your excitement for learning.

Overall, don’t let your job define you, and remember that your mental health and well-being are more important than your salary or job title!

Sarah Jepsen is a Recruiter at Affirma.

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