Hate your job? You’re not alone. Hate your industry? You’re not alone there, either. Have no idea how to get out of it? You’re really not alone. But changing careers isn’t as hard as you may think -- we promise. We talked to top career counselors and HR experts to bring you the must-know tricks of the trade that will help you escape your cubicle and run freely toward career bliss.
Figure out what you want to be doing
If you’re looking for a career change, chances are you despise your current profession. But try to quiet your industry rage, and look back at past jobs and focus on what you did like -- then consider what other kinds of roles might utilize those skills. “I worked with a client recently who wanted a career change but didn’t know what they wanted to do,” says Nicole Orisich, founder of Get Unstuck NYC, a career-coaching business. “We looked at their past jobs, and the parts that they always liked had a common theme.” It led Orisich to suggest a role in hospitality -- which seemed insane considering the client was an accountant. That client now works as a front office manager in a hotel -- happily ever after. Not working with a career coach? Don’t discount surveys and tests that can help focus your interests. “I took a couple of those tests, and they totally nailed two or three of the careers I’d had,” says Human Resources expert Susan Heathfield. Finally a test that may get you a job...
Rejigger your resume, honestly
“The most important thing to do is understand who you are as the product,” says Todd Gareiss, founder of career services firm CareerClout. When you’re shifting careers, look at the universal skills you’ve collected rather than the specific tasks you performed. But resist the temptation to embellish your resume (you know you’ve done it). According to ADP, 44% of all resumes contain false information. “You shouldn’t be spinning things,” Gareiss adds. “They’ll find out. It’s like putting your high school football photo on your match.com profile when you’re really 41 with a beer gut.” Yikes. Swipe left.
Always be selling…
Once you take inventory of your universal skills, figure out how to use them to show a potential employer you’re technically capable of doing the job -- even if, technically, you’re not. “You’re offering your expertise and experience -- and understanding the difference between the two and knowing how to communicate them will resonate with the employer,” Gareiss says. “This is marketing and sales. The one who gets hired is the one who is perceived to be the most qualified.” Here’s to outselling the dude who’s more qualified than you.
Build a new network -- and start with Facebook
“When you’re trying to leave your current profession, you quickly realize that everyone you know also works in that profession,” says Heathfield. “Suddenly you have no network.” In addition to reaching out to folks to set up informational meetings -- never underestimate the power of an informational, Heathfield says -- keep up with various job boards and interest groups on Facebook. “LinkedIn is great, but as someone who works in HR, I’m more fond of Facebook,” she says. Saying that in today's landscape, it's where she goes to recruit. Finally, Facebook has a purpose other than stalking exes!
Consider going it alone
Tired of holding your breath in your cubicle every time your company’s yearly layoffs roll around? “We’re cynical about big corporations, and how little they care,” Gareiss says. “People care about their lifestyle, being appreciated, and money.” Which is why he sees so many hopeful entrepreneurs walk through his office doors. But before heading out on your own, be sure to put in the time. “Even at my company, we have a certain population of clients that do the minimum, like doing your term paper the night before it’s due. And then there are the people who go home every day and spend an hour a night doing the work. And guess who has the better results?” Message received.
You know you are going to get asked why you're changing careers, so have the right answer up your sleeve. "You should have a pre-scripted answer that comes out in the interview seamlessly,” Gareiss says. Orisich also stresses the importance of interview prep -- and she speaks from firsthand career-shifting experience. Before becoming a career coach, she worked in corporate America for 13 years. “I always recognized my ability to get offers for jobs that I technically didn’t qualify for, particularly with respect to not having a four-year degree,” she says. “But if I had an innate understanding of what was required to get the job done and could convey that to the interviewer, I could win them over.” Go ahead, channel your inner Tom Cruise (circa Jerry Maguire).
Don’t head back to school…
If you’re trying to give up your job in finance to become a neurologist, you’re destined for the classroom. (Sorry, dude.) But if you’re not chasing a STEM career, consider your skills fluid. “The majority of people that I work with don’t find themselves needing to go back to school or even take additional classes,” Osirich says. It's all about what you can bring to the table beyond your written resume. Heathfield agrees: “Education, social sciences, psychology, communications, marketing, sales -- those skills move back and forth.” Amazing! You can finally put that liberal arts degree to good use. Suck it, dad.
…but revisit your alma mater
You probably skipped those career-counseling sessions when you were in undergrad (we did too), but now’s the chance to redeem yourself. “Your college career placement office is available to you for life once you’re an alum, and they frequently have people on campus recruiting, and they may be open to older employees,” says Heathfield. Bonus? It’s the perfect excuse to revisit your glory days.
Don’t sell yourself short
Resist the temptation to take a junior-level position just to get your foot in the door -- even if you can afford it financially (lucky you). “I had a client who once hired a young woman into a position that was really junior to her capabilities,” Heathfield says. “She asked her boss for a promotion and raise at least once a week, and he reached the point where he was like, ‘Why did I hire this person?!’... Perhaps they don’t have a few of the skills specific to that industry, but they have 10 to 20 years of other experiences.” Phew, so coffee fetching is officially off the table.
Family matters (sort of)
If your family depends on your current job, ask them for their support -- but don’t put their needs first. “I have one client who moved to the US for her spouse, and made a choice in career out of sacrifice for her loved one,” says Leticia Warner, co-founder at Embodied Minds, which specializes in public speaking and life coaching services. “It led to a lot of resentment that she didn’t even realize was affecting her work and life.” Instead, Warner says, quiet fears of letting people down and go after what you want. “Another young client had studied finance at her parents’ request, despite an interest in fashion, which they wouldn’t allow,” she says. When the client finally ditched Wall Street for the garment district, she wasn't only happier in her professional life, but with her parents too. Two birds, one stone.