Job seekers: How to pitch your skills to make a career change

Posted by Amanda Augustine

October 22, 2013 @ 07:00 AM

Find new career opportunities by searching outside your current field.

career_transitionWhen it comes to the job search, not all fields are created equally. In a recent study, TheLadders found that, depending on the city, one job seeker’s desert can be another’s oasis. For example, healthcare workers in Boston currently enjoy a favorable job market, whereas those in real estate in the same city are more likely to struggle during the job hunt.

For those in the desert, a career transition may be in order so your skills can be put to use in a more favorable field. While many people have considered or even yearned to change fields, this is easier said than done.

Follow these three steps when making a career change.

Know your strengths

Take stock of your core strengths and interests. What are you great at and passionate about? What type of working environments do you thrive in? If you keep a brag sheet, now’s the time to take it out. Looking over your past accomplishments, which skill sets played a key role in your successes? Consider the feedback you’ve received from colleagues, managers, vendors and clients that highlight your core competencies. Boil down your elevator pitch to capture these strengths without using any industry-specific jargon that wouldn’t make sense to someone outside your current line of work.

Find where you fit

We often refer to ‘transferrable skills’ when talking about changing careers. It’s important to identify which of your skill sets are valuable to another field, and in what capacity. I can rattle off a list of common skills that are easily transferrable to a variety industries and functions – problem-solving, strategic thinking, strong written or oral communication, people management, innovation, negotiation, etc. – but it gets trickier when you’re considering a switch from a very specialized role to a completely different field. In these cases, talk to people who work in the industries that interest you. Once they have a good understanding of your background and strengths, they’ll be able provide insight into which roles in their field might be relevant to you. 

Real-life example: You may think the online dating and job-search industries have nothing in common. However, after having this type of conversation you would find that both operate under subscription-based models and match two entities together. In fact, here at TheLadders we’ve hired many people from the online dating industry to work on our product and marketing teams. Additionally, we’ve seen former recruiters become top-notch B2B sales representatives for our enterprise business.

Repackage your experience

Every industry has its own acronyms and terminology – it’s your job to figure out how to translate your experience and past successes into terms that resonate with your new target audience. Subscribe to industry-specific publications, conduct informational interviews, and start attending events that are relevant to your target field to gain this insight and update your resume and elevator pitch accordingly.

Focus on highlighting your ability to deliver results. In your resume, downplay the industry of your former positions and play up other aspects of the companies (revenue, number of people, ranking, etc.) that are similar to those you’re now targeting. When interviewing and networking, bring to light both your genuine interest and passion for your newfound field, as well as the steps you’ve taken to learn more about it and fill in your skill gaps.

Real-life example: Say you work in account management for an automotive rental company. Instead of stating in your resume or an interview that you “manage a book of 40 clients with a fleet potential of over 1500 vehicles, totaling more than $400 million”, you might instead say that your “book of business consists of 40 clients, totaling more than $400 million in asset management.” The second statement is universally understood by salespeople in any industry.

By conducting research on your strengths and how they fit into the field of your choice, transitioning into a new career can be just as attainable as finding a great role in your current field. 

Join TheLadders today and find your next great opportunity!

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Amanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow her at  @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and “Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.

Topics: Ask Amanda, Networking, Changing Careers