One of my clients has had an interesting career. While he has been very successful in retail sales, he has always filled a role in IT, which is fitting for a person who majored in computer sciences. He recently earned a major certification and now wants to focus his career in IT.
He asked a question many career changers face: “Do I have to start at the bottom?”
Before I could answer, his girlfriend, who accompanied him to our meeting, snapped: “You don’t have to eat dog food.” I smiled hearing her words.
Many career changers assume that going into a new field means starting at the entry level. This assumption is flawed because it ignores the direct experience, transferable skills, education, or certification that makes the career change possible. My client has skills and experience that will let him be a system administrator or IT Manager. If he applied to positions like Help Desk 1 or Technicians, most employers would say he was overqualified.
People change careers all the time. Some transitions are easier than others. However, in many cases, it is not necessary to go to the bottom of the ladder and start climbing all over again. There is always an employer who is looking to higher talent and pay a low wage. They’ll feed you dog food if you’ll eat it. Now your value and respect yourself. Find a job that meets what you have to offer.
Most clients who are considering career change start with two bad ideas. First, they assume they will have to go back to school. Second, they believe they will have to step down the career ladder back to entry level. Neither of these assumptions is necessarily true. If you can prove to a hiring manager that you can do the job, the experience and knowledge you have developed during your career will usually be enough to make a career change.
What would-be career changers too often ignore are transferable skills, which are skills that can be used on multiple jobs. Let me give you two examples from my recent projects.
Retail Manager to Human Resources: A client had extensive experience in retail management. Rather than talk about that industry, we focused on the skills he used that were related to HR: Onboarding, training, interviewing, and hiring. He completed certification in HR law and recruiting for diversity. This background, along with a good work history, enabled him to make the career transition he was seeking.
Event Management to Purchasing: Another client wants to move from an eight year career in planning and managing corporate events to purchasing. In her case, we focused on skills that included sourcing, negotiation, vendor relations, and logistics. In several cases, this client can give examples of how she reduced costs through her ability to negotiate price and terms. These skills will let her make the jump to a new career.
If you are considering changing careers, think about how you have developed and used transferable skills. It is very possible that you can pursue a career change right now. Show how you are able to do the new job, and be confident in your ability.
The job market is not as bad as it was four years ago, but it’s still not good. I’ve met several talented people – career changers, new college graduates – who assume that they have to take entry level jobs because the market is so bad. This is a bad career management strategy.
Look at the jobs you think you are qualified for and apply for the jobs that fit your ability and experience. Students often forget that the skills and knowledge they learn in school give them value that often puts them above the first rung on the ladder. Similarly, career changers bring value through transferable skills and flexibility gained in other jobs. Test your value by finding 8-10 posts for jobs you would want to do. Don’t start by looking for entry level. Try to find higher level jobs that you are qualified to fill. That will give you an opportunity to make more money know and move up faster to the kind of positions that you will find challenging and fulfilling.
If you live in an area or have a skill level that limits you to entry level positions, try to find a company where you will have an ability to move up, learn higher level skills, and make more money. Don’t trap yourself in a lower level job before you have to. Always look for ways to climb the career ladder.