Is this the time to make a successful career transition?
The events of 2020 have impacted workforces worldwide, unlike any single event since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Sectors like hospitality, tourism, and retail have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there have been seismic shifts in other industries too.
The wholesale introduction of remote workplaces, video conferencing, and even home-schooling has given employees pause to consider their workplace circumstances. A 2020 ‘Future Focus’ research recently conducted by ING, reports that a third (35%) of Australians say they want to change jobs once the pandemic subsides, and 17% have committed to changing careers entirely. If you are one of those needing a career change, then it’s best to plan a successful career transition now.
How to transition careers
Like no other time in living memory, millions of Australians are asking themselves if what they are doing is right for them. Those unfortunate enough to be without work have even greater reason (and, perhaps, ability) to focus on how they want to earn a living in the future. Competition for jobs post-pandemic will be fierce, so preparing and positioning yourself for a career ‘pivot’ requires strategic thinking. We’ve put together these seven steps to be your complete guide to a successful career transition.
Career transition planning
Step One: Understand Your Potential
Remember, a successful business employs people on the basis of investing in potential. They want to know what you’ve achieved, but more importantly, what you’re capable of producing in the future. The first important step in planning your career transition is to do a stock-take of the skills you’ve acquired already. These consist of ‘hard’ skills such as qualifications, previous KPI results and field-specific experience, as well as transferable or ‘soft’ skills. Teamwork, leadership, communication and effective time management are four good examples of soft skills that are transferable, and valuable, to any workplace.
CAREER TIP: Make a list of hard skills and soft skills and use these as the foundation for planning your career transition.
Step Two: Know How to be Relevant
Soft skills are among the most in-demand attributes of potential employees across the board in any profession. The top three soft skills are listening skills (74%), attention to detail (70%) and effective communication (69%). The emphasis you place on these skills should be directly relevant to the position you are applying for, so be flexible and adapt to each situation. Whether you developed these skills in a workplace, social settings, or both, the key is to give practical examples in your resume and interviews of how these assets can be used to advantage in a workplace setting.
CAREER TIP: If you are studying or recently completed a qualification, refer to any relevant units and case studies to highlight your existing competence and willingness to keep learning on the job.
Managing your career transition
Step Three: Get Prepared
Preparation is perhaps the most important step. An excellent place to begin is by reading job descriptions in the areas you’ve identified as desirable to you. Then write a job description for your ideal position. This exercise will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, and how you can promote and address them respectively to set you up for success in the next steps.
Begin letting people know that you are ready for a career change, including professional contacts you trust to be discreet and effective. You can take the initiative by using this checklist:
- Refresh your resume, including a recent profile photo
- Update your online profiles, especially LinkedIn
- Contact recruitment agencies
- Sign up for industry newsletters and journals – both printed and online
- Follow thought leaders in your chosen profession
- Read both classic tomes and latest-thinking books relevant to your profession
- Identify and address skills gaps by updating your qualifications
CAREER TIP: Commit to at least 15 minutes a day of learning something new about your chosen profession.
Step Four: Research and Rehearse
The next stage of a successful career pivot is the job search process. Be positive, and start planning for job interviews well ahead of time. You can even ask a friend or colleague to play the role of interviewer. Rehearsing Q and A scenarios will help hone your ‘pitch’, particularly in terms of explaining your reasons for changing careers, salary expectation, and expressing the skills you identified in Steps One and Two.
Beyond the application process, investing time and effort on your social media platforms can pay off too. About 15% of candidates land a job due to clever (and often subtle) marketing of their professional credentials on social media. Remember, though, that 54% of employers decide not to employ people if their content doesn’t match with company values. Research the stated values of the companies you are applying to and adjust your social profiles to match.
CAREER TIP: Take the time to write a separate cover letter for every application. Employers are more likely to grant an interview for those who do an original cover letter (16.3%) than those who use a template (12.5%).
Step Five: Gain Knowledge and Experience
Get to know the area or sector where you want to take your career. Join and contribute to networking groups and nurture contacts within your chosen industry. Connecting with experienced people will help you understand if your new choice of profession the right one for you.
If you can, look to volunteer or intern within your chosen field. Research shows that paid internships lead to job offers 60% of the time, compared to 37% of unpaid positions. Therefore, focus on positions where you’re getting paid to learn where possible. Either way, it proves you are willing to demonstrate what you can do, and there’s nothing that teaches skills better than hands-on workplace experience.
CAREER TIP: Increase your value by combining online study with volunteering or interning as a way to apply what you are learning to on-the-job scenarios.
The best career change guide
Step Six: Move horizontally not vertically
When looking to adopt a career-change guide, never underestimate what experience has taught you, and how that can benefit employers in another field. Keep your salary goals in mind and don’t be afraid to compare your current salary with those in the industries you are targeting.
Proving your value or potential can mean the difference between starting at the bottom of a whole new career ladder or finding a new job at a higher level of seniority. It’s in your interests to take the best advantage of your skills, which means avoiding an entry-level position if you can.
CAREER TIP: The ideal balance is to ensure that, where possible, you move horizontally across career ‘ladders’, instead of having to climb down one and up the next by starting at the bottom.
Step Seven: Never work a day in your life
There is an old truism that if you love your job, you’ll never actually ‘work’ a day in your life. More than 70% of people want to change jobs for better money, but almost 20% do so for a better work/life balance. Once you’ve decided to switch careers, put aside the circumstances that lead you to that place, and commit yourself to the goal. Keep sight of your motivations and all the ways you’ll live a happier life as a result of a successful career transition.
CAREER TIP: Ask a friend or mentor to be your career buddy and help keep you accountable to doing these seven steps. Make time once a week to check-in on your progress until you reach your goal.
Extraordinary circumstances like those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic often create extraordinary opportunities – this may well be yours. Take the first step to your career transition today.