At least once a week I get a call about advice for someone who is contemplating a career change. This is a topic that is near and dear to me, as I know it all too well. Let me first start by saying a career change is not for the weary at heart. It is much harder than anyone who is thinking about making a change can imagine. I want to share with you a very personal and true experience that will hopefully guide those who are at the brink.
In June of 2007 I had decided that I had it with sales. Many will argue that recruiting is sales, which is true, but the kind of sales I was doing in 2007 was much different than what I do today. I was knocking on doors, sending out prospecting letters, trying desperately to hit a quota that I wasn’t going to achieve. I remember vividly driving around in my car, hitting the steering wheel and yelling at the top of my lungs saying “What am I doing!!”. Sound familiar to anyone? I knew that the company I was working for would be my last sales job. What I didn’t know was, how challenging it would be to make a career change, and what a long road it would be for me to do it.
After countless interviews, obtaining a Master’s degree and a ton of soul searching, I found the career that was right for me. Recruiting is my niche. I absolutely love what I do for a living. Ironically I love recruiting sales people because I understand them better than most. Truth being said though, I enjoy any good recruiting challenge in any industry in any field whether that is technology, HR, finance, operations, sales, or manufacturing.
I want to share with you 30 things that I learned that you must do when you take that leap of faith. Take it from me, it is worth it. Just plan for it and don’t expect things to come easily.
- Stay employed! It is always easier to find a job when you are employed than unemployed. Give your current employer 100%. Making a career change takes a lot longer than you think it will.
- Be Frugal. Cut costs where you can in your personal life. Save money. You will need it if you lose your job or if you will be taking a pay cut when you make the career change.
- Have an open mind. Start talking to everyone. Talk to every colleague or anyone who will talk to you. Take them to lunch and YOU interview them about what they do for a living. Find out if it is something you would be interested in doing.
- Try to find a career that complements your skill set the best. Understand there are huge challenges if you don’t go after a career path that doesn’t match or use the skills that you have today. Disqualify the people and industries that do not interest you or are a fit for you.
- Once you identify potential career paths, ask specific questions about how they got started and get a clear understanding of what it will take to make the change.
- Ask questions about what additional skills, knowledge, certifications you are going to have to obtain to get to where you want to be.
- Discuss the options with your spouse, significant other, parents, mentor, or someone you trust.
- Start enrolling in classes that you may need to help your career. These may take years so a career change may not be imminent.
- Once you decide which career/ direction you want to take, talk more. Talk to everyone in the industry.
- Research every company and make a top 10 list of the companies you would like to work for. Go after the companies you are interested in with a vengeance. Get to know everyone who works there.
- Find out the salary range at the companies you are targeting.
- Find out at what level you would need to start. It is almost guaranteed you will need to take a step back before you take a step forward.
- Work your network! See who knows people at these specific places. Ask for additional introductions. Go beyond just a Linkedin invitation. Once you are connected, take them to lunch or carve time out of your schedule to talk with them.
- See if you can find the “hidden job market”. Try to find jobs that aren’t posted. Try to interview with people that know you and will hire you based upon their knowledge.
- Search all of the job boards and see who is hiring.
- Use your connections you have made and if the “hidden market” isn’t hiring, see if someone can connect you to someone who is hiring. Don’t apply without some sort of introduction.
- Brush up your resume. Hire a professional resume writer. Focus on your skills that you have used at your prior jobs and how they could help in the role you are seeking.
- Hire a coach if needed. Develop a 3, 5, 20 year plan. If you don’t hire a coach make sure you have a mentor.
- Get involved in support groups. You aren’t the first one to do this and won’t be the last. Have things to do to take your mind off a career change. Go to a church activity, go for a jog, go watch a movie.
- Suit up. Put yourself out there. Treat every interview as a learning experience. You will find out that brushing up on your formal interviewing skills is imperative to success.
- Have skin as tough as leather. Don’t take anything personally.
- Check your emotions at the door. DO NOT get too high and and DO NOT get too low. There are times when you feel you have done really well on an interview when you don’t get it. It is easy to get depressed. Sometimes, the decision on a candidate has been made long before you walked in the door.
- DO NOT take the first offer. There are people who will try to get you cheap. I once heard it takes 1 month for every $10,000 you want to make. I don’t know how relevant that is anymore, but if you want to make $70,000, it very well could take you 7 months of job searching to find that position.
- Once again, talk to your spouse, significant other, mentor, colleage and discuss all offers you have received.
- Make sure you are financially ready to make a commitment to make the career change. Make sure you have the time that you can devote to making the change.
- Sign the offer that makes the most sense for you today, and for your future. It must makes sense financially and with your passion. Make sure it is something you are genuinely interested in doing.
- Take some time off if you are still employed. When you make a commitment like this you want to give 100% to your new adventure in life.
- Let others know about your decision.
- Give 100% every day. Come in early, stay late and fully commit yourself to the role &
- Celebrate! You have done it. Congratulations!