Understand your motives
The first things to consider when planning a career change is why you want to make it and why now’s the best time to do it. “Timing is everything, because it takes commitment, energy, focus and dedication to make a successful move and you need to be 100% ready to commit yourself to this process,” explains Evelyn Cotter, founder of career coaching company SEVEN.
Build up a network of contacts in the field
“Reach out to people in your network... set up coffees, go to meet-ups and networking dinners, and get in front of people,” advises Cotter, suggesting adding any courses you go on or networks you come across to your LinkedIn profile, to help make you more visible.
Cotter also recommends sending a follow-up thank you note after meeting a new contact. “Include a thoughtful link or something you spoke about and know they’ll find of interest,” she suggests, while Lees recommends having a short upbeat statement to hand about why the career you’re aspiring towards fascinates you. “If you want to make a career change people need to remember you and recommend you,” he adds.
Weigh up the pros and cons of unpaid work experience
Perhaps you're a journalist, looking to land your first job on a national title. Whether or not you’ve been paid for your writing, having a piece published on the title you’re hoping to write for will not only boost your byline, but could prove a great asset to show an editor, if you apply for a paid position there in the future.
Cotter recommends initially trialling your career move as a side hustle or parallel career - whereby you have more than one profession on the go - to test it. “It’s the level of research needed before making a life-changing decision,” she explains.
Assess your transferable skills, then highlight them on your application
“Make sure your CV and covering letter show [your] skills which match the role, even if your background is unconventional,” advises Lees. Cotter also recommends this: “Pull apart the job spec and highlight the keywords, competencies, traits, skills and language being used,” she says. “Then pull apart your experience and achievements and match them up.”
Over-prepare for interviews
Cotter suggests focusing on how you would go above and beyond to improve or add value to the business. “Show your passion for the industry, passion for the organisation, and find connections between what you’ve done in the past and what you can do here,” she adds.
Celebrate your unconventional background
“Come up with a compelling elevator pitch around what it is you want to do and how you feel you could add value,” advises Cotter, pointing out that showing commitment and being a good cultural fit for the organisation are often more important than having prior experience in a similar role.
Be persistent and give yourself time
Whether you’re just beginning to think about changing career, or you’re already in the throes of looking for work in your new field, Cotter recommends working with a career coach. “You will learn so much about yourself in the process and gain practical tools, techniques and mindsets that will benefit you for the rest of your career,” she says.
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Written by By Holly O'Mahony.