This is the third in a five-part series, in which I outline the five critical steps you need to take in order to successfully change careers.
Trust me when I say I completely understand the enormity of the challenge that is changing careers and making a Switch. About five years ago, I myself successfully switched to a career in marketing. The journey was tough. And along the way, through my own (often hard-learned lessons) and in speaking with other successful Switchers, I developed the critical five stages. If you have not had a chance to check out the first two posts, please feel free to do so, here for part 1 and here for part 2.
Until you start to tell your change story, nobody will know how great you are!
Needless to say, that stage three is vitally important to any change / Switch. This is the stage in which you start to tell your story. Remember your goal during the interview stage (whether informal or formal in style), is to leave the person listening with no doubt that you are the best person for the job. This is especially true for people making a Switch and changing careers.
Think about it this way: a critical portion (if not the majority) of information that someone interviewing you receives is what you tell them, your appearance and behavior during the interview process. Plenty has been written about how to dress and behave during the interview process, so I want to concentrate on the ‘what you tell them’ piece. After all, until you tell your story (and believe me your career is exactly that), the person asking for it (directly and indirectly, via interview questions) has no idea what it is or the true extent of the value you can add to their company.
There are really two main parts to your career story. The first is your ability to tell a story that resonates (i.e. it ticks all the boxes that the interviewer is looking to complete) and gives the people making a hiring decision confidence that you can not only do the job but excel and add value above. Secondly, it is your ability to deliver the story in a way which demonstrates and exudes confidence (i.e. the ability to tell your story in a way which creates positive re-affirmation that the information is correct and that you are who you say you are).
Like any story, the one you tell about your career change must resonate with the people listening.
So how do you prepare a story that will resonate? This is where your efforts in the first and second stages will come in handy. During the first stage, you will have researched the skill sets required for the role (and supplemented with specifics for the job you are applying to). At the second stage, you identified current experiences that will be valuable to you in your new profession and identified and filled in any gaps. Your resume, at least on paper, is looking competitive.
Now with your competitive resume, you need to think about the story you should tell. In essence, you really need to be prepared to answer the following questions well during an interview:
- Why are you making this career change? This is really your chance to explain your motivations and journey towards making the decision to Switch. Truly your motivations will need to be very closely aligned with wanting to ‘achieve excellence’ or ‘developing an interest and becoming sure over time that this was the right direction’ in your new profession. Something which states a positive reason why you want to be in the new profession. Positivity is key. So absolutely no negative answers, for example, ‘Well I hated my old profession, and this seemed like an easy option’ or ‘I was just so desperate to leave my old job’.
- What about your unique past makes you a special candidate? This is where you can bring out your individual strengths and let them be the link between your old profession and the new one. Believe it or not, your strengths will not have fundamentally changed, and so being able to articulate them and particularly how they will be useful in your new profession is vital and the key here. Even better if you can demonstrate with your story, how they can help solve a real-world problem that the company you are looking to join has (this requires research and/or reaching out to your network who are at the company).
- Describe your career to me? If you are asked this question, here you basically need to include the answers to #1 and #2 in the description of your timeline. This is because, even if you are not asked the above questions, they will be playing in the hiring manager’s mind. So you need to take the initiative, be brave, and realize that this question is an opportunity to sell yourself and establish the uniqueness of your personal brand.
Deliver your story with confidence and positivity to make a real impact.
Now you have your story, next, you need to deliver it. I already hinted at the need to keep things positive, in relation to how you tell your story. This means no negativity, and a focus on only the positive aspects of what you are trying to achieve (i.e. your love and determination to do well in your new profession). Trust me, nobody wants to hear about how you hated your old profession or were just desperate to get out of your old job. Whilst some of this may and is very likely true, this should not be your only motivation for investing so much time and energy in a Switch.
Next, prepare, prepare and prepare. Truly, being prepared and knowing your story well, so you can articulate it at any given moment is key. Rehearse your story to yourself. Tell it to friends and family, and practice speaking it out loud. Get used to being comfortable with how you sound and what you are saying. You need to be authentic during the interview process. The more authentic you are, the better chance that both you and the hiring person can make the best decision for both of you. Remember, the aim is to Switch to a new career that you are suited to, but this also goes for the company as well. It is no good making a Switch to a new career if you end up at a company or in a job that you are not happy with or cannot do. So be honest and authentic.
In summary, own your career change story. Make sure to craft a compelling story, learn it, and then be prepared to deliver it gracefully and confidently to whoever is listening.
In this week’s additional insight on our FB page, I talk about a technique I use to make sure I am feeling confident about myself before an interview – thereby giving me the best chance possible to tell my story and make an impact on the interviewer.