This is the fourth part of a five-part series on how to successfully change careers at any age. In this part, I talk about the importance and impact of your Switch situation. Essentially, the levers you can pull to make your Switch or career change easier.
In the first three parts (click here for part 1, 2 and 3), you have ramped up knowledge of your new career, built up a competitive resume and crafted and prepared to tell a great change story. In stage four, you need to place yourself in the best possible situation to tell that story and make the career change.
Believe it or not, there are things that you can do to make changing careers easier on yourself. And if you make the right decisions you can increase your chances of successfully making the switch to a new profession, as well as shorten your job search time and make the time to change shorter.
So what are the options you might have at your disposal? Let’s take a look:
Leverage your network
The key to my own career change and Switch was my professional network. Trust me it was not a big one, but what it lacked in quantity, it more than made up for in quality. I had managed to stay in contact and keep a relationship going with a previous employer. This was something I purposefully set out to do (and I would encourage anybody to always try to leave employment on the best of terms), because I knew from experience they gave people a chance, as long as that person had the desire and passion to succeed.
So when it finally came to making my Switch to my new profession, I was able to identify a project my previous employer was starting that could use my help. The timing was right for both parties, and so I had landed my first role in my new profession, without even having to apply for any jobs. In this week’s additional insights on our Facebook page, I talk about the importance of keeping connected with previous employers.
When you think about changing careers, think about your current professional network. Is there an angle you can pursue to make your change easier? An old employer that has a need you could now fill with your new skills and desire? Perhaps even your current employer?
Stand out from the crowd
Remember the seven factors which influence earnings? In one of my previous posts, I spoke about combining several of these factors at once to improve your earnings potential, for example, mixing a change in geography with a move to a larger company and a promotion. With a career change, using these factors to your advantage can play a very important role. The idea here is to give yourself an advantage when applying for jobs.
Simple probability dictates that if you stand out as an applicant, then your chances will be better at landing a job you want. It really comes down to the relationship between the supply of quality candidates, and the demand for the profession within a certain area.
For example, if you are in a geography where there is lots of fierce competition for the roles you are looking at, then it will probably take you longer to find the right opportunity and make the change. So think about potential geographies or professional niches you can focus your search within to help you stand out from the crowd. After my initial Switch to marketing, I moved to the USA. This change in geography actually helped me stand out from the crowd, as I began to apply for marketing roles in my new location.
Another angle might be the size of the company you are applying to for your first role in your new profession. While larger companies certainly tend to have more roles to fill and therefore more opportunity and levels within a profession (i.e. more junior or contract roles), smaller companies usually receive fewer applications and may have lower hiring requirements (i.e. they have hiring requirements which reflect those needed to actually do the job, and not additional ones used to screen out more applicants). Plus in my experience, smaller companies tend to be more flexible in who they are trying to hire, and open to more possibilities.
Get your timing right
With the rapid rise in technological advances, it feels like new professional options and industries are being created all the time. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain being one of the most recent high profile examples I can think of.
When professions are younger, then the supply of skilled people able to fill these roles is lower. Quickly ramping up and focusing on one of these areas, while they are still new, can help increase your chances of making a career change. This is because the supply of talent is usually well below the demand.
With demand outstripping supply, and especially in the case of new industries being born, the expectations and job specifications tend to be lower as well. Of course, there is always going to be a certain level of skill required to perform the role, but at the very beginning that is all, that is likely to be asked for. Whereas, as time progresses, and the supply of qualified applicants starts to match and even surpass demand for the profession, then the hiring requirements will increase.
Why? Well because as employers receive more and more applicants for roles, they need to find ways to continue to reduce the applicants that pass the first hurdle. As such this usually manifests itself through increasing the job requirements. For example, employers may start to place applicant screening requirements, things like ‘MBAs’ on jobs that technically may not require them.
In summary, when it comes to stage four of the career change process, think about your career change situation and if there is anything you can do to leverage your network, stand out from the crowd and to get your timing right.