How to do a Career Shift

You enter college and apparently you are supposed to know exactly what you want to be when you grow up. I mean darn those lucky people who just know what they want to be, become it, and just love their careers their whole lives. If you’re anything like me, you had no idea, and still may have no idea. I managed to do a 180 on my career a couple years ago and if you’re looking for the same, let me help you with a few tips.

I studied exercise science as a pre-medical student in college. Unfortunately, I realized quickly after graduation that I hate blood and doctors offices’ give me panic attacks, so with no interest in going to medical school, I became a personal trainer for a few years. Being a trainer was rewarding and fun, but I knew it wasn’t for me long term. So I packed my bags from Orlando, headed to the city of Nashville, got my MBA in Finance, met a bunch of people, doubled my salary, and started a brand new finance career all within 1.5 years. It wasn’t easy, but I did it! If you have been thinking about a career shift, but feeling stuck in your current job, let me share some tips that helped me get through a pretty big career shift.

She did a career shift &thenShe knew she could do anything, she became confident, she [insert your victory].

Here are a few tips before we start to get you in the right headspace:

Career Shift Tips

  • You’re never too old for a career change, except if you’re 100 years old, that might be too old
  • Be patient and don’t give up
    • A career change will not come overnight, but some career shifts may be easier than others.
  • When you hear “No”, don’t quit, find an alternate route. Unless it’s illegal, then you should probably agree to the No
  • No job is perfect
    • No matter how much you love your job, it’s going to be work, there will be days you don’t want to get out of bed. When those days happen, ask yourself “Is this a bad job or a bad day?” and keep the course. A brighter job is ahead, I promise.
  • Be Brave
    • You will be stepping outside your comfort zone a LOT when doing a career shift. You will be humbled by all you don’t know, frustrated with how slow the process is, and uncomfortable putting yourself out there, so put on your BRAVERY armor and let’s get to work. 

Steps to a Career Shift

Step 1: Learn about the job you want

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  1. Certifications: Look up at least three job postings of the future job you want. Note what certifications, schooling or qualifications the job posting has listed for the job. Realize now what kind of work or schooling will be needed for this career change.
  2. Salary: Look up average salaries on Payscale or Salary.com of the job you want. Make sure you will be satisfied with the salary range as you will not be going in as a senior when you first start. Money isn’t everything, but it sure helps to understand the quality of life you may be living and sacrifices needed if taking a pay cut.
  3. Availability: Note how many opportunities there are in your area. When you google the job postings, are they all in Silicon Valley, New York, everywhere, remote? Realize now if it is realistic to stay where you are to find a job or if you will need to move to make the dream happen. 
  4. Research: Discover everything you can about the job, ask around and get advice from people in the field. Make sure you know what you are getting into and have support from loved ones. 

Step 2: Get your certifications and education

  1. Know your options: Getting all the certifications you need could take years, but make sure to look up all your options for achieving all the required certifications. Is there a part time MBA program, a virtual healthcare certification class, what about a coding boot camp, or a free online course? Did you know edX offers free online Harvard classes? Check it out! 
  2. Do the extra credit: If your new career doesn’t require certifications or additional education, don’t stop there, take the extra step to find a class, webinar, tutors, books, really anything to build up your resume for the field you are looking into.
  3. Network tip: If taking an in person class or certification, take full advantage of your new friends and connections. When I was in MBA school, I met so many connections that helped me get to where I am today. During my MBA, I was able to learn new material, add the degree to my resume and have people who would vouch for me. Win-win-win!

Step 3: Network

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  1. Interview your networks: I know the word “Networking” makes your skin crawl, but this is where you put on your BRAVERY armor and power through. When you network, you are not just giving your business card and asking for a job, you are building a professional friendship. This could become a mentor or even a future co worker. Interview everyone you meet who is in a role you want and ask questions like  “What is [job] like? What is your least/most favorite part of the job? Any advice for people who want to get into this career?”. You are planting a seed in their mind, and who knows, they may be looking for a candidate just like you.
  2. Join clubs: There are clubs for everything! Get out there and join a club for say “women in business” or find a local meetup for local teachers. Go to conferences/webinars, etc., and meet as many people as you can in the field.
  3. Join social media accounts: Look into LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and reach out to some local individuals in the field, see if they would be willing to have a phone call to interview them about their job. Also, make sure you have a well put together LinkedIn profile for yourself.
  4. Become a member of relevant associations: Whether its a lawyers association, real estate, healthcare, music, photography, join the recommended associations and get on their email list for events. Some of these may have fees.

Step 4: Say “Yes” to opportunities

  1. Volunteer your time: Want to get into web development coding? Offer to build a webpage to a friend  for free. This gives you a chance to practice your new skill and also have a portfolio
    • When I was in MBA school I said “Yes” to join a finance team in a competition, this was a lot of work outside of part time MBA and part time personal training, but I knew it was temporary and would get my foot in the door. I was able to apply my experience from the finance competition to get my first job out of MBA.
  2. Seek opportunities: I am not saying do free work or do cheap work, just find creative and unique opportunities that will help you grow and also build your case for your future job interviews. Relevant and applicable experience is what interviewers are looking for (plus a great personality)!

Step 5: Clean up your resume and cover letter

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  1. Add relevant work: Make sure to add all your new certifications, education, and any volunteer time related to the job you want to your resume. You may even want to add a short summary about your career shift at the top.
  2. Add a cover letter: A cover letter gives you the chance to address why you don’t have a lot of relevant experience. Talk about why you made a career shift and your future aspirations.
  3. Re word your past experiences: I was a personal trainer and got a job as a valuation analyst within a year… anything is possible. You have more skill sets transferable to the job than you think. Below is an example:
    • All of these variations of my resume are true, but I look at it through a different lens for each career. I challenge you to be creative about your experiences, even if it sounds a little silly the first time through.
Fitness resume I Personal Trained 50+ clients
Business resume I marketed my own skill sets and sold personal training packages. I set SMART goals for 50+ clients, tracked their progress and led to successful completion of goals.
Healthcare resume I maintained my continuing education in order to provide best in practice fitness regimes to 50+ personal training clients while accurately monitoring their health and safety.
Teacher resume I developed weekly plans where I taught proper exercise form and technique to 50+ fitness clients.
  1. ALWAYS have someone review your resume: Do not ever submit your resume without at least one outsider review. If possible find someone in the role you want, maybe someone you met when you were networking. It will be uncomfortable and vulnerable, but you will get so much out of it!

Step 6: Apply to 5 jobs a day

  1. Find 5 jobs a day: This is basically a full time job. The idea is to explore and put your name out there as much as you can. I suggest you adjust your resume for each position/company you apply to. Make sure your resume includes key words of that particular job description and company values.
    • You can also check out career fairs in your area. I personally never had much luck with career fairs, but nonetheless its a great way to work on your “pitch” and interview skills, as well as grow your network.
  2. Don’t settle: Don’t settle for a low paying job or a company you don’t get the best vibe from, but be open minded.
    • I managed to get a paid internship during my MBA, which I was shocked because I was older than a typical intern. You will be amazed if you just ASK for the opportunity, the worst they can say is no. That internship gave me credibility to land my first job out of MBA school.
  3. Use your connections: Companies get hundreds of applications for a posting and use tools to filter out resumes before they even look at it. If you don’t get the interview, it’s not because you don’t have the skill set, it’s because they are not even seeing your resume. The greatest thing you can do is ask people in the company to refer you! A personal recommendation will always be considered.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Chinese Proverb

A career shift can be a scary and long process, but if not now, when? Take the leap of faith and you won’t regret it!

Author: Kate King

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