If you are looking to make a complete career change, applying for jobs online and waiting for a response is rarely going to work.
In most cases, when a recruiter is evaluating an applicant for a position, they are comparing their prior education and work experience to the requirements of a job requisition. If they match, they will be considered a good fit. If they don’t, the recruiter moves on to the next resume.
Even if the job is entry level, if you have several years of experience in another field, the recruiter may not consider you a fit. They may think you applied to the wrong job; that you would require a much higher salary than an entry level candidate; or that you would be bored in an entry level role.
If the role is not entry level and you don’t meet the stated qualifications, you’re better off not applying. You may think that the skills you learned in your previous industry or job are transferable. Although this may be true, it’s rare that a hiring manager will agree – they prefer a candidate with prior experience to taking a gamble on someone who may or may not be able to catch on. Although it’s a problem with a skills shortage, many managers simply don’t have the time to train. Consistently applying for jobs you aren’t qualified for will only get you blacklisted.
Sending a cover letter with your resume may increase your odds of being considered; but only marginally. Many applicant tracking systems weed out resumes electronically. In other cases, recruiters (who on average spend only six seconds reviewing each resume) are too busy to read the cover letter, or look at your resume first and reject you.
So what do you do?
1. Reach out and make connections. Do what you can to make connections in the new industry – join networking groups and try to find a mentor. If you’ve gone back to school, use the college’s career center. Find out who is behind the job posting and pick up the phone and talk to that person. Don’t blindly apply to jobs and expect recruiters to read your mind.
2. Be prepared to take a pay cut. If you’ve been working in purchasing for 20 years, chances are you have worked your way up to a high salary. Don’t expect to maintain this salary if you decide to make a move to the accounting industry. While you may be experienced in your field, you’re entry level in the new field – and your pay rate will likely reflect that. Have a financial plan in place to deal with the fallout.
3. Be ready to sell yourself and explain your reasoning in switching careers. Changing careers is not going to be easy. Smaller companies may be more receptive to your situation than larger companies, who are often restricted by polices or pay grade requirements. Even if you hate your current field, make sure to keep it positive when discussing your motivations for switching careers. No one wants to hire the voice of doom.
4. Don’t glamorize the new field. If there are things you dislike about your current job or industry, there will be things you dislike about the post-career change situation as well. Consider your motivations – if it’s office politics or corporate red tape that are driving you crazy, remember that these factors can exist in any field. Think ahead to make sure the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.
5. Research the market prior to committing to a change. Before getting the necessary education or training to pursue a new field, make sure there is a need in that field. Is the field hot and in demand (such as engineering, IT or CNC programmers) or is the job market disappearing (such as postal workers or desktop publishers)? If those with industry experience are out of work, it may be wise to choose another field.