How to Change Your Career in 7 Steps

Fish making a career change
You can make change happen

Changing careers or industries can feel like a daunting prospect, yet clients accomplish successful career changes all the time. Knowing what you want to do next is half the journey. If you’re unsure of what path to take, reading this post could help. Once you’ve settled on a path, then you need to convince employers that they should hire you over more experienced candidates. To overcome this challenge, implement the following seven steps.


1. Talk to those who’ve been in the role

Before you start your job search, ask one or two people who’ve had the role you’re seeking for advice in helping you:

  • identify transferable skills, and how to market those skills in your resume and pitch. For example, a client wanted to move from running Financial Planning and Analysis to heading Investor Relations. He was advised to use words that would resonate when describing his experience, like “relationship-building,” “influencing” and “investors,” and deemphasize the analysis and budgets parts of his experience.
  • leverage your “outsider” status to give you a unique competitive advantage. One client leveraged her experience as a customer for business-to-business technology services to convince technology companies to hire her for business development.
  • apply your experience in a way that you hadn’t thought of. For example, when I was thinking about moving from running business analysis groups in financial institutions to higher education, I spoke with a couple of higher-ed leaders who gave me crucial insight on how to apply my skills to solve fundraising challenges. I leveraged this insight to successfully land interviews.
  • assess any gaps in your knowledge, education or credentials that could prevent you from getting job offers.

2. Develop a plan to address gaps

If you’re missing key knowledge or education/credentials, aim to find online resources to quickly fill the gap without having to go back to school (expensive and time consuming). Alternatively, extend your transition to your new career so you can get the education or experience you need while still working in your current field.

3. Create your pitch 

Leverage what you learned in Steps 1 and 2 to create a concise pitch that differentiates you from your competition. Use this pitch whenever you’re trying to sell yourself to an employer. That is, use it in informational meetings, interviews, emails, cover letters, and your resume and LinkedIn summary sections.

4. Consider posting one or two articles on LinkedIn

Depending on the field you are targeting, posting a LinkedIn article could help you overcome concerns about lack of experience by sharing knowledge and expertise that a resume can’t capture.

5. In interviews, pre-empt concerns about lack of experience

Take initiative to demonstrate your knowledge of an employer’s challenges. For example, in answering their questions you might look for opportunities to say something like “To accomplish your goal you may want to consider industry best practices, such as x, y, and z…”

6. Take an active approach to landing your next role

Job postings and search firms may not work for you because you’re not the “perfect” candidate. That is, you’re not already in a similar role. No problem, you’ll just need to focus on actively building relationships at target organizations. Reach out to those who might hire you to gain informational meetings, and then keep in touch. Here are some additional actions to take.

When you do see a job posting, skip the application if you’re missing one or more of the key requirements. Instead, find the person who would likely be your boss (e.g., via LinkedIn, the organization website or your network) and write an assertive email that makes the case for them to meet with you.

7. Get involved, e.g., with a professional or industry association

Look for an association that has an active membership, then volunteer to help run a committee or get on the Board. Getting involved is the single most effective way of building your network in a new sector and learning how to sound like an insider. Once you become known (in a good way) to an association’s leadership and membership, you’ll easily get informational meetings which could lead to interviews. You’ll also be able to list this volunteer experience as real, relevant experience on your resume. Consider other opportunities to volunteer as well, perhaps for organizations that are part of your job target; gain relevant experience, fill a resume gap, and build your network.