In my practice as a career coach, I often work with professionals who want to pivot from one field to another because their current career one no longer provides fulfillment. I’ve read plenty of good advice about preparing for a career pivot, but perhaps in an effort to present only the positive, none of the articles I’ve read provide the unvarnished truths about what you may confront.
Let’s examine the real obstacles you may face, and then I’ll offer practical tips on how to overcome them.
You’ve done your research; you understand the field; you’ve taken the relevant courses needed to successfully transition into your chosen next career. You’re ready to begin the job search, armed with a new functional resume that discusses your competencies and skills rather than the trajectory of your prior employment. How are the recruiters and hiring managers going to respond to your candidacy?
Spoiler alert: the answers aren’t pretty, but when you understand what you may be up against, you’ll be better prepared with realistic strategies.
I surveyed recruiters and HR managers because they are typically the first people who view your resume, asking two questions:
• A mid-career professional takes all the relevant courses in order to change fields. Will they get hired, even though their “experience” in the new field is academic, not actual?
• What is the likelihood of a mid-career professional getting hired in a more junior role in order to make a career shift?
In response to the first question, two recruiters replied with an unqualified “no,” with one saying that his employment agency would never be able to place such a candidate, and the other, a HR manager, noting that “once you are pigeon-holed in a particular field, it is nearly impossible to break out.”
Others were more optimistic, provided that the candidate met other criteria, such as having significant transferable skills. One hiring manager said she would consider career pivoters,” but that they would face serious competition from candidates with actual experience.
Another recruiter said it would be “tricky,” but the degree to which the candidate’s previous experience is relevant to the new employer would be a significant factor; she added, “I wouldn’t bank on it unless it’s a sector where the new skills are in high demand.” An IT recruiter suggested that candidates whose prior experience has afforded them knowledge within a specific domain could potentially move into that field, but said the real question is, “where is the value-add for their potential future employer?”
As for the probability of mid-career professionals being hired in more junior roles in order to gain experience in their new careers, two recruiters ranked the possibility as “very likely,” or “high,” if the abovementioned criteria were met. Others were less optimistic, pointing out that most mid-careerists would have trouble taking a compensation hit.
Overcoming Objections From Recruiters
None of this sounds encouraging, but there are strategies for overcoming objections from recruiters and employers if you want to change careers.
You’ve heard that networking is critical to a job hunt, and no more so than when you search involves a career pivot. Leverage your social network contacts to develop relationships to help you get ahead.
The biggest problem career pivoters face is being an unknown quantity in a new field. Changing careers if often easier if you stay within your current company where you have earned a reputation as being smart and hard-working. Transitioning to a different department allows you to gain experience, often without taking a compensation hit.
While some people thrive as employees, or just need the security of a steady paycheck, there are considerable benefits to marketing your talents directly to employers on a freelance or contractor basis.
Prove your Value
Want to demonstrate your skills within your next career? Create something of value – pro bono – and offer it to your target employer. If you know how to do something – just do it (sorry, Nike). Perfect example of “show, don’t tell,” and if nothing else, builds a portfolio of work that demonstrates your expertise.