With the state of the economy, many people are considering their career options, looking for opportunities to shift their skill set to a different job or industry. That can be difficult, especially if you’ve been in a particular function for years. It’s often hard to envision that kind of shift.
The good news is, according to the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, if you are a knowledge worker (e.g., accountant, software engineer, HR specialist, etc.), you can probably work remotely, and in the age of COVID-19, that’s a big plus.
However, before you start skimming through online job boards, you’ve got prep work to do. Without it, you’ll be less likely to be successful, and more likely to feel discouraged when trying to shift your skill set to find a new job.
Do Your Research
A good first step is to identify which areas of the economy are stable or growing. For instance, maybe you were working in hospitality, which has taken a direct hit. Could you apply your skill set and shift to a different job in online retailing, tech support, customer service, warehousing or construction? Those are all businesses that are growing and looking for workers. Pharmacies, delivery services, healthcare and lab settings are strong, as are companies that supply workplace communication solutions. Do research into which types of companies are growing and why.
Next, look for roles you might be able to do at those companies. Not necessarily open positions but just who is doing what. Do a LinkedIn search of employees at the company and see which current jobs would be a good fit for you. More importantly, see what skills those employees have and how it compares to your background. Look at the job experiences they had before working at the present company. This will help you outline a plan for acquiring additional skills, training or education. It will also influence how to reshape your LinkedIn profile and resume to highlight similar or transferable skills.
Also, be willing to think beyond a job title. Look at the skill set in different positions. This may be an opportunity to stretch your wings and move into an adjacent field.
Review Your Experience
Now it’s time to “unpack” your work experience. Skip the titles. Focus on what you have done and which skills you have acquired. Yes, you know XYZ software, but have you also led teams, managed large projects, designed programs and worked directly with clients? There is an employer out there that is more interested in those skills than whether or not you know a particular software that can be learned.
This tallying of your assets is important. It will help you know where you are lacking, or maybe have more experience than is necessary. You’ll be able to use this information to shift and market yourself, highlighting your skill set on a resume that maybe you wouldn’t have before, or taking something off that might not make sense for a particular position.
It will also point to areas for development. Use your time to beef up your skills with online courses, relearn a software you haven’t utilized in a while or become certified in a particular tool. Even just reading up on the technologies adopted by certain industries and knowing what they are used for can help you speak more authoritatively in an interview and position yourself better.
Update Who You Are
The next step is to refresh and rewrite your resume, LinkedIn profile and any other online account to reflect all the above. Don’t sell yourself short. Think back to everything that you’ve touched in the last five years and make sure it’s included. Add detail to current descriptions, focus on what you’ve accomplished and list the skills you have used. For example, include software you know, the types of businesses you have worked with, any international experience and knowledge of recent regulations in your industry.
All of these represent key words that recruiters, and applicant tracking systems, use to cull through the thousands of resumes they receive. When you review open positions, look for these words, paying special attention to patterns and specific skills mentioned. Then make sure you weave these key words into your resume and online profiles.
What Job Do You Want?
At this point you’ve identified the industry and roles that interest you. You’ve strengthened your skills and your resume to reflect your pertinent experience. You’ve found some interesting job listings. Time to hit that “send” button, right? Not so fast.
Before submitting a resume, do some research into the company. What do they do? What is their history? How do they describe their culture? Are they a market leader? All this information will help you write your cover letter and customize your resume. You want to articulate why you are a promising candidate and why they should contact you.
Be sure too that your LinkedIn and any other professional profiles are consistent with the “new” you because if the company is interested, they will check those sources. If you are going after a certain position, look at the LinkedIn profiles of people at similar companies doing that job. It may give you ideas of how to customize your profile.
What if you don’t “fit” the job description perfectly? Let’s say you lack the required years of experience. Go for it anyway. You might be one of a hundred resumes and you might be checking the least number of boxes, but you never know. As recruiters, we often help hiring managers zero in on the skills and experience that they really need to have, whittling down the job description to the essentials. You may have those essential skills.
Feeling like you look overqualified? In your cover letter, explain why you are attracted to the job, subtly acknowledging the differences: “Yes, I’ve done this before at a higher level, but this is a new industry with new challenges that excite me.”
No one has a crystal ball to tell us where the economy – and the jobs – will be in the months to come. But many professions, like accounting, finance and software engineering, were in high demand before the pandemic. That work still needs to be done. Companies may take longer to hire not just because of cash flow but in an effort to accurately define what they are looking for and find the right person for the job. This is an opportunity for many skilled and talented employees to shift to a new industry or job title.
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