By Jessica Long (’05), Assistant Director of Career Education and Coaching in the Office of Personal & Career Development at Wake Forest University
We all get to that point in life where we find ourselves wanting something different. Maybe you’ve been in your current job for a year. Maybe you’ve been in it for a few years. When you started the job, it was a great fit and you enjoyed the work. Now that time has passed, you’re finding yourself wanting more, and you’re thinking about changing industries completely. Let’s talk through what some of your next steps might be.
Reach out to your network. I know, I know – networking can sometimes sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Think about this as having some friendly conversations with people you already have something in common with – Wake Forest alumni. Our alumni are incredibly friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. You already have access to the WAKENetwork and WAKECommunities. Have you attended alumni community events in your city? What about looking on LinkedIn at Wake Forest grads who might be doing something you are interested in doing? Through using that, in combination with the WAKENetwork, you can send someone a professional email requesting a phone call or face to face conversation about their career. Check out this awesome tutorial on how to use the WAKENetwork. Talking with friendly connections who work in the industry or field of interest to you is a low-commitment way to explore a possible career change.
Talk with your mentors. These are the people you go to when you need some honest feedback. Let them know what’s on your mind so they can talk through things with you. They will probably ask you some tough questions and provide thoughtful insight that will assist you in making a decision about whether or not you want to change your industry completely.
Be honest with yourself. Think about what it really is that you’re wanting to change. Maybe it’s your daily tasks. Is it possible that your work environment isn’t a good fit? Could it be that you’re ready for more of a challenge or a leadership role? Are there additional responsibilities you’d like to take on in your current role that might satisfy you? Reflecting on why you want to make a change can help you determine if you’re looking to change jobs, companies, or your industry altogether.
Know your next steps. Should you choose to change your industry, you’ll want to think about how to best prepare yourself to make the move. Your job search may look a little different than it did when you looked for your last job because you’ll want to identify some helpful resources where you can learn about new positions. In addition to that, you will want to give your resume a bit of a fresh look. So do some research – what job search sites, companies, or networking opportunities (online or in-person) should you be pursuing related to your desired job industry? And what are the companies you are wanting to work for expecting on a resume in terms of work experience and skills? Use this information to direct your job search and next steps.
Focus on transferable skills. A transferable skill is one that can be used in any setting. For example, if you know how to use a copy machine, you can make copies in any given environment. Perhaps that’s a silly example, but it’s true. If you’re skilled when it comes to preparing a new advertising campaign, chances are that you would excel at doing this anywhere you may go. You may be well equipped and more prepared for your industry change than you think. That’s good news! Be sure to highlight these skills on your resume, as you talk to new networking connections, and once you begin interviewing for new positions.
Tailor your resume. You may have all the skills and experience you need to succeed in your new industry but you may need to connect the dots for your potential future employer. Instead of lumping all of your experience together into one “Experience” category on your resume, consider having a “Related Experience” as your first section. Within this section, you can pick and choose relevant experiences to highlight. When structuring your bullet points, reference the position descriptions of a few jobs that you are interested in or think you want. I can speak firsthand about how helpful a job description is in preparing your marketing materials (resume and cover letter, specifically). Be intentional about using similar language, highlighting specific skills and emphasizing certain accomplishments that pertain to your future career path.
Completely changing industries is a big step. You want to approach this possibility in a thoughtful manner. Take some time to research, talk through and think about making a change before you take the leap into a new field. Sometimes change is a great thing and it’s the right thing. And sometimes we just need to step back and look at our current situation through new lenses.