In Pursuit of Career Happiness: How to Switch Gears in Your Career
So excited for today's guest post from my fellow boss babe and friend Baily Hancock! Baily is a Career and Business Strategist who teaches people how to collaborate with their community to achieve their goals, whether that's making a career change or growing their business. Her 10-week online course, “The 1-Year Career” (next cohort begins July 9th!) helps people figure out how to make big moves with small steps in their career, and on her podcast, "The Baily Hancock Show" she interviews people who have done just that.
If you've been following EDP for awhile then you know that I've had a handful of career switches and I WISH I had known Baily/had the 1 - Year Career as a resource back then! I know you will be able to take some valuable nuggets from this post.
There will most likely come a time in your career when you realize what you’re doing no longer does it for you. It makes perfect sense - you choose a major in college and take your first “adult” job based on what sounds interesting at the time. A few years (or more) go by, and next thing you know, you get the itch to break out and try something new. That could be taking on a new role, switching departments, or completely pulling a career 180.
While the idea of making a pivot in your career is exciting, it can also feel overwhelming or straight up terrifying. You might be thinking, “how can I switch career paths without totally starting over?” If the idea of going after a new role or exploring a new industry is on your mind but you have no idea where to begin, here are some steps you can take to make the leap without falling flat on your face:
1. Find your through-line.
When you’re experimenting with your career, it’s important to get clear on what your through-line is. In other words, what is the common thread across all the jobs you’ve had so far? Even if your previous roles have been different than the one you’re going for next, it’s likely that you tend to bring something similar to the table with each one.
Another way to think of it is to ask yourself the question, “what problem do I often solve?” or “What’s my professional super power?” Are you always coming up with new ways to solve problems? Do you tend to volunteer to plan the company off-sites and office celebrations? Are you the person who everyone feels comfortable talking to when they’ve had a bad day? Those are all clues to what your through-line might be.
Just because you’ve been in one department the whole time doesn’t mean you’re only qualified or experienced in that area. You’re more than just the titles you’ve held; you’re the combination of what you know, who you know, and what you’ve done throughout your career. By pulling back and looking at your experience as a whole, you should be able to see clearly who you are as an employee no matter the role you’re in.
2. Put your network to work.
One of the most important things you can do before taking the leap and applying for a bunch of jobs you’re not 100% qualified for is to help your network help you. A quick and easy way to do that is to ask people for informational interviews so you can make sure that this move is really the right one for you. That’s one of the best ways to get the low-down on a job, company, or industry before you make any big moves.
If you’re considering going from Accounting to Social Media Management (like Miss Everyday Pursuits herself did in the beginning of her career) it’s worth chatting with a few people already doing what you hope to do so you can ask any questions you might have. Lining up someone to talk to can be as easy as reaching out to a handful of key people in your network to ask if they know anyone currently working in that space. LinkedIn makes this step SO easy (assuming you’ve been growing your network and nurturing those relationships… but that’s a different post for a different day!) but regardless all you need to do is email a few people who you know and trust. Here’s an easy script you can use:
“Hey Baily! I’m in the process of making a career pivot from Accounting to Social Media, and was hoping to get more information about the industry. Do you know anyone in the space who would be willing to chat with me for 15 minutes? In addition, if you hear of any openings for that kind of role please keep me in mind!”
Once you’ve spoken with enough people to decide for sure that switching roles or industries is what you really want to do, the next step is to let your network know your plans so they can be on the lookout for opportunities for you. Seventy percent of people find jobs through their network, and referral candidates are 3 - 4 times more likely to be hired than someone without a referral. In other words, if you don’t have an “in” at the company you’re applying to, it’s damn near impossible to even get an interview. Getting someone in your network to vouch for you is even more crucial when you don’t have a ton of experience in that role or industry.
Above all else, make it easy for the people in your network to help you, and then make them proud when they do. If a connection introduces you to someone or gets you an “in” at your dream company, put on your game face and bring it. Respond to emails and calls quickly, don’t be late, and be professional as hell.
3. Curate your career history.
After honing in on your through-line and putting your network to work on your behalf, it’s time to begin the hunt! As you start to find roles that you’d like to apply for, it’s crucial that you go back to your resume and cover letter to make sure they’re telling the story of who you’re becoming professionally, not just who you’ve been. You know the advice, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”? It’s the same thing.
For example, if all of your roles have been in Accounting but you’re applying to Social Media positions, you’ll want to add in nuggets of experience in that space to your resume. Say you had a blog on the side that you grew an online following for - go ahead and add that to your resume. Sure, in the past it might not have been applicable, but it certainly is now! Side gigs and volunteer work absolutely count toward relevant experience, so don’t leave them out.
When you go to write your cover letter, be sure to tell your story in a way that weaves your past experience in with what you’re moving toward professionally. This is your chance to tell the hiring manager why they should have you in for an interview, even if you don’t have years of experience in this space. By highlighting the parts of your career history that apply to this new role or industry, you’ll help paint the picture for them and convince them that hiring you makes perfect sense.
Be prepared to share your career story not only on your resume and cover letter, but in the interview as well. Successfully verbalizing the link between what you’ve done in the past and what you’re hoping to do going forward can make or break you getting that new gig. Practice saying it out loud, whether it’s in the mirror or to a friend, but whatever you do don’t just wing it!
The good news is, no matter how big of a leap you take, you couldn’t “start over” if you tried. Even if you decide to go in a completely new direction professionally, that doesn’t put you right back to where you were when you first began your career. You are more than just the bullet points on your resume, so never let your career history determine your career future. Life is too short to hate your job - go get one that lights you up.
If you like the vibe that Baily is putting down then definitely give her a follow on Instagram. And if you want more posts like this, let me know in the comments!! xo - Ash