Saturday, July 30, 2005

Making Career Changes: How easy will your career change be?

If you're among those considering making career changes, understanding the basic dynamics behind the relative ease or difficulty of the type of career change you are considering is important.

Here's the hierarchy of ease of making a career change:

1. The easiest career change to accomplish is one where your career change is to the same job title in the same industry.

2. More difficult to accomplish is a career change to a different job title in the same industry or to the same job title in a different industry.

3. Significantly more difficult is making a career change to a different job title in a different industry.

Understanding why this hierarchy is true builds on my discussion of understanding the primary driver behind the hiring process in a previous post. (You can listen to my podcast on this topic if you prefer.) Bottom line, the hiring process is driven by avoidance of risk.

The least risk to an employer is hiring someone who has demonstrated that they can do the job by having done the job in the same industry as the employer's. That provides the most proof that the person being considered can do the job. That's why most position descriptions include a requirement that applicants have some number of years of experience doing the same type of work in the same industry.

A notch higher on the risk profile for the employer is hiring someone who has done the same job in another industry or who has done a different job in the same industry. Either introduces a whole new concept of uncertainty about whether the person can satisfactorily do the job and the chance that a hiring mistake will be made.

From the employer's perspective, that risk rises to almost impossible to overcome levels when they consider someone who wants to change to a new job title in a new industry. The employer has a difficult time finding the level of proof that the individual can do the job that they need to be comfortable with the hiring decision.

Strategies for Career Changes to a Different Job Title and/or Industry

1. If you want to make a career change to a position having a different job title in a different industry, consider doing so in two steps, rather than one. First obtain a position and experience with either the desired different job title or desired different industry, because that is much easier to accomplish. Later, take the next step to achieve the other change.

2. Provide as much proof as you can to demonstrate that you can perform well in the new job title or new industry. You will need to translate your past experience and expertise to the new title or industry so that the potential employer can readily see it as proof. Don't expect them to do it. Your resume should be specifically tailored to provide this proof. Also, you will need to develop stories you can tell about times when you demonstrated these abilities.

3. Generally, you will need to go around HR departments to be considered. HR has a responsibility to protect the company from making hiring mistakes, and part of that is to prevent unqualified applicants from getting in the door. To help in this duty, they put up "qualifications" like specific experience that will be used to screen you out. You will need to get your information in front of decision makers in a way that they can see your qualifications and over-ride the process set up to protect them.


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