One of the main reasons you’re having difficulties with a career change is how you brand yourself.
You’re not used to the idea that branding makes such a big difference for a career change.
The last time you changed careers, we were in a candidate shortage. Since there were candidate and skill shortages, you just had to show that you had the basic skills needed for the job. Employers were so desperate for candidates with basic skills, many would hire candidates without past experience in the job function or industry.
For example, if you wanted to change careers into IT in the late ’90’s, you could get a job if you could just spell JAVA, then the key programming language for web applications.
Fast forward to today … During the job market turmoil of 2007 – 2012, millions who lost their jobs decided to do something that would be more fulfilling or have better job prospects. Others, seeing a downturn in their industry (ex: real estate, mortgages, construction, home building, remodeling, pharmaceuticals), have sought to change careers to something more lucrative.
This makes sense … when we see that what we’ve chosen isn’t working out as well as we’d hoped, why not try to make a change to something more fulfilling, fun, or profitable? Especially if it was as easy to change careers as it was before.
That was then … this is now
In today’s job market, it’s so easy to change careers. Not impossible, but certainly not easy. In yesterday’s job market of candidate shortages, employers would consider career changers because they couldn’t find enough people with direct experience. Compare this to today’s job market, where hiring managers can have their choice of many candidates who meet not only skill requirements, but also experience requirements.
Added to this – Hiring managers are being given goals and being told to do more with less. This is what happens in a slow recovery: employers are given challenging goals, but not the additional employees needed to accomplish these goals. Even at full headcount , assume your hiring manager is understaffed.
How do hiring managers, who are understaffed, figure out how to achieve challenging goal numbers? One of the most tried and true ways is to hire someone who has already solved their priority problems. Since understaffed hiring managers don’t have the luxury of providing on the job training, to be successful in changing careers you’ll want to show that you don’t need training.
Much of this comes down to branding
Think back to TheLadders.com study demonstrating the first decision a reader makes when looking at your resume – the “unqualified” decision. Your resume’s readers decide in the first 4-6 seconds if you’re unqualified based on the first impression your resume makes. This is especially important to career changers.
Most job seekers brand themselves based on their past job title, rather than their anticipated job title. For example, let’s say you’re a financial analyst seeking a career change into a marketing analyst role.
Most job seekers in this situation brand themselves based on their past job:
“Financial Analyst seeking Marketing Analyst position”
Instead, wouldn’t it make more sense to describe yourself as a Marketing Analyst, the job you’re seeking showing a couple of the portions of your financial analysis experience that related to marketing analysis? A more effective personal brand might look like this:
“Marketing Analyst – Expert in sales and profitability analysis”
The best part is, you don’t have to lie – A portion of most financial analyst jobs includes sales and profitability analysis. However, most financial analysts don’t think of their past work in marketing terms. So why would you expect your target employer to think of you as a marketing candidate, unless you show the hiring manager exactly why they should think of you in marketing terms?
Your resume isn’t a timesheet, a diary, or an autobiography … it’s a marketing tool to convince your reader that you’re the best candidate for the job.
If you’re trying to change careers and convince a hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job, why would you describe your work experience from the point of view of your old job? You’re not interviewing for your old job, you’re trying to change careers, remember?
Yet that’s exactly what most of you who are trying to change careers still do … brand yourself for your old career, rather than your new career.
Don’t you think you’re much more likely to show your target hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job … if you described your experience from your new job’s point of view?