Editor’s Note: In a guest blog, Krystal Hicks, founder of JOBTALK, shares her insights on navigating career changes in today’s job market. JOBTALK is an accessible and inclusive career counseling and employer branding consulting practice.
Since launching my career counseling practice, JOBTALK, a trend I have noticed is that people reach out when they are looking to change companies and when they want help changing careers. Whether a candidate desires to go back to school, or to change their career industry, I see more and more 30-somethings trying to make the leap.
“I think the pandemic only further solidified my feelings,” said one client in his mid-thirties. “During 2020, I did a lot of soul searching and realized life is short. I need to make this change now. I’m not sure how to do it, but I know I need something different.” This client wasn’t the only one trying to reconcile these feelings of professional unfulfillment. Out of the 350+ clients I engage with each year, in 2020 alone, I’d say at least half were millennials in transition. I watched classroom teachers become corporate project managers; social workers become relators; human resource managers become marketers; and software engineers become sales managers – just to name a few.
So, how does one make the leap from one career trajectory to another in their 30’s? Below are some tips for assessing your skills & determining your areas of growth for a career change.
Skills Gap & Self-Assessments
Before you go quitting one field for another, it’s time to hold up what I call “the heavy mirror.” This is where we must be honest with ourselves about what we have for skills and what we don’t. Passion is important, and it can certainly make the difference when interviewing, but it usually needs to be intersected with a marketable skill to land you a job offer. If someone is paying you to work for them, they need to know you have what it takes to do the job correctly, efficiently, and to the standard their customers or organization expects.
Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Leverage Your Future Job Description
Hop on your favorite job board and do a real search right now for your future role. Seeing what systems, attributes, and qualifications are required is the first step. If you start to notice themes or start seeing the same platforms mentioned over and over, that’s a good indicator of something you’re going to want to have on your resume. If you don’t have experience with that particular thing, it’s time to upskill.
Step 2: Upskilling
The BEST thing you can do sooner than later is start filling in your own gaps so it’s not a barrier when you start applying. The clients I’ve seen nail this transition invested the time in upskilling – even if that meant a small gap on their resume. (It’s worth it! Recruiters don’t mind seeing someone step back in order to leap forward.) This can absolutely be done through traditional means, like formal certifications and degree programs, but it can also be done using skill-specific platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, Udacity, Coursera, or even YouTube (especially for tutorials on certain systems / platforms).
Step 3: Demonstrate Your Proficiency
Learning and doing are two different things. Obviously, related internships are excellent, but if you’re already working and perhaps enrolled in classes, adding one more thing into your schedule can sometimes feel impossible. Don’t throw in the towel yet though. There are lots of ways to gain hands-on experience to showcase your smarts and potential to a future employer. Here are some suggestions:
- Have a few hours to spare each week? Try volunteering. You’ll probably walk away with a great reference on top of a little experience. (If they can’t pay you, ask them for a LinkedIn recommendation! It’s the least they can do.) I’ve seen clients gain accounting, marketing, and even program design experience through specifically asking nonprofits for this kind of volunteer work.
- No time to intern or volunteer, but you’re in college? Take full advantage of any course or capstone projects. Focus them on your future field and try interviewing people currently in that space to add context (plus it’s a shameless and easy way to play that student card and ask for help or insight. A conversation today can lead to a job offer tomorrow. There is zero shame in using these projects simply to network.)
- Currently, working and can’t make the leap quite yet? Ask your boss if there are any on-the-job projects you can help with that may provide some transferable experience and skills. Don’t forget to leverage your cross-functional colleagues and their knowledge base as well!
- When all else fails, lean into some self-designed research. Try and tour a facility, talk to people in that field (e.g., informational interviewing), and find an interesting angle on your future field that incites discussion. You can post your research as a blog post or “Article” on LinkedIn, or you could take it one step further and build out a presentation that you could share along with your resume when you start interviewing. This will allow you to demonstrate your proficiency with a system, skill, or process – but on your own terms.
Changing careers can be nerve-racking, but you should know you’re not alone. 91% of millennials expect to change jobs every 3 years. As such, when we look at this trend of career-path-disruption, we have to accept that it’s no longer a matter of if we will switch careers, but when, and more importantly, how. Moving from sector to sector is not always easy, especially when your resume and network are saturated with experience and contacts from your “former life.” Using the above tips to assess your skills may help you determine areas of growth for a desired career change.