How To Successfully Switch Careers Without Relevant Experience

The pandemic started what is often termed the ‘great resignation’ and it is showing no signs of stopping. With a record number of workers switching jobs and even careers, you may be wondering whether it is time for a change as well. Maybe you feel the work-life balance in your current job isn’t ideal or you don’t enjoy every aspect of your job or maybe you are finally wanting to go down your dream career path. There is only one issue – your lack of experience in the new field. You may have years of experience in other positions but nothing directly relates to your new dream role. So how do you compete with others who have already worked years in this exact career path?

Pinpoint transferrable skills

Experience is experience. Whether that is from volunteering, university or previous roles, it’s taught you so-called transferrable skills. Transferrable skills are those that can be applied across different jobs, such as communication, creative thinking or adaptability.  Read the job description carefully and pinpoint any transferrable skills. In your Cover Letter, you can then give examples of those skills and explain how they will help you excel in the position you’re applying for. Your Cover Letter should be a story, rather than just a list of achievements. The right story will tell the hiring manager exactly how your existing skills are the perfect addition to the job role. 

Use your different skillset to your advantage

You may see your experience in other unrelated roles as a disadvantage to those with experience in similar ones. However, if you spin your story the right way, it may even be the reason you are hired. Your skillset will not only make you stand out in the hiring pool but also means you will approach tasks with a different viewpoint. This can be a massive advantage and can easily be shown in the hiring process through test tasks or work examples etc. It follows the whole ‘thinking outside the box’ idea – you are practically forced to approach problems and hence solutions differently as you have no direct experience to know how to approach them ‘correctly’. Having for example a creative background and going into a corporate marketing role will make you much more innovative and willing to try new things. It will also make your work stand out among competitors. The right employer will recognise this. 

Leverage your network

My mum always says ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. And she’s been proven right time and time again. If you have previous experience, you have a network. Make the most of it! Reconnect with old acquaintances, ask to go for a coffee or just ask for advice. Someone might know someone who has a colleague who can get you a headstart into your dream job. Getting an interview through your network is much easier than through the standard screening process, especially if your CV doesn’t quite match the job description. If you don’t feel you have the right connections, reaching out for advice is always a good way to start building relationships. Just remember to be genuine.

Don't be afraid of learning

Switching careers often means there is a knowledge gap. Nowadays, there are many ways outside of a degree to fill that gap. Take an online course and build the expertise you are currently missing. It shows initiative and drive as well as demonstrating that you are a quick and independent learner. In addition, this will make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and confirm you enjoy the topic – nothing is worse than trying everything to access a new career only to realise it’s not what you made it out to be. 

Some of my favourite free learning sites:

  • Coursera
  • Khan Academy
  • MIT OpenCourseWare
  • W3Schools  (for coding)

Just go for it

My last piece of advice is to just get started. Even if that means failing over and over again, it will teach you something every time. If you get rejected from interviews or even after an interview, ask why. Figure out where exactly you went wrong and then do it differently the next time. Keep in mind why you are doing it and what you hope to get out of this and it will make it easier to stay on track and make the required changes. Most importantly, never give up!

 “I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” 

― Thomas Edison

Starting a new career certainly won’t be easy but if you do your research and prepare it will be well worth it. Don’t let the fear of change get the best of you!

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