Many professionals reach a point in their career where they want to go in a new direction. This can happen for a variety of reasons: A particular industry vertical is declining because of structural or technological changes; there are fewer growth opportunities in your current career, or its adjacent areas; there are exciting opportunities in the emerging technologies that interest you; etc. As a career coach, who has gone through a few careers myself—I’m currently in my fifth—I tend to attract my share of clients who also want to use my experience in their re-invention. Over the years I have been able to codify my experience to develop a recipe that can work in most cases.
A re-invention can span the gamut: From refreshing your career with a new job that affords exciting opportunities to moving in a completely new direction with a different career, such as when someone doing IT project management wants to become a product manager, or when a surgeon wants to go into the corporate world as a pharma company’s Chief Medical Officer.
So, what are some of the key considerations that go into a successful re-invention? Here is what works for my clients:
- Do it for the passion and interest and not for the money
Many clients come to me and complain about how little money they are making in their current career (not just in their job) and how much more money their friends and neighbors are making in other careers. So, they want to go wherever there is more money. There are two problems with this approach: the most important one is that if you are not really passionate about the new area of work, you’ll not do well in it; secondly, what are you going to do when sudden shifts happen in the new industry vertical where you just landed with your new career?
When you pursue a new career because you have great passion, curiosity, and interest in it you engage differently from the get-go. You find innovative ways to engage your talents to create unforeseen value in the new area of your career. As an outsider you have a fresh perspective that will allow you to explore new vistas of value creation that may not be obvious to those entrenched in that area of work. If you change careers just for the money in it, soon you’ll find that the new area of your work is filled with those who are really there for their sheer love of it and they will blow you away even in their sleep!
- Learn about the new area of work and connect your talents to the challenges that exist
If you do not have relevant experience in the new area of work your résumé is not going to help you open the closed doors for you to go through to make your case for a job in a new career. You must leverage your research and insights in the new area and make a case for how you can deal with the challenges facing in the new area of work and how your leadership track record and inherent talent (I call it your genius or Unique Skill) is going to help the next employer to benefit from your approach. You must be able to articulate this well in your new résumé, cover letter, and how you intrigue the decision maker with your perspective. This sounds as though I am spouting of some theory here, but it does work. I have done this for myself and many of my clients, too, have done this successfully.
- Repackage your message with the right language to get someone’s attention
Once you have a clear direction for your pursuit, use your research and insights to frame your message (through media such as résumé, LinkedIn Profile, Bio, Blogs) using the right language (and avoiding the wrong one) to present your message with intrigue, value, and urgency. If you can focus on the burning issues facing the industry—or the target employer—in your new area of work and present a proposal through these media then your chances of the right decision-maker noticing your message go up considerably.
- Build new networks and find influencers that can introduce you
As you build your brand in a new direction one of the early tasks is to find key influencers in the area of work to which you want to migrate and start connecting with them. One can do this by going to events and conferences where luminaries in your area of interest gather and start building connections with them. This requires personally going and attending these events and glad-handing with these influencers. This is difficult to do merely by sending generic invitations on LinkedIn or on Facebook. It is these networks that will help you in two ways: Your association with industry leaders will help your brand in the new direction that you are seeking; and secondly, they can be of great help opening doors, otherwise closed to an outsider.
- Be willing to start your new career at an appropriate level
If you are breaking into a new career do not expect your first job in that career to start with the next higher title to what is currently on your résumé. Start with where the new employer is going to allow you to join the team and give you a chance to show your value. Also, be mindful of the prevailing structure in the new industry. If you are able to show your value through your work, approach, and insights you’ll soon start getting the notice of those who matter and rise quickly on your own merit. Do not worry about the how this will look on your résumé; you can always provide a good story during your next job search in the new career.
Many find the prospect of re-invention daunting. If you plan, allow yourself the needed time, and follow some of these recommendations you are likely to succeed in the process more than you think.