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How to "Be" the New Career

Transitioning careers requires more than mere aspiration; it demands a complete immersion into the qualities and skills associated with the desired profession. Mere desire for change won't suffice in a competitive job market with seasoned professionals who are vying for the same positions. To stand out, you must embody the essence of your target career, embracing its principles and nuances, even if you lack prior experience in the field. Here's how you can "be" the new career you aspire to:

1.     Gain practical experience. Seek internships, co-op programs, or volunteer opportunities related to your desired field. If you are not in school, register for classes at a local college to be eligible for internships or additional resources to help in your transition. If that isn’t possible, consider volunteering at non-profit organizations or religious places of worship.


Even undertaking side projects or freelancing can provide valuable hands-on experience which enhances your skillset and showcase your commitment to the new career path. These projects can be for family and friends or you can offer your services on freelance platforms like Upwork or Fiverr. For instance, one of my clients successfully gained experience in graphic design by setting up an Upwork account and completing freelance projects at a nominal price.


Taking the initiative to gain practical experience in any capacity demonstrates your initiative and determination to transition into the new field full time, which can impress potential employers and strengthen your candidacy for posted positions without having to take a step back in level or salary.


2.     Research and education. Dedicate time to researching your new field thoroughly and invest in relevant education, certifications, or training programs to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. Stay informed about industry trends and expectations to demonstrate your readiness for the transition.


For instance, when I transitioned from an entertainment lawyer to an HR Business Partner, extensive research revealed a critical need for expertise in executive coaching. Although I had some prior experience in this area, I lacked formal credentials to validate it. To address this gap, I pursued certification in the SPHR and GPHR (Senior and Global Professional Human Resources) based on my immigration management experience as a lawyer. Additionally, I dedicated a year to obtaining certification in coaching. These efforts not only demonstrated my proficiency as an HR Business Partner to potential employers but also ignited my passion for coaching, leading to a fulfilling career shift.


3.     Update LinkedIn and Resume. Revamp your LinkedIn profile and resume to reflect your new career identity. Instead of merely stating that you are "seeking employment as," embody the essence of the desired career path. Review job descriptions, leverage your research findings, and tap into your professional network to identify the most critical elements and keywords to incorporate into your LinkedIn profile and resume. Highlight relevant skills and experiences while minimizing irrelevant details from previous roles.

By aligning your online presence with the expectations and language of the new career, you present yourself as a compelling candidate who “is” the new career and is not merely “trying to be” the new career.


4.     Learn the lingo. Master the vocabulary and terminology of your new career. Familiarize yourself with industry-specific terms and concepts to communicate fluently during interviews and professional interactions.


For example, my client Johanna (name changed for confidentiality), who is transitioning from a marketing role to a data analysis position within a technology company. As Johanna prepares for interviews and immerses herself in the data analysis field, she discovers the specialized terminology associated with statistical methods, data visualization tools, and programming languages. Johanna dedicates herself to learning these terms and concepts by exploring online resources, industry publications, job descriptions, and professional forums. Additionally, she enrolls in online courses and tutorials to deepen her understanding of statistical techniques, data manipulation, and visualization tools commonly used in the field. Armed with this knowledge, Johanna confidently discusses her ability to conduct "exploratory data analysis," "create data visualizations," and "derive actionable insights from complex datasets" during interviews. By mastering the lingo, Johanna positions herself as a qualified candidate for her new career, making it to the final rounds of interviews multiple times, and finally accepted a role at her dream company!


5.     Showcase relevant experience during interviews. Building on the example of Johanna's transition from marketing to data analysis, it's crucial to align your responses to behavioral or situational questions with the new career path. Despite her five years of experience in marketing, Johanna refrains from solely relying on marketing examples when addressing questions starting with "Tell me about a time when..." Instead, she adeptly frames her responses through the lens of her new career in data analysis. For instance, she emphasizes the use of data-driven insights and analytical tools to measure campaign performance and optimize marketing strategies. By employing appropriate terminology and presenting her past experiences from a data analysis perspective, Johanna effectively demonstrated her understanding and proficiency in the new field, even though she has never held a position as a data analyst.


6.     Highlight your unique value proposition. Leverage your previous experiences to showcase the unique value you bring to the new career. For example, Sam has dedicated his entire career to practicing law. Despite his desire to transition into a business operations role, Sam's legal background offers a distinctive advantage. His proficiency in reviewing and negotiating vendor agreements, coupled with his deep understanding of risk mitigation from a legal standpoint, provides a valuable skill set that many candidates may lack. Through highlighting how his legal expertise can be applied to the business operations position, Sam effectively demonstrates his ability to bring a unique perspective and skill set to the role, positively setting him apart from other candidates in the competitive job market.


By actively embodying the qualities and skills of your desired career, you can demonstrate your readiness and commitment to the transition. Stay proactive in your learning and development to remain competitive and adaptable in the ever-evolving job market.

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