How to switch careers: Creating the story
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Switching careers may be more common now than ever, but that does not make it easy.
This three-part series examines the nuts and bolts of making a career change. The first article outlined how to determine if a change is the right move. This article will explain the next step in making a career change: creating the story.
I want to believe
Messaging is a critical part of making a successful career change. And it starts with creating a compelling, easy-to-understand story about our why.
The story must be good enough that we believe it and simple enough to tell a stranger, parent or significant other in a sentence. It must be so logical that it makes everyone who hears it nod at how obvious it is.
There are a few ways to do this. As with anything, often the easiest thing is to find people who have done it, talk to them and then model accordingly.
If you are surrounded by long-tenured state employees and postal workers, then consider Dennis Farina who had a successful acting career playing both cops and criminals after having worked as a Chicago police officer for almost 20 years. Or Ronald Reagan — transitioning from acting to political office may have seemed strange in the '70s, but think of how normal it has become.
In all cases, the transferable skills between the two seemingly-disparate roles are clear even to an outsider.
We must find a way to make our change appear that clear. A simple way to do so is to boil down and then list the core skills for success in both jobs; then focus on the ones that are the same.
For example: Going from an aesthetician to a graphic designer — both require creativity, an artistic approach, customer focus and adherence to strict schedules. Or how about from a doctor to a software engineer? Both roles require an understanding of the overall system with the ability to dive deep into how it works to solve problems and create solutions. LinkedIn can be a great source for inspiration, keywords and skills to help make a list.
Once we create a story we can buy into and explain easily, it is time to start spinning it to friends, family and colleagues with passion and enthusiasm. Using what we know will be their objections to fortify our stance, we can approach the conversation ready for the inevitable doubt from our cubicle mate or worry from our mom.
Then, we need to use our core skills list and the challenges we have received from our inner circle to translate our message into writing. We must determine what the resume of a successful person doing what we want to do looks like and what ties we can clearly and simply make between what we do and what we want to do.
Phillipe Gaud provides a great example in this article he wrote about his own career change. In it, he shows how making a "move at the top of your game" is a counterintuitive rationale that makes sense and goes on to spell out his change so simply, that his move from being an HR director at Apple to becoming a teacher seemed like a no-brainer.
The bottom line: Once we decide to make a career change, we become free to create and believe in our own story for why the change must happen. And getting clear on our story and being able to make it both simple and compelling enough for others to understand and believe will help us with the final step in a successful career change.
Stay tuned for the third article in this series, which will explain how to find and land the job.
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