Changing Careers – With little or no experience at the new career

Changing careers could be one of the best decisions you make in your life. It may also be one of the more difficult things you will do. Creating a self-inventory and doing some basic preparation can make a big difference in the way you view yourself and as a result how others see you. Here are five tips to help you weave your way through your transition.

1. Focus on your "transferable skills."

When you change careers the focus will be on the "soft" skills - referred to as "transferable" or "portable" skills. These are skills you have used at any and every job or situation you have been in, including volunteer work and school.

Examples of transferable skills are: communication skills, ability to work with a diversity of people, ability to plan and organize, time management, analytical problem solving, customer service skills, etc.

Make a list of your transferable skills, keeping in mind that these are the skills you could use regardless of what company you worked at, or what position you are applying for. A good source of desirable transferable skills can be found in job postings. Print out several postings and highlight words that reoccur. These are "key traits" that the employer is seeking – don't underestimate them.

2. Find your uniqueness.

Each candidate is unique. What makes you unique? Think about your personality and your personal traits. One of the things that the interviewer is looking for is "someone to fit in" - who is likeable with the ability to work well with other team members. Your personal traits could be the tie-breaker between you and an equally qualified candidate. Think of at least five personal traits that make you unique. Some examples are: friendly, flexible, quick learner, reliable, responsible, easy to get along with, detail-oriented, loyal, etc.

3. Believe in yourself.

Once you have established what you have to offer, you will begin to see the value you can bring to the job. When you believe in yourself and the fact that you have something of value to offer, it will be easier to show confidence and to convince the employer that you can do the job. Any sales person will tell you that when you believe in your product and its reliability it is far easier to sell and influence someone to buy.

4. Listen and read between the lines.

Prepare five to ten questions to ask about the company. The best questions will come from your ears. It is also important to listen to what is said as a way of formulating questions. For example, if several of the questions they asked you centered around a certain topic, for instance "databases," be sure to ask questions about the database and the challenges and the problems with the database. Showing an interest by asking questions demonstrates your interest in the company.

5. Prepare stories about your past experiences.

When you can show examples of past successes, you will have a better chance of showing the interviewer that you have used similar skills in past jobs, even if the job duties are different.

Changing careers is not easy to do in any market, but in a tight job market it will take that extra step to differentiate yourself from the next candidate. Remember, the employer has a problem – there is work to be done. It is your job to listen to what the interviewer is looking for and then to sell yourself as the solution to the problem. Letting the interviewer know you heard and understand the job will make you appear more interested in what is going on at the company, and in turn will make you appear to be a more viable choice as the best person for the job.

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