Ray Kroc, chief executive of McDonald’s, didn’t start out managing a fast-food business. He began his career selling paper products and milkshake stirring machines to restaurants all over the nation. He made decisions throughout his career that led him to become an integral part of what he envisioned as the wonderful idea we all know as McDonald’s. We all make decisions throughout our career that directly affect our success.
If you are considering changing professions or moving to another industry, you are not alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 67% of American workers want to change their professions. You may have been working as an accountant for 20 years and now would like a career in sales. If so, there are ways to successfully convey the transferable skills you have as an accountant to match the needs of a company looking for a sales person. To be successful, you need to fully assess your skills, lay out a plan of attack, and then go full force ahead.
Assess your personal skills.
Before you decide to change professions, examine your strengths. When you change professions or industries, you want to feel confident that you have what it takes to succeed. Look at the environments that you enjoy, the jobs that are interesting to you, and the differences in daily routines. Research your potential new profession or industry: Is the pay what you thought? Will there be a lot of travel? Do you get to use your personal strengths on a regular basis? Does it require presentation skills? Is there upward mobility or is the promotion process very lengthy? Take a personality test to confirm your self-evaluation. For example, if you want to move from accounting to sales, you may perceive sales as fun and high-energy but have never contemplated the many rejections you will encounter. Would the competitiveness of a sales job and being constantly ranked against your peers encourage or discourage you? These are just some of the concepts you may want to consider before switching careers.
Look at yourself through the eyes of the prospective employer.
Think of transferable skills. If you were in accounting and are headed towards sales, what can you discuss? With your big-five accounting position you handled client interaction during corporate audits, attained corporate goals, and successfully presented valuable information to clients and managers. How does this translate into sales? Well, you are able to immediately establish rapport with clients and potential business partners, which are key for a sales job. You are also able to regularly exceed corporate quotas — another good match for a sales career. You have been successful in presenting new ideas with confidence to clients and counterparts, convincing them of the benefits of a project or system. These examples illustrate how to make your job skills transferable to a different job.
Functional vs. chronological resume.
If you are switching career paths, use a functional type of resume. A functional resume allows you to provide pertinent information by listing your skill set and mentions previous employers at the end of your resume. It uses headings such as “Sales and Marketing,” “Financial Planning,” and “Business Development” rather than a chronological listing of jobs under each heading. In the past, counselors at e-resume.net have successfully transitioned people from one profession to another by focusing on changing the reader’s perception of a potential candidate’s background. A functional resume is much like assessing a car for purchase. The car is shiny, looks great, the tires are new, it has low mileage; then you drive it and realize it has an automatic transmission, but you initially wanted a five-speed. You really like the car, so now you think, “Is it really that important?” That is what you want the employer to think. You look great and very promising. Does it really matter that you have not had direct experience? From your resume you seem like a quick learner so they call you in for the interview. If you portray your strengths correctly, employers will be so overwhelmed with your positives that direct experience may not be a hindrance.
Addressing a career change in the cover letter.
If you are making an obvious career change, such as accounting to sales, you must explain it in the cover letter. Say something like: My experience has been in a financial setting conducting audits. I have worked closely with clients on numerous projects and dealt with all levels of management in a competitive financial environment. I would now like to expand and advance my career by applying my developed skills to a sales position. Relevant skills and experience include: (give a few good bullets of your applicable background and then continue your cover letter). This technique will allow you to address your career change with confidence in a brief, casual tone and immediately return to how you could be an asset to your future employer.
Certainly, all career changes will not end up a multi-million dollar decision like Ray Kroc’s; just understand that your career is a journey — not a destination. If you are not challenged by your position or feel that you are being underutilized, make a change. Just be sure that you research your next path, so that you are not seeking an article next year about how to conceal the fact on a resume that you have worked for two companies in the past year and a half. If you strategically move your career in the correct direction, it will dramatically increase your work performance, happiness, financial opportunities, and well-being.
by Susie Hall, author of Divorcing Your Profession, is a Career Consultant with e-resume.net, a national resume writing service. e-resume.net combines personalized attention with the speed of the Internet to deliver professional resumes, cover letters and other documents essential to clients throughout their job search.
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