At some point in our career, whether in our first month on the job or five years later, some of us would have thought of making a career switch. A career switch is not just about leaving a company to do a similar job elsewhere—it’s about leaving the industry all together and starting on a fresh slate in a new one.
A career switch is pretty challenging because you’re starting from zero all over again. And then there’s the worry that you’re switching industry too soon and might be seen as a millennial who doesn’t know what she wants to do in life. So how do you make a career switch effectively?
We spoke to Alexandra Lamb, the co-founder of Lanterne Rouge, the company behind career management platform Boldly. She has over 15 years of experience working in human resources (HR) in Asia.
Do I have to wait for a few years before making a career switch so I seem legit to my prospective employer?
It really depends on your history, and the track record you’ve laid. If you’re early in your career and feel you’ve made a mistake in your choice of profession—either the work doesn’t interest you, or the lifestyle isn’t what you expected—then make a course-correction as soon as you’re sure. You don’t need to wait around, feeling miserable and probably not performing in your role just to seem ‘legit’. Get aligned to the right work for you, and then commit.
I want to have a career switch. What should I consider?
You should always think: “Am I going towards something I want, or away from something I don’t want?” If you’re making a career switch because you’re running away, you’re more likely to make a poor move. Try to take some time, reflect (over a holiday, or even a long weekend with friends and family!) and make a list of what you do want from your career. Aim to balance your thinking and behaviours so you don’t act too soon while you line up the right move forward. Never act out of anger, frustration, boredom, and especially try to keep your ego in check during these big decisions.
How do I know if I really want to make a career switch or if I’m just unhappy with my job?
Consider: is it the functional and technical aspects of my work and my industry that I don’t enjoy, or is it just my boss, the company culture, and perhaps my colleagues? Separate the ‘situational’ parts of your work from the core elements of your profession. If you can say, “I love being an accountant, but I don’t enjoy the industry culture I’m working in,” then you know it’s time for a new position, but not necessarily a career switch. Making a list of what you enjoy and don’t enjoy so you can see it in black and white in front of you can help you make this important distinction before any decision, and helps you to stop the ‘circular thinking’ we all get into sometimes!
How can I convince prospective employers to hire me when I have no experience in the industry I want to switch to?
When you don’t have experience in the industry, you need to be more creative about your move. It’s not likely you’ll get this role through a job board or recruitment agency, because employers use those sources when they need a ‘square peg for a square hole’. Think about your network—who do you know, and who do you need to know in the industry you’re moving into? Think about your education—what credentials do you need to show you’re committed to that sector? These don’t need to be high-up networks or degrees—think about your friends and community, and consider micro-credentialling (getting certs in specific areas of expertise) to explore the essential skills of the new area you’re accessing. These activities will give you more insights, help you learn how to talk the lingo of the new industry, and also makes your linked in profile and resume more searchable with the right key words! Say yes to every coffee, make sure you follow up with thank you notes, and don’t give up—persistence is everything and this move takes time!