Contemplating A Career Shift? No One Said It’s Quick, But It’s Doable

Posted: May 18, 2016

A career shift after a number of years at work or after a career break can be challenging. Here are some great tips to get your career shift right.

I heard the ‘Sunscreen’ song after a long time yesterday. The beauty of that song is that at any stage of my life, be it when I heard it for the first time in college or now, there is atleast one stanza which is relevant for that very moment. Here is what stayed with me :

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want  to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives.Some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know, still don’t.”




Looking for a career shift is definitely challenging – having done it myself, I speak from experience. Career shifts could be driven by internal factors (such as to find something more aligned to your preferences) or by external influences (the changing dynamics of business & employment opportunities in the world).

Once you have identified potential industries/roles for the shift, here are a few tips to make the journey smoother :

1. Be patient if you want a career shift

While we are a society which reaches late everywhere, somehow when it comes to career moves, we value speed over everything else. Probably, it emanates from our culture of comparative success. ‘She managed to make a career shift in 2 months – you’re smarter, I’m sure you will make it in a month’. No, this is not a race.

Take your time to decide why you want to make this change, how it would play over the next few years and which would be your preferred employers. In the need for speed, we sometimes overlook our unique needs and aspirations from our career. Focus inward and keep at it.

2.  Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

If there is one thing you can control in this dynamic career situation, it’s the preparation for this new role. While a lot of work must have already happened while deciding the next steps, preparation for an interview requires some structure:

  • Subscribe to industry-specific newsletters – Reading about the latest happenings would give you newer insights, and also come in handy while answering questions like “What do you think needs improvement and how?” or even “What’s your take on this problem? How would you approach it?” Most companies are looking for innovative fresh perspective, rather than the ‘has-been-this-way-always’ way of thinking. Being an enthusiastic, eager-to-learn candidate is a definite plus.
  • Read the Job Description carefully – Most of the interview questions are fairly evident from the job description itself. The critical thing is to sew together your skills from your past experience into the role requirements. Make this specific with situations/projects which will help connect the dots for the interviewer. This is possibly the most time-consuming part of the preparation, but the most critical.
  • Interact with people from that industry – Most probably your understanding of the role would be half-baked and more glamorous than the job itself, but speaking to as many people from that industry would throw up keen insights. These will not only prepare you better for the upcoming interview but also allow you to have a set of follow up questions for the interviewer. This is another big plus in showing your interest and initiative to take up the role.

3. Create a list of transferable skills

No role in a new career will fit right into your resume at first look. But if you spend time keenly on jotting down each and every skill you have acquired in your past stints, there is high likelihood of finding some transferable skills which could be easily applicable in this myriad new career. Were you part of a sales team in the Banking industry – where you prospected new customers, converted them to achieve sales targets? An example of a transferable skill, relevant to many industries or part of roles involving business development & client interaction.

Most times the skill would not be exactly replicated, however, having the skill laundry list in place is critical to stitch the relevance of current experience into the new career you’re aspiring for. Even if it means highlighting a small part of your current experience which you enjoy, are good at and want to focus or enhance, and hence, the new shift.

4. Don’t be afraid to reach out

The first step to trying anything new is to drop the baggage of ‘what will they think’. If there is someone who could help you with landing a role or mentor you about the industry of your choice, reach out to them. Irrespective of seniority, pedigree, background, etc. Sometimes all we need to do is ask.There might be some who don’t respond,there might be some who respond and politely decline, but there would also be those who step forward willingly.

Any change takes time and focussed effort. Don’t forget to keep away the negativities and remember that once you’re on a new glorious career path, you will pat yourself on the back for the journey! I surely did.

First published at the author’s blog

Woman thinking image via Shutterstock

Entrepreneur. Learner. Doer. Feminist. Free-Spirit. Spiritual. Non Ritualistic. "It begins with you - and the

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