Interested in making a career change? Here is a 10-step plan for women at work seeking a career change.
Many working Indian women in their 30s or 40s consider a career change, to a related or even different industry. The reason could be professional – losing interest in your field, realizing the right profession later in life or a downturn in your industry necessitating a move. For many women, the reason may also be personal – for those opting to have children in their late 20s or early 30s, this is when they take a career break and re-evaluate the career they are in. Their needs from the job may also change, including a greater need for flexi-working options.
Neha Sinha, Senior Manager, Planman Marcom who moved from Media Planning to Business Development, says, “Media planning was more of the second step i.e. servicing clients and planning media, while Business Development is the first step i.e. acquiring clients. While it felt good handling clients, it’s a different high when you go out and acquire a client all by your self!”
According to Priya Chakrabarti, Senior Manager – HR, Alcatel Lucent India Ltd, “If it’s a technical or specialist role then we would target the same industry, e.g. for a telecom infrastructure company for a particular technology, people from the same industry have the requisite knowledge and experience. But for a more generalized field like HR, we would be open to other industries, especially at junior/mid levels. This helps bring in fresh perspective… But for senior roles, my experience is that mostly the industry has been same/similar.”
Studies show that most people will change careers at least once in their working life. Job hunting in a new industry can be daunting. Here then, is our ten step plan to help you in making a career change!
Examine what you dislike about your current job. Are your problems genuinely about the job or due to an annoying boss/co-workers? Once you have figured that out, you know whether you really need a change. A career change is hard in most cases; don’t do it without sufficient reason.
Will your dissatisfaction be lower if you moved to a different role or division in your company? Do look within your company for placements that can help you move to what you really want to do. Many companies are willing to give good employees a chance to switch roles and grow within the company.
Research alternative careers centered on something that is a passion for you. Says Sinha, “Go by what you “love” to do. Choose a field where every morning you want to go back to work with a smile. It’s never too late to shift fields if you are passionate about what you ‘want’ to do! Remember 3 Idiots?”
Meet people who have made the switch and get career change advice from them. Ask them about the challenges they faced, talk to people in the industry you plan to move to, and ask as many questions as you need to figure out whether it excites you.
Many skills like communication, planning or even certain technologies are transferable between specific professions. Ask a career counsellor or friend to help you list your transferable skills and achievements if you are unsure. This will also help you identify areas that you need to beef up on, for the new profession.
Says Chakrabarti, “Since it is for a different field, one should try and highlight some relevant skills which are more generic in nature. It also helps to highlight the numbers e.g. number of projects handled, number of people responsible for, the level of stakeholders etc. Most companies hire people not only for the current role, but for the potential they show to move up. In such cases, projections are often used.”
You will definitely need to beef up on new skills if you are planning on a career shift. Short term weekend courses are good if they suffice, or you could consider taking a sabbatical for a longer course if you can afford it. Ask people in the industry about what professional qualifications you need to make the change and follow up on that.
Whether through short term projects or unpaid internships, be prepared to invest time in the switch. Ask for an internship if possible for a couple of months to get a feel of the industry. It will add to your work experience and show prospective employers that you are serious about the switch.
It won’t be easy, but if you can find someone in the industry you want to enter, who is willing to take time out to mentor you, seize the opportunity. A mentor doesn’t have to be highly placed, but needs to be well connected in the industry to help you find your way in. A mentor can also help you sharpen the skills needed.
Contact prospective employers and placement agencies. Practise mock interviews and rehearse what you will say about why you want to switch – don’t get caught off guard when interviewers ask you. Tailor-make your resume to highlight previous job experience and skills relevant to the new career.
Prepare a 30 second pitch in case you meet a friend or acquaintance from the field you are looking at shifting to. A vague, ‘I’m looking for a job in your field’ doesn’t help. Go through your contacts list, and call, email or IM anyone you think could help. People are only too keen to help if they think you’re sincere and worth recommending. Be clear about what you need and network mindfully – advice, contacts or referrals and job leads. Be present on social/professional networking sites like LinkedIn. Follow up any leads or recommendations promptly and do not forget to thank those who take time out to help you.
They will help you draft a professional resume and a cover letter. It will be worth the money invested.
If you have no experience at all that qualifies you for the new job, be prepared to be flexible about everything from your designation, to salary to perks – you need the opportunity.
Malvika Arun, who is with the HR department of a media firm, adds that confidence in oneself is a must. “Typically, people high on confidence and having excellent communication skills tend to make a more positive impact on the recruiter.”
So, find out what you can offer, tell yourself that you have something valuable to offer the new industry and gear up to demonstrate that!
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