You’re cruising the job boards, a role catches your eye and it sounds perfect. You read the full job description and realise ‘I can do that’. But there’s just one snag: you have no previous experience of working in that role or even in that field. This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker says Kate Bowen, director of Orchid Recruitment Solutions. Instead, follow these four steps to increase your chances of getting that dream job even if you have no previous experience.
Step 1: Don’t overlook your side-hustle and volunteering
If you’ve been thinking about changing careers for a while and you know the field you’re drawn to, don’t wait until you see a job you like before you take action. Start testing the waters as early as possible by trying low-commitment strategies like volunteering. You don’t have to wait for an official request for volunteers, think laterally. All sectors always need an extra pair of hands – be that assisting at an event or helping with research for a big project. And if you can volunteer in a way that calls for your current experience, that’s even better as you’ll be considered a huge asset to the company and that could lead to a meatier role.
Don’t fancy volunteering? Then go it alone. For example, if you’re a lawyer who wants to work in TV production, you don’t need to wait for the BBC to recognise your potential to get started. Get your own camera and start filming and editing your own stuff.
Having this kind of experience to put on your CV is priceless as it demonstrates that you have a realistic idea about what your dream field involves and shows you haven’t applied for the job on a whim. Anyone who is willing to give their time to gaining experience is most definitely somebody who’s serious about breaking into their chosen industry.
Step 2: Be willing to start lower down the career ladder
If you’ve made it quite high up on the ladder of your current career field, it may be tempting to go for an equivalently senior role in the new sector you want to work in. However, you need to be realistic. If you want to secure a job in a field you have absolutely no experience in, you need to look at a more junior level to be seriously considered for a role. And this may very likely involve taking a significant pay cut. But don’t despair, starting lower down the ladder doesn’t mean you have to go all the way back to the very bottom i.e. intern level, but it’s important to have realistic expectations. If you’re unsure of the level to pitch yourself at, you can always contact the recruiter to find out more about the exact skill set required for the role you’re interested in and to determine their flexibility on the length of experience in a similar role that’s required for the job.
Step 3: Play up your relevant transferable skills
It’s easy to think you have to have worked in a specific role to be able to do it, but that’s far from the truth and more and more employers are now recognising this. Break down any job and you’ll see it has similarities with other completely unrelated jobs. For example, from the outside looking in, you may think ‘selling’ is the key skill for a sales role, but on closer inspection, ‘selling’ is really about communication and persuasion. If you can demonstrate that you’re an awesome communicator and persuader (and give examples of when you’ve used these skills successfully in your previous roles) you’ll present yourself as a serious contender for a sales role – experience or no experience.
As a career changer, you need to look for these common threads and emphasise them in your CV and cover letter. If you’re not sure about which of your skills are relevant to a job you’re interested in, find someone in that industry or role and ask them what they do on a daily basis. People love talking about themselves and will happily tell you about their job.
Step 4: Network and make use of your contacts
When you’re ready to make the leap into a new career field, you need to develop a solid network of contacts. These are the people who will be able to give you tip-offs about jobs in their industry and possibly recommend you for any roles that look great but feel a little out of your reach. Remember that a job candidate who has been recommended by an industry player is often viewed more favourably than a cold applicant.
So how do you build a network? Ask your existing colleagues, friends and family members who they know, and also check out their LinkedIn connections. Also, connect with industry leaders both online and at networking events. Follow up with everyone and ask for their advice on how to break into that field. Not everyone will have the time to reply or help, but the more people you ask, the better your chances of getting a response will be.
Just remember to never ask for a job or recommendation on first meeting a new contact – that’s a big no-no. Instead, let the relationship evolve naturally. You’ll be surprised at how a natural relationship can result in a recommendation or a tip-off about an upcoming opportunity weeks or months down the line.
Are you about to make a career change? Let us know in the comments below. What other obstacles are you worried about facing?
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