Okay I know the headline is a bit dramatic but I promise you it isn’t just a ruse to get your attention.
The truth is job hunting is hard, we all know this, but job hunting when you’re changing careers is another level of hard altogether.
How do I know this? A) From industry knowledge and working with career changers via CV Makeover Expert; and b) from personal experience – I’ve been down this road more than once in my career lifetime to date.
So with that in mind, if you’re in the process of job hunting as a career change, here are four truths that will make your ride a little easier:
1) HR and recruiters won’t give you the time of day – it’s not personal
If you’re switching lanes from one industry to another, the bad news is most HR and recruitment professionals won’t give you the time of day. It’s not because they’re mean and hard-nosed (though some might be), but simply because you’re a risk they can’t afford to take.
Look at it from their perspective: you and candidate X are going for the same position. Candidate X has however many length of years of direct industry experience under their belt – some even in the same role as what’s been advertised, whereas you are low on direct experience and hoping your transferrable skills will save the day. It would take a particularly perceptive or visionary recruiter to leave the safe bet of Candidate X in favour of the career changer and unfortunately there aren’t many employers willing to take that gamble.
A highly-experienced recruiter colleague of mine put it this way:
“…with any recruitment process, it is always how you compare to other candidates. IF they have people who’ve done a similar job [elsewhere], it doesn’t matter how many transferable skills you have, as that person would be a safer bet. [Even if] you could do the job, that’s not the point…we (recruiters) don’t want to interview more than a few [candidates].”
Your job in this circumstance is to do your very best with your application if you’ve determined the job is worth applying for – i.e. you won’t be wasting your time (see point 2) – and if the outcome is negative, keep in mind that it’s not personal.
2) You can forget about advertised jobs while you’re at it
This one’s a quick and simple point. For the very reason mentioned in point 1, you will be doing yourself a big favour (and saving yourself lots of potential heartache) by mostly forgetting about advertised jobs.
I say mostly because you might see that one or two that are a perfect fit in terms of your transferrable skills and indirect experience where you may just have a good chance to go neck and neck with other candidates. Those jobs are worth applying for, but for the most part, you’re better off looking to the hidden job market (see point 4) for your next role as a career changer.
3) Tailoring your cover letter is not enough – your CV is a must
Normally in my scope as a CV Makeover Expert, I advise and assist clients in tailoring CVs to particular types of roles in a particular industry and it’s only in the cover letter that we get really specific to the actual job vacancy. This all goes out of the window for you as a career changer. If you’re changing careers, tailoring your cover letter is not enough – you must tailor your entire CV to EVERY SINGLE JOB you apply for to give yourself the best chance possible of being shortlisted.
To do this effectively you need to read the Job Description and Personal Specification thoroughly and then greatly emphasise (with examples) somewhere prominent on your CV any experience or skill you have that is a requirement of the role. You can then use your cover letter to re-emphasise the key points (more on this in my book, The Science of Successful Job Hunting).
4) The hidden job market is your friend
Lastly, as a career changer it’s important to embrace the truth that the hidden job market is your biggest ally when it comes to finding your next role. Since advertised jobs will have you competing with hundreds of (on paper) more qualified candidates and you can’t rely on HR and recruiters to take risks on your behalf, you’re going to need to turn to people you already know to open doors for you by letting you know of or putting you forward for opportunities that are not available to the general public.
This could be family, friends, ex-colleagues or managers, acquaintances, or even connections you’ve made over social media. This is what the hidden job market is all about – finding the jobs that are not there, so to speak. The good news is as much as 60% of roles are filled this way so there’s a very good chance your next role is round the corner.
Don’t lose hope! 🙂
(This article was originally published on Mildred’s LinkedIn blog posts here…)