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The career switch - utilize old skills on your new career path

James Clift | October 27, 2015

Changing careers is not an easy decision. A lot of people worry that they will have a hard time finding a new job, especially if the skills required are different than the skills they acquired from their previous career.


It can be a stressful transition, but it doesn’t have to be. When job seekers realize that the skills they have from past experiences are a strength, the process becomes a whole lot easier. In the eyes of potential employers, an arsenal of applicable skills is just as important as a glowing recommendation or a pile of degrees.

Transferable skills don’t necessarily need to come from one specific job you had in the past.These skills develop over time across a wide variety of different jobs, activities, and experiences. From part-time jobs and volunteer experiences to extracurricular activities and hobbies, desirable skills and attributes can come from any point in your life.

The decision to make a switch comes with a lot of sentiments; regret, fear, excitement, a veritable roller-coaster of emotions coursing through your very being. The fear of rejection mixed with the anxiety of not being properly prepared can keep the idea of making the switch at bay.

A simple adjustment to your outlook to where the focus is on the excitement can turn the experience into an exciting time filled with hope.

Thinking back to look forward

Hindsight is 20/20. That is great news if you are looking to make a career switch. When you are looking to make a big change, it can be hard to see the benefits of your current job if you are feeling lost or trapped. But once you are out on the prowl for new opportunities, it becomes a lot easier to see past the haze and pick out the skills you learned that will help you move forward with a new career.

Not everyone who leaves a career behind is doing so because they hated what they were doing.Some people just need a change. Doing the same thing for years, or even decades can become painfully routine and uninspiring, especially for those who don’t truly love what they are doing.

Before finding a new path, it is critical to understand where you excelled and what inspired you. Knowing where you went right when one career path went wrong can guide you toward a new, more inspiring position where you can focus on using your strengths.

Know what you want this time around

Even though your old career wasn’t for you, there must have been positive experiences and lessons learned that can help sharpen your focus for the next step. Once you know what you want out of your new career, you will be able to focus on picking the perfect job openings and start sending out applications.

The time that you spend out of work can seem daunting, and it may seem that sending out endless applications - even to jobs you don’t want - is the only answer. That should never be the case.

To know what didn’t excite you can help you determine what it is you actually want on your new career path. By narrowing down your list of old responsibilities to the tasks that were not only tolerable but likable, you will cut the fat from a long list of potential job openings to the ones that are best fit for you.

Craft your CV specific to each job with a laser focus

Simply stating on your CV that you were a communications director or content marketer will not properly convey what your responsibilities were at your past job. A job title rarely does justice to the amount of work and skills acquired while working that particular job.

Explore your past responsibilities and determine which ones relate to the new job in your sights. If responsibilities A and B are not applicable to the new job, focus on responsibilities C and D. First, you will need to know what job you are attempting to fill. Research the position and the company, but don’t let it stop there. Do a well thought out cross-market study where you examine that particular job across competitors and similar businesses.

A true understanding of the position will let you know exactly what you’re in for, and exactly what you should display from your past to impress the prospective employer.

Crafting your CV that is specific to each job will show that you are prepared. Human resource workers and prospective employees receive countless applications. They are used to seeing basic, template CVs that have been sent out to dozens of other job openings without being customized. Stand out from the rest by going the extra mile.

Explaining the change and making it happen

Once you complete the perfect, custom CV, you need to prepare yourself for the interview. Many people find the interview process unnerving. The idea of sitting across from someone with the power to hire you is intimidating, but if you are prepared, it doesn’t have to be.

You have already gone through this process. You aren’t looking to lock down your first job; you are looking to switch careers. Prepare yourself by knowing how to pitch the reason you are making the switch. Chances are you know exactly why you are looking to change your path. It might be harder to vocalize to others than it sounds in your head so practice. Train with your friends or family. Let them know exactly why you want to get on a new career path. Do this without bashing your past career because what you did before will help you land what you will do next. Positivity is key.

When debating a career change, perhaps your mind starts spinning, and the internal debate drowns out reason. “What if I hate my new boss? What if I accept the job, and it’s not what I expected? What if I am the oldest person in my department?” Stop thinking that way. It’s just unnecessary noise. Focus on the goal, a new career, a change, a breath of fresh air.

This process will not be easy. Don’t let anyone tell you different. But just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean that the switch should be avoided. In fact, it should be the opposite. Overcoming obstacles and taking challenges head on are the feats that leave people the most satisfied.

Instead of worrying about the uncertain road ahead, reflect on your own trodden path. Find the skills and assets that will ready you for any new obstacle that lies ahead. Challenges are only intimidating for those who aren’t prepared.

Blost post author James Clift

About the author

James Clift

James is the CEO of VisualCV. He has spent the last 10 years building businesses, from window cleaning to software. His passion is helping individuals create the careers they want.

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