Feature: Achieving the Incredibly Difficult Dream

Feature: Achieving the Incredibly Difficult Dream

Feature: Achieving the Incredibly Difficult Dream

It’s frustrating, I know. You’re trying to switch from one career field to another, and no one seems to believe you can make the transition. In fact, no one is even willing to give you a shot. You want to look forward, and recruiters insist on looking back. They believe that a person can only do what they have already done. They’re convinced that Jack Welch got it right in his recent book, Winning; past performance is the best predictor-and the only reliable predictor-of future performance on-the-job.

Does that mean it’s impossible to shift careers? We better hope not. In today’s turbulent world of work, a lot of us are going to need to change careers, probably more than once. What this view does mean, however, is that you must change your job search as well as your career. You simply cannot look for a job the way you always have. If you want to find a position in a new career field, you have to act as if you are a first time job seeker. Because that’s what you look like, at least to a recruiter.

So, what does a first time job seeker with 5 or 10 or maybe even 20 years of work experience do? The following 10 steps will get you started:

Identify and highlight your cross-over skills

Step 1. Throw out your old resume. It no longer applies to the employment candidate you are (or hope to be).

Step 2. Do your homework and find out what skills are required for an entry level position in your new career field. Check such places as:

  • America’s CareerInfoNet from the U.S. Department of Labor;
  • The Career Guide to Industries also from the U.S. Department of Labor; and
  • the professional association for your new field.
  • Step 3. Determine which, if any, of the skills required in your new field were also required in your former field. In many, perhaps most cases, the cross-over will be limited to enabling skills such as the ability to work in a team or to meet tight deadlines. They are important and shouldn’t be ignored, but they are also not as persuasive as direct skills such as using a specific kind of software or a knowledge of the standards required for performing certain tasks in a certain setting. Of the cross-over skills you identify, determine which you have applied successfully in your career to date.

    Step 4. Re-write your resume using a hybrid format so that you can illustrate your experience using the skills that recruiters will look for in employment candidates in your new field. Make sure you present not only what you did (with those skills), but how well you did it.

    Identify and reinforce your weak points

    Step 5. Do some networking and find a hiring manager (or two or three, if possible) in your new field. I realize that’s easier said than done, but you may be able to locate them by using:

  • Your college and/or graduate school alumni association;
  • The membership of your new field’s professional association, particularly any local chapter in your area; and
  • A discussion group (called a “newsgroup” on the Internet) that focuses on your new field (see Google for a directory to the 100,000+ newsgroups now operating online).

    Step 6. Ask the manager(s) to review your resume as if they were evaluating a candidate for an entry level position with their organization. What you would like them to do is identify any “application breakers”-any gaps in your credentials that are so glaring, they would derail your prospects for employment.

    Step 7. Fill the gaps. Go back to school and acquire the skills that hiring managers believe are essential to successful job performance. They’re the only opinion that counts. I know that it’s hard enough to look for a job, so going back to school at the same time is hardly a trivial undertaking. It is, however, worth the effort-not only will you be making a critically important addition to your credentials, but you may also meet teachers and other professionals who can be helpful in your job search.

    Step 8. Adjust your resume. In the Education section, add an entry for each of the skill acquisition courses you’re taking with the notation (On-going). That information sends two important signals to a recruiter:

  • You are in the process of acquiring the skills that their customer-that hiring manger-is likely to want in an applicant, and
  • You are a candidate who has both the sense of responsibility and the necessary commitment to their field to be successful.
  • Be realistic with yourself and candid with your spouse or partner.

    Step 9. Recognize what you’re asking a recruiter to do when you apply for a position in a career field where you have no experience. While you know you have the maturity of perspective and the track record of work experience necessary to move laterally into the job, the recruiter uses a different set of criteria and thus often arrives at a very different conclusion. There are always exceptions to this rule, but in general, a recruiter will select the most capable traditional candidate over even a more capable, but nontraditional candidate (that’s you) every time. Why? Well, for two reasons:

  • They are expert recruiters, not experts in the field for which they’re recruiting. As a consequence, they normally look only at candidates that precisely match the specifications listed by the hiring manager.
  • Like most of us, they are risk averse. And selecting a candidate who does not have a demonstrated record of past performance is taking a big risk indeed. If the candidate doesn’t work out, the candidate won’t be blamed. The recruiter will be.
  • Step 10. Make sure your spouse or partner understands the nature of the challenge (as well as the opportunity) in your making a career shift. They should not be starry eyed about how long it will take, the pressure and frustration that may be created, and the setbacks that may come along before you achieve success. You’re not embarking on the “impossible dream,” but you are setting out on the “incredibly difficult dream,” and if you want their support, they deserve to know that up front.

    It is possible to breach the barricade of the “you can’t do it if you ain’t done it” perspective. To do so, however, you will have to adopt new practices and forge new patterns of behavior … in your job search as well as in your profession, craft or trade.

    Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Please tell your friends and colleagues about WEDDLE’s newsletter. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and benefit from your recommendation.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    CareerJournal.com launched SelectRecruiters, a new tool for identifying executive recruiters, powered by Kennedy Information. The feature uses Kennedy’s “Executive Recruiter” database to identify recruiters by such criteria as their location, industry or functional specialty, and the pay range of their typical searches. Once a list of recruiters has been identified, users can download contact data, mailing labels and other tools for connecting with the recruiters. The cost of the service is 75¢ per contact download.

    Google introduced a new feature called Google Base. Its purpose is to help consumers find classified advertising for cars, homes and … yes, jobs. There is just one tiny little problem with the idea. Say you are looking for a job in finance. Use that term with Google Base to search the ads posted online in that field, and you’ll likely get (as we did) over 10,000 openings. Then, all you’ll have to do is spend the next six months scrolling through page after page of the results looking for the openings that really matter to you. What’s the bottom line? Well, there comes a point when too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing, and Google-which I like immensely for topical research-may well have reached it with this new service.

    JavaJobs.com released a new feature called Web Services. It provides site Webmasters with free business-to-business and business-to-consumer solutions that they can use on-the-job. Why are they doing this? Because they’re hoping that when you stop by their site to use the service, you’ll also look at their job postings. And, there is a catch: You must “qualify by completing a simple subscription form” in order to be able to access the content.

    The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts announced the results of a study entitled “Decent Work in America.” It measured the relative performance of individual states in three important aspects of employment: job opportunities, job quality, and workplace fairness. Which states came out on top? The top five finishers were:

  • Delaware
  • New Hampshire
  • Minnesota
  • Vermont
  • Iowa.
  • Which states brought up the rear? The five lowest performers were Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Utah and Louisiana.

    WorkSurveyor.com and Bob Nelson released the results of some recent research into what employees value and what they don’t from their employers. The top three attributes were (1) a manager who supports them when they make a mistake, (2) being personally thanked for doing good work, and (3) being asked for their opinion or ideas. What they could care less about is receiving a certificate of achievement or being named employee of the month. Interestingly enough, in a separate survey by WorldatWork and the National Association for Employee Recognition, only 41% of employers said they recognized employees for their suggestions or ideas, while almost four-in-ten (39%) selected employees of the month or year. What’s it all boil down to? There are organizations where the leaders get it, and organizations where they don’t. Make sure you evaluate employers before you invest the time and effort required to apply for one of their openings. It doesn’t help your job search or, ultimately, your career to pursue opportunities with organizations where you won’t feel comfortable or able to succeed.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. It’s the Holiday season, but your boss is a Grinch, so you’ve decided to move on. If you’re an experienced retail store manager, where could you go online to ring up some great opportunities?

  • RetailManager.net
  • Retail-Manager.com
  • AllRetailJobs.com
  • BestJobsUSA.com
  • 2. You’re a seasoned arborist who’s just moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Which of the following sites would help you to nurture contacts with employers in the area?

  • TreeCareJobs.com
  • TreeCareIndustry.org
  • ArboristSite.com
  • AgCareers.com
  • 3. You’ve got over 15 years of experience as a machinist, but you’ve just been laid off. Where could you go on the Internet to produce a smooth finish to your job search?

  • BlueCollarJobs.com
  • Trades.com
  • Machining.Micronomy.com
  • Finishing.com
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guides and Directories



    Internet Engineering Center

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Number of jobs: 100

    Salary levels of jobs: $76-100K

    Offer a job agent: No

    Resume database: Yes

    How long are resumes stored: 6 months

    Restrictions on who can post: None

    Other services for job seekers: Listserv for networking, Career information provided on-site, links to career information on other sites.

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but Retail-Manager.com, the site of a firm selling retail management software and services.

    2. All but TreeCareIndustry.org, the trade association of tree care companies.

    3. All but Trades.com, a site devoted to equity trading.