[04.05.11]
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4 Steps To Finesse a Career Change

The following is a guest post from Andrew Neitlich. Andrew is co-author, with Guerrilla Marketing founder Jay Conrad Levinson, of Guerrilla Marketing for a Bulletproof Career.

Getting a job in a new industry, or changing your job function, is a common challenge. Following is a four-step process for you to follow if you want to make this kind of career change.

Step One: Assess your relationships and the value you provide. The grid below, from the book Guerrilla Marketing for a Bulletproof Career, presents a crucial way of thinking about your career.

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The X-axis of the grid represents the degree of your expertise and the value you can provide with a specific functional or technical skill. The y-axis represents the value of your relationships to your career.

We all should have the goal of excelling on both dimensions of the grid, so that we offer great value and we have a bulletproof power base of contacts. That way, we are indispensable. We have great skills, and we know the people who can open up opportunities for us.

The closer you can get to being a “Double Spiker,” the easier it will be for you to finesse a change in industry or function. You will see why in a moment.

Two: Build on your strengths. Regardless of where you sit on the above grid, you have strengths that you can build on. Even if you are somewhere in the lower left corner of the grid, the “Sitting Duck,” you still know people and have some skills that you can bring to the market.

If you are trying to make an industry change, your strategy is to focus on the value of your technical or functional skill. Most every industry values similar skills and expertise, including sales, marketing, finance, human resources, leadership, and communications. Your job is to build on your strengths and show how your valuable expertise and talents apply to the new industry.

If you are trying to make a functional change, your best bet is to focus on your relationships in your current industry. They know your character and work ethic, and they can open up opportunities to help you make a change. If they can’t help you, they probably know people who can, and they can connect you.

If you feel lost and hopeless after reading this step, then you need to go back to strengthening your relationships and/or the skills and value you can bring to others.

Three: Reach out to the people who can help. Relationships are the currency of career success. In this step, identify the key people who can help you to make the change, and prepare to reach out for them.

If you want to make an industry change, who are the key people in the industry you need to know? Think about recruiters who serve the industry, former classmates who work in the industry, leaders in the industry association, and leaders at the key companies in the industry. Have the guts to contact them and ask them for advice about making the shift. They are the ones who can connect you to other people in the industry, and perhaps tell you about new opportunities before they have been posted publicly.

If you want to make a functional change, the best place to start might be your current employer. I did this myself when I wanted to shift from being a management consultant in the field to getting into training and development. I spoke to my boss and the head of Human Resources, and convinced them that I was the perfect person to be leading the firm’s training and development arm.

If your employer won’t help, then list everyone you know in the industry, and get ready to reach out to them for advice and assistance.

Four: Use finesse. Having finesse means that you can persuade people that you are right for a position, even if you may not seem like a perfect fit. In other words, emphasize your strengths and turn any perceived weaknesses into strengths. For instance, if you don’t have industry experience, explain how your deep functional knowledge brings value to your new employer, and how your past experience offers a fresh perspective. If you don’t have expertise in a particular function, talk about how your existing skills will contribute, for instance by making the function more efficient or responsive to customers.

At the same time, enlist a friend or trusted colleague to grill you with tough job interview questions that you might face. That way, you are ready to seize a potential opportunity when it comes your way.

For more information about the book, please visit the Bulletproof Career Website .


Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Career Advice

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