Finding a job in your field right after graduation should be easy, right? What if you’re a lawn care specialist trying to cultivate a career in IT? Or an accountant who wants to land a job as an event planner in the restaurant industry? Overcoming a lack of experience to secure an entry-level position or shift gears in your career is a matter of connecting the dots.
#1: Sharpen your skills
You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. This catch-22 affects many new college grads when trying to convince someone to take a chance and hire them. Ideally, you would sharpen your skills through internships offering hands-on experience to fortify your post-grad search.
But you can also transfer skills from part-time or non-industry-related jobs you held while in school. For example, if you worked as a retail sales associate, call center representative, or restaurant server, you have customer service, interpersonal, and communication skills. If you did not work while in school, you can bring industry-specific skills you learned in your studies.
For a complete career change, it’s important to do your research on your new industry. Let’s say you work in lawn care and have strong artistic skills. You could pursue a degree in landscape architecture or take technical courses in AutoCAD to draw computerized plans for landscaping projects. Think digitally remodeled spaces on HGTV. A technology-centered job isn’t so far-fetched for a lawn care specialist, is it?
#2: Repurpose your resume
Now that the wheels are turning to mobilize your career, the next “dot” is to position yourself for the right role. Consider the contents and structure of your existing resume. Does it effectively showcase your qualifications for the role you’re seeking?
For recent grads, you should place your relevant education or internships at the top. Highlight any outstanding accomplishments (e.g., honors, high GPAs, or scholarships) that will help you stand out among the competition.
To transfer skills from one field to another, you should list quantifiable achievements from positions you’ve held. For example, if you served a certain number of customers daily, met or exceeded set sales goals, received any recognition awards or simply positive feedback from customers verbally, include them in your resume. In most fields, figures (e.g., stats, dollars, percentages) are sure to capture attention.
#3: Customize your communication
To connect the final dot, you must clearly communicate your endeavors. But don’t just send your resume out aimlessly and hope that someone hires you. You should customize your cover letter and resume to each position with a personal touch.
Do a little detective work to find out the hiring professional’s name via the web (e.g., Google, LinkedIn, or the company’s website) and inside connections (e.g., referrals from professors, friends or relatives already working at the company). Make your communication short and concise by placing the content of your cover letter in the body of an email and addressing it to that specific person.
Get the picture
Still can’t see moving to restaurant event planning from accounting? Let’s say part of your job involves entertaining clients or arranging catered meals for business meetings and conferences. If you begin to enjoy that more than crunching numbers, and you’re good at it, you might be ready for a career shift.
Your objective needs to be really clear, advises chef-consultant Gary E. Miller in an article on hcareers.com. “If you don’t have the resume to back it up, you must say up front you really love the restaurant industry,” Miller says, “you have spent some time in the business, you have the interest and a willingness to learn.” Communicating this in your cover letter and resume to add color to your career conversations.