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Job Magician Career Changer Job Hunting Techniques  

  • Job hunting methods differ when career changing.  Many of the traditional job hunting methods won’t work when you’re trying to change careers.
  • Ads and contacting recruiters are not likely to be effective if you're changing careers. The most likely people to take a leap of faith with you if you're changing careers is someone who already knows and loves you.

You need to think differently when you're changing careers. You may feel that your skills are easily transferable, but employers generally aren't as comfortable hiring someone with no experience in their field. 

Recruiters are ineffective. Recruiters, particularly retained recruiters who are filling senior positions, are paid to fill the job with someone doing almost exactly the same job in the same industry. They’re not interested in helping you make a career change. In today’s economy, clients are holding them to even stricter standards. A retainer recruiter will sometimes put one wild card candidate into the panel – someone with a different background or from a different industry who is interesting, has superior credentials and is well-known to the firm (often this is done as a favor for past favors from the candidate). At times, this is done merely to fill out the panel – to add a third or fourth candidate to the group when the firm is having a tough time finding enough candidates in the industry, or is too busy to do so, and wants to put on a good show for the client. In my experience, unfortunately, it is rare when the wild card gets hired. Clients normally go to the candidate with industry experience when given the choice.

Answering ads won’t help. Ads are getting heavy responses these days, and some of the candidates who apply are likely to have a background that is at least fairly close to that of the organization that is running the ad. If you’re trying to make a radical career change, you won’t even be considered. If you’re trying to make a radical industry change (such as moving from being the CFO of a manufacturer to being the head of finance of a non-government agency), there is an outside shot that you may be considered.

The best way to make a career change is to get there first. You need to get there before an ad is run or a recruiter is retained.  Your best chance comes when you get there before the job is formally designed (see The Key to Job Hunting Success: Get ‘Em Before They Come to Their Senses for more about getting there first)

There are two ways for you to get a job when career changing – networking, and getting there before anyone with a closer background does. In other words, to use a cliché, entering the hidden job market.

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Direct mail can work – sometimes.
If you have an engineering background, and will consider moving into technical sales in an industry in which you’ve worked for 15 years, then a resume and cover letter that lands on the hiring manager’s desk before an ad is placed or a recruiter is hired could work. If you’re aiming for a more radical change, such as moving from being the director of business development at an IT consulting firm to becoming the manager of public works in a municipality, then you are highly unlikely to be successful via direct mail.

Direct mail campaigns will certainly need to be much larger if you’re changing careers than if you were trying to stick more closely to your prior career path, because there are many employers who won’t consider a career changer. 


Networking is king. This statement should come as no surprise to you, because networking is the number one way of finding any job. When you’re changing careers, it becomes all the more important. Hiring a career changer is risky – many wash out. Those who are most likely to take the leap of faith for you are people who know you.

 




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