Career Changer - My Journey

Michelle Grant 31.10.2018

Considering a career change? Making the decision to move is never easy...

A great friend of mine recently decided to make a big move in his career. He had done a course in IT Security and took the plunge to leave his role in the public sector and follow his dream to move into the world of IT. I helped him where possible but for the most part he applied and negotiated everything himself. Below are some tips from his experience in applying directly to companies as a career changer and it’s applicable to anyone looking to make a move into a new sector when you have limited experience. 

1. Making the decision to move.
This is the big one. You will be asked “Why are you looking to change career?”….. a lot. To answer this question I would recommend spending some time really thinking about this. Weigh up the pro and cons and get an answer in your head that you are happy with, that is true and that you can rattle off 40 times without hesitation. Focus on how positive the new career will be as opposed to an “I hate my current role” answer.

2. Resume preparation and Career Selection.
You will likely have an idea of what sector you want to go into, I for example wanted to move into the IT security sector but I was amazed by the variation of roles so I had to decide what roles I would be best suited for. Sometimes it’s easier to decide what you don’t want to do. Be honest with your skill sets. Identify what you know but more importantly identify the skills you may be weak in or lacking. Once you decide the specific area you are interested in I would recommend getting help organising your CV as this was an area I found difficult. From my experience hiring managers and recruiters are cut throat when it comes to what they see. This is normally your first interaction when applying for a job. Make it a good one. Stand out from the crowd. Get help – Michelle gave me some great pointers!

3. Build a profile and apply for jobs.
LinkedIn was a really helpful tool for me in my job search, not just for adding connections but getting involved in discussions and keeping up to date on new trends. Add recruiters, HR managers and anyone connected to your target role. Don’t be shy… add them all. You’re building a network so that when people look at your profile they see that you’re well connected. People reached out to me offering opportunities nearly immediately once I became active on it. The next step is to apply for jobs… all of them!! Honestly the more the better. Every screening call you get is valuable experience that you can learn from. 

4.Screening calls and Interviews.
As a natural process you will receive emails saying “Sorry but at this time we have decided not to progress your application”… don’t take it personally. That job wasn’t for you. That’s okay. Keep applying. In a screening call what people seem to be looking for is “Passion”. How do you show passion? By getting involved…That’s how! Contribute to blogs and threads relevant to your chosen career. Remember those weakness’ you identified… how about trying to fill in those self-diagnosed gaps in knowledge. Use on line resources such as Udemy and Cybary to get courses. Document everything so you can fire it out at the other person on the phone. “I did this and this and this because I thought I may have needed to learn new skills to be successful in my application” That’s how you show passion, a willingness to learn and that you’re not afraid of work hard. When you are successful you may have a face to face interview. Some interviews are technically focused others are more HR focused, it all depends on the company. Look at sites such as glass door and see what people’s experiences with the interview process were. In the interview BE YOUR SELF and be honest! Be comfortable but wear a shirt and tie. Look the part. Look like “We need to hire this person, they look professional”. If you don’t know an answer don’t bluff, you’re only digging a hole and giving the interviewer a path that they can keep bringing you down. Control the interaction by saying “I don’t know but I will work on that” even consider adding some content you do know that may be similar to the question. For example “I haven’t used that tool but I’ve used this tool, I know it’s similar but my experience was only with that tool. The concept is the same so I’m confident I will pick up the new tool quickly”

5. The Follow Up.
Okay… I don’t know if this is advisable so heed this health warning. But if you really want to get the job maintain contact with the company while they are making the decision. If nothing else they are seeing your name pop up. They’re talking about you. You may have done well in the interview so you’re adding to your stock with the decision makers. Think about it like this - There are four people interviewing for the job, you want to be the one that pops up on their day to day conversations so go the extra mile to make yourself stand out by keeping in touch.

6. Salary negotiations and Contracts.
Money… the dirty word. This was the most uncomfortable part of my experience. Not because of the negotiation but because for some reason I don’t like asking for money. Money is important but it shouldn’t be the reason you want to move. Have an idea of what you would like that figure to be but be realistic. You may need to take a pay cut from your current role especially if you are moving into a totally new area and don’t have much experience. I didn’t give any companies a figure, I kept my cards close to my chest. I deflected the questions and controlled the negotiation but saying “I’m happy to work within the budget... I’m happy to discuss what band you have for the role”. Let them do the talking.  When push came to shove the other person sorted out the number for me. I was happy and very grateful obviously. They will have a range that they have in mind for the role. If it’s too low tell them and if it’s beyond your wildest dream act cool   When your contract is sent through read it, look at the package and if you’re happy congratulations you’ve got a job offer! This can take time but that’s ok. Stay in contact and don’t let them forget you’re there.

7. Leaving your old job.
Comply with your contractual obligations and give your notice. Some employers are very good and may release you sooner than the contracted time. Just ask. I found this useful. You may be in a job where you can’t tell your employer you’re moving until you know you have a job. If you’re forced to take gardening leave maybe have a contingency plan in place. Fill your time preparing for your new role.

I hope this will be of help to someone. Sometimes the hardest thing is to start. Put one foot in front of the other and keep striving towards your goal. Rejection is all part of it. You never lose, you will only learn. The end game is to get that career change.  Your experience may be very different to mine but there is nothing unmanageable. If you need help ask a recruiter, Michelle gave me guidance along the way which really helped, she deals with all of this every day so has come across most situations!

Michelle Grant's picture
Senior Consultant | IT Recruitment