How to Reinvent Yourself For a Career Change

Change. It’s an exciting word. But, it’s also a little bit scary, isn’t it? You’re leaving that sense of security and certainty in order to venture off into uncharted territory. Taking that leap and making a big shift is understandably thrilling, but—at the same time—it’s sure to inspire its fair share of nervous butterflies.

This is especially true when it comes to making a large change in your career. Your job is a huge part of your life. And, waving goodbye to something you know so well in favor of trying something new is sure to have you feeling sick to your stomach every now and then.

For most career changers, there’s one big question looming: How will I reinvent myself? How can I present myself as suitable for this totally new adventure? It’s human nature, really—when you’ve been doing one particular thing for the majority of your career, it’s all too easy to limit yourself. It becomes difficult to see anything beyond that.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to rewind time and redo your entire job history to ensure you’re the perfect fit for a new type of position. However, that doesn’t mean you’re at a total loss. There are a few key things you can put into play in order to dust off those cobwebs and reinvent yourself for a career change. Here’s what you need to do.

1. Determine the Qualifications

You can emphasize the right key skills on your resume, perfectly tweak your cover letter, and even tell a compelling story about your major career shift. However, there’s one big thing you absolutely need in order to even get your foot in the door of your new desired career path. What’s that? Well, you need to ensure you have at least the basic qualifications in order to land the job.

Perhaps that means you need to go back to school and further your education. Maybe you need to study hard, pass a test, and get a particular certification. Or, perhaps it’s as simple as signing up for a course or seminar in order to pick up a crucial new skill.

Yes, you can reinvent yourself, but that requires some work on your end—meaning you can’t just blatantly lie about your experience and qualifications. Just because you want something doesn’t necessarily mean you deserve it. So, do the research to familiarize yourself with the basic requirements for the type of position you’re hoping to score. You’ll need that information before taking any further steps. Plus, if you want to set yourself up for success, you’ll definitely need to be armed with the standard qualifications—at the very least.

2. Evaluate Your Strengths

Changing careers can be a bit of a blow to the ego—particularly if you’ve been in the job market for a while. You’re someone who’s used to having a lot of experience and value to offer to an employer. But, when it comes to this new career field? Well, you feel like you’re fresh out of college again—like you have no relevant experience or skills to bring to the table.

Don’t write yourself off so quickly! True, you haven’t worked in this exact career field before. But, that doesn’t mean you offer nothing of value. Plus, you’re likely not making such a dramatic shift that you have no transferable skills to emphasize—unless you’re transitioning from being a lion tamer to a brain surgeon.

So, take some time to look back over your job history and pull out any key strengths and qualities that would also be applicable in your new field. These can definitely be soft skills like teamwork or problem solving—those are always great!

However, if there are any (and I mean any) hard skills that you think would be helpful in this new position, it’s important that you emphasize those. Whether it’s your experience analyzing data and creating reports or your knack for technical writing, if you think it would benefit you in this new position—play it up!

3. Tell a Story

If you’re willing to uproot your entire career in favor of switching gears, you undoubtedly bring one thing to the table that not every other candidate has: passion. And, lots of it. After all, this is obviously something you desperately wanted.

Don’t forget that this sets you apart from that pile of other applicants. So, go ahead and share your narrative (whether it’s in your cover letter or an interview!) about how you eventually arrived at the conclusion that this new career field is the perfectly suited path for you. It’s a clever way to tie in your job history in a way that’s engaging and memorable.

4. Expand Your Network

Alright, so there’s not much you can do to completely reinvent your professional history—save for a few tweaks and communication strategies. However, you can definitely reinvent your network to be an added benefit as you make this big transition.

No, that doesn’t mean you need to bid adieu to all of your current connections. The more the merrier! However, you should make an effort to expand your reach and connect with some professionals that currently work in the industry you’re hoping to break into.

As the old saying goes, “It’s not always what you know, but who you know.” That sentiment can be frustrating—particularly if you don’t know anyone. However, make every effort to connect on LinkedIn, send introductory emails, and even meet for coffee with these industry peers! Those new contacts will pay dividends when you’re trying to bust into a whole new career field.

Changing careers can be tricky. And, unfortunately, you can’t go back in time and alter your decisions and experiences to perfectly position yourself for a job in this new field. Your job history is your job history, and there’s not much you can do to change that.

But, that doesn’t mean you should chalk the whole thing up as a loss! Instead, there are a few other strategies you can use to reinvent yourself for a career change and get your resume to the top of the pile. Put these tips to work, and your big leap is sure to be more exciting than it is scary.

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Kat Boogaard

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Kat is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer covering topics related to careers, self-development, and entrepreneurship. Her byline has appeared in numerous outlets and publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, QuickBooks, Business Insider, and more. Find out more about her on her website, or connect with her on Twitter.

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