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How to Address a Career Transition in an Interview

For those looking to transition to a separate field or industry, it can be a challenge to convince potential employers that your background and experience are invaluable. However, by thinking creatively, you can find relevance in most of your prior experiences and highlight your professional worth to skeptical employers. See the following situations for tips on how to market your skills and experience when making the transition to another industry or career…

To respond to hesitations about your career change

Find similarities between the industry you’re leaving and the industry you’re hoping to enter, and show the interviewer the relevance between the two. For example, a candidate coming from a public relations background in politics,  hoping to transition to an in-house PR position at a sporting company has to respond confidently to the hiring manager’s concerns by explaining his background and life-long interest in sports, which he has been active in for the past seven years.

In spinning his background to show relevance between his experience and the position he is interviewing for, he should give examples of the results he spearheaded in his former position. For example, when a senior publicist left the company, he was able to successfully step in and increase placements by 20 percent in just six months. Finally, he can round his answer out by showing how the job is a good fit for his interests, which have been present throughout his career – working with others to achieve an extraordinary outcome, the satisfaction of being technically competent in the workplace, and a passion for sports.

To respond to concerns about your irrelevant work experience

Think in terms of the tasks you carried out day-to-day, and the skills you developed in order to perform such objectives well. Skills can be easily adapted for many positions, especially skills that demonstrate a particular affinity you have or a gift for dealing with certain situations.

For example, one woman was looking for a way to transition into sales during her time spent as a buyer’s agent in the real estate industry. She had always been interested in a position that demanded her specific traits and temperament, and gave her the potential to increase her earning power through commissions. Nearly every job description she came across asked for at least two years of sales experience, and though she didn’t have the work experience that was required for most positions, she felt her years as a buyer’s agent counted as relevant experience regardless. She put herself in an employer’s shoes, and asked herself, “How does my role prepare me for a job in sales?”

She explained that by being a buyer’s agent, she was constantly on the other side of closing deals, and knew how to interact with salespeople to achieve her goals. Her time in that role had honed her interpersonal skills, shaped her flexibility in dealing with different personalities, and developed her ability to work as a team member with a constantly-changing group of people.

To respond to uncertainty about whether your change in direction has been well-thought out:

Articulate the reasons that are spurring you to leave your current position and field in a way that shows growth as opposed to negativity about your current role. For example, say a marketing researcher wants to cross over into a more creative role. In discussing her background, she comments that as she matured and got to know herself better, she came to realize that her skills and interests would be better suited for a more creative-based marketing role.

To respond to a concern that you will experience changer’s remorse, or the cause of dissatisfaction in your last career will persist in any job you take on:

You can’t convince an interviewer that you’re confident in your decision to change careers without being confident in the move yourself. Think about what professional identity will make you the happiest, and whether all the dimensions of that position fit your personality, skill set, and desired paycheck. When you are absolutely sure of your decision to change careers, address the interviewer by assuring him or her that you’ve researched their company either online or through contacts, and that from what you gather, this company can offer you the opportunity you are looking for to build your new career path. Give a couple bullets on the company, and ask if this is how the interviewer sees the company as well!

In the end, the likelihood of you getting the job of your dreams is based on how well you sell your experience. Think creatively about the skills you’ve gained from all your professional experiences, and how they have enhanced you as a professional in any work setting. The path to getting hired isn’t through embellishing your experience, rather, it is about showing the value in any role you have performed, and the unique qualifications that make you a great candidate.

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