Q: I’m changing careers and considering taking a job that’s less than ideal in order to position myself for the kind of job I really want. Any advice?
A: Many people find themselves on a career path they don’t really want to be on and decide to switch gears. It’s easier to do this, of course, if you don’t have to start from scratch and can leverage your education or your previous career experience in some way. For example, I work with professionals in the accounting industry and it’s not uncommon to meet a tax accountant who decides they’d rather use their skills as a financial analyst. To get to that position, they might consider an accounting position in the meantime in order to build up the right kind of skills and experience for the analyst position.
My first piece of advice is to be realistic about your desire to change careers. Think about why you really want to switch careers. Are you just frustrated with your current job at the moment? If so, making a 180 degree career change isn’t likely to help matters. Try to conduct an objective assessment of who you are, your skills and what’s realistic for you. Then ask yourself how you can get closer to your ideal.
It’s also not advisable to jump around too much. Having more than 3 jobs in a 5 year period gives employers the perception that you don’t have any loyalty. Employers invest lots of time and resources in training new employees and want reassurance that those workers will stick around.
If you’re certain that a new career path is right for you, here are a few tips for getting there:
- Tread carefully in an interview. Most employers don’t want to hear that you view the job as a stepping stone and they’ll likely have to recruit and interview someone else for the position in a short period of time. When an employer asks “where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?” (and this almost always comes up), first and foremost reiterate your interest and concern with the job you’re interviewing for. Tell the interviewer that you expect to spend time learning that job and then more time working in that role. You can say that you’re open to opportunities if the employer feels you’ve proven yourself in this role and another opening comes up. It’s also acceptable to say you don’t know where you see yourself in the long term because you’re interested in doing well at the first job and then seeing where that leads.
- Use a third party, such as a recruiter, to explain your transition. A candidate who blindly sends their resume in may get rejected out of hand by the employer who doesn’t see how their skills line up to the new job’s requirements or understand why they applied. A recruiter who has the employer’s attention can explain your qualifications and career goals in a logical narrative.
- Go behind the scenes. Tap into your network of friends, family and colleagues to ask about what specific jobs, careers and companies are really like so you can make the right decisions.
About the Recruiter
Greg Menzone is a 10-year veteran of the staffing industry who has made hundreds of successful placements. Greg and the team he manages specialize in direct hire placement of accounting and finance professionals.