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How to reinvent your career

It’s a common sentiment that the most interesting characters in Batman movies are the villains. Certainly the two most popular incarnations of the Joker (Jack Nickleson 1989 / Heath Ledger 2008) outshone their cowl wearing adversary in the screen representations of the two most popular outings of the Dark Knight.

Having grown up gorging on DC comics and graphic novels it’s quite a treat to see some of the more complex and mature source materials consolidated into the new Joker movie – and even more exciting to read that critics are calling “Joker” an Oscar contender.
With all the different version of the character put to screen since Cesar Romero cackled the mustachioed super villain into our hearts, I’m reminded of the many conversations I have every month with job seekers who want to make a change, big or small, to their career direction or even career choice.
Recruitment and career guidance overlap in many ways with recruiters generally quite anecdotal in their advice whilst counsellor’s approaching things from a more academic perspective. Where recruiters can add significant value however is in the ‘how’.
The “how” is a pretty huge question with too many facets to tackle in a single blog, but the process is a more digestible topic which I’ll attempt to outline below.
Stage 1: Set boundaries and timelines
Deciding that you want to make a career change takes courage. Many people spend lifetimes throwing good money after bad because they are fearful of hitting the reset switch. This is also the first fallacy of a career change – there is no rule which states you must start at the beginning again.
In my experience if someone has a firm idea of what they want to do next, they also know what steps to take – this blog is probably not for them! If you are less certain or generally open minded then it’s time to first take a trip on the good ship ‘reality’.  Considering all possible alternative careers will mean a shallow dive into many markets and probably a poor return on your time investment. Look at profiles on linkedin and company websites of individuals whose career history has intersected yours at some point – these are proven pathways that have delivered and presumably can again and will give you some initial direction.
Try and identify what key skills you have. Are you an effective communicator? Do you have good influencing skills – are you the go to IT person within your current team? Be guided by what comes naturally to you – and spend time reading and searching for job specifications specifically demanding these core skills.
If your industry has a professional body engage with them. As a legal recruiter, I was invited by the Law Society of Ireland in 2010 to discuss alternative career paths for lawyers in a severe economic recession. I still attend a few times a year at the law school albeit the content has shifted to maximising career potential in a now revived legal industry. Many professional bodies will have line of sight on alternative careers and can share this data with you and give you some food for thought.
Finally set yourself a window to go to market. If you are thinking about a career change then you are likely frustrated within your role and this will eventually impact your performance. Keep your search broad to begin with – but eventually move back towards the lower hanging options as a stepping stone rather than attempting to make the transition in one giant leap.
Stage 2: Due diligence
Having identified some potential career paths you would like to consider – it’s time to put together a CV and update your linkedin profile. Your CV should focus less on your day to day role, and more on the utility of your core skills (which you identified in stage 1) and your achievements. If you hit 120% of your target in your current role that is an example of high achievement. High achievement is something that can be replicated in a new role – so focus on output and what makes you good at your job – not the specific aspects of the jobs itself.
Update your linkedin profile to include some of your target job titles. You don’t need to be conspicuous with this, once the words are there in the right order then you will gradually fall into the right search results. By way of example, my job title is Director but my job function is ‘recruitment consultant’. If I was to move into an in-house role then my job title would most likely be “Talent Acquisition”. If I wanted to be approached more in relation to these types of positions – I’d include a line in my linkedin profile to say “I regularly assist talent acquisition specialists with recruitment projects”. I’m not advertising myself here, but the keywords will do some of the background heavy lifting on my behalf.
Stage 3: Insight
In my opinion there are two major questions that need to be answered to the satisfaction of a future employer during a recruitment process;
1. Can you do the job
2. Can you demonstrate a clear understanding of the scope of the job
The second of these two questions is the hill that your interview may die on should you fail to prepare appropriately. Certainly in the wider market, people attend interviews well able to discuss themselves but with little insight into the role, brand or sector they are engaging with. As someone changing career, you have a lot more work to do to demonstrate insight and genuine interest to a future employer than an industry insider. To reach some level of parity it’s well worth your time shadowing or speaking with someone who is doing that role and getting insights into what their day to day looks like. If you don’t know anyone in the industry, network through events or social media and ask professionals for a few minutes of their time to assist with an interview. People are surprisingly receptive to assisting a polite request of this nature and I’ve even heard of someone randomly approaching someone for advice and ending up with a job offer from the same person as a reward for their tenacity.
Conclusion
There is an awful lot that I could talk about when it comes to career change having switched to recruitment from law almost 14 years ago. One thing I do want to highlight is to be calculated all the way through to accepting an offer. Sometimes a desire to make a change can become so strong that you lose sight of the risks and make poor decisions that become evident within weeks in a new role. Always take a step back and challenge your convictions, play devils advocate in relation to all aspects of the role from remuneration to progression prospects. Depending on your circumstances this could be one of the most critical decisions you make and getting it wrong leaves you with a more complex drawing board to return to.
Changing career requires pragmatism as I’ve mentioned above – but there is always going to be leap of faith at some point and you need to be comfortable from the outset that before the move happens you will be staring off a ledge into uncertainty. The more of the above steps you follow, the better chance the landing will be a soft one and the outcome positive. If you are pursuing a career change, I applaud your courage and wish you the same successful outcome as I’ve enjoyed myself.
Written by Robert Connolly, Director | Amicus Legal Recruitment