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How to Get Interviews After a Career Change

Winding Road Podcast Cover - Joel Lalgee Part 2

Getting interviews after a career change can be challenging. Here are some ways you can improve your odds.


If you want to make a career change and you're only strategy is to apply to jobs in that new field without any prior experience you're going to be in for a lot of wasted time.

I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm saying it's pretty much impossible to make a career change that way. 

The bottom line, is if you want to make a career change, you're going to have to find a way to get some hands on experience in that new field any way you can. Most likely, that will come in the form of side projects while you have another job.

Why does it have to be this way?

It's All About Risk Mitigation

Risk. That's what hiring is all about- how to minimize the risk associated with investing in a new employee after only spending a few hours with them in an interview. 

If you don't work out, the recruiter and the hiring manager are going to look bad. It's going to affect their jobs and they don't want that. 

So, just as much as you're looking out for your best interests and career, so are they.


What Recruiters Are Really Looking For

Recruiters, by the nature of their roles, are very transaction-minded and task-oriented. They are usually overworked and under a lot of pressure to make hires as quickly as possible. 

The best way to do this is to find and present candidates to the hiring manager whose experience looks like a carbon copy of the job description. This means, the person that gets hired is going to be making a lateral career move- at least at first. 

Companies are not going to take a risk on someone who has never done the role they're hiring for; whether that's a complete career change for someone or a first-time move into a more advanced version of their role.

This means, when recruiters are looking at resumes or LinkedIn profiles they're going straight to one section: what are you doing right now, what's your current title, what company do you work for, and how long have you been there. 


It might seem obvious why this would be the first thing a recruiter wants to review, because they want to see how closely what you've recently been doing relates to the open role they have. 

They're also interested in this because of nuances the hiring manager might have emphasized about the type of experience someone has. 

Hiring managers have a vision in their mind of what the 'perfect' candidate's experience looks like - sometimes that 'perfect' candidate doesn't exist but they'll send the recruiter on a wild goose chase regardless which is why the process can sometimes drag on for months. 

But the hiring manger may have preferences that aren't obvious from the job description. Sometimes they have a fetish about how long someone has been in a role, or if they're currently working. Some of these biases have been ingrained from people they've worked with in the past, when the world was a different place. 

In 2020, when the pandemic hit and companies panicked by laying people off in droves, you still had hiring managers questioning why someone wasn't currently working. 

Sometimes the reality of the situation isn't being taken into account. 

Sometimes, they have a bias for the type of school you went to - or even the specific school you went to. Although, this is becoming less common as universities fail to adequately prepare their students for the real world. That's an entirely separate riff I'll cover sometime. 

What it all boils down to is the recruiter's main priority is making the hiring manager happy by putting candidates in front of them that not only fit the basic requirements from the job description but also the nuances (often biases) they've communicated.



Just Get Experience Any Way You Can

We've established that making a career change through a company change is a path that's nearly impossible. That's why your initial focus when you want to make a career change is to get hands on experience any way you can. 

Learning and certifications are great, but they don't replace actual experience. 

Some great ways to do this include finding a non-profit you can volunteer with doing the new thing you want to do. They're almost always understaffed and appreciate any help they can get. 

Another way is to find opportunities within your current company and ask if you can do a stretch assignment - which usually means helping out another team while you still do your current full-time role full time.

And lastly, the path I've taken most often when making a career change is to just tell people what you're pivoting into and what you do and let them know you're looking for projects. People usually won't ask a lot of questions, they'll think it's what you do and pretty soon, projects will come your way. It's sometimes about 'faking it until you make it.' 

There are so many ways and resources available to learn that I've taken the approach that if I get into a situation that I've never been in before, I'll figure it out. I almost always have. 

A huge thing to keep in mind though, is if you get some experience doing what you want to pivot into, you're likely going to have to set your salary expectations appropriately. You're not going to be able to make a career change and also make the salary you were making doing something you have deeper experience in. 

If a company is going to take a risk on you- and that's what they're doing - you're going to need to reciprocate by taking a risk with your compensation. At some point, you'll start to see it grow and probably grow quickly. But you have to be willing to take a pay cut to make a career change - at least in most instances.


Networking, Networking, Networking

If you've been following me and my content for any length of time, you know that I'm a huge proponent of networking and, most importantly, building professional relationships. It's a common thread that finds its way into nearly all of my content. 

But what might be surprising, is why recruiters are among the worst people you can network with. Well, it might not be that surprising given I've already talked about how transactionally-minded they are. 

Most of the time, you're focus when it comes to networking should be on building relationships with people who are doing what you want to do and the people who would likely be your boss at a company you would want to join. 


Approach Your Job Search Like a Salesperson

Sales isn't for everybody. It's hard, it's mentally-taxing, and rejection is the most common theme.

But, it's an important skill to have and will serve most people well throughout their lives and careers. That's why approaching your job search like a salesperson will put you in the right mentality to keep going.

Like a salesperson, you're going to identify your top prospects - for you this is probably the companies you want to work for. Then, you'll want to find people in key roles within that company that you'll want to connect with (or at least follow) on LinkedI and Twitter and start engaging- get involved in the conversations they're having. 

Also, like a salesperson, you're going to hear 'no' a lot. I mean, A LOT. It's important to have a short memory and not take it personally. The best salespeople know how to do this. It doesn't mean it's any easier for them to take rejection, they just know where to put it. 

Mentality is Everything

As you've probably gathered if you've made it this far reading my article, is that making a career change is hard. It takes persistence and will. It's mentally challenging and it's easy to get down and start doubting yourself. 

But, you have to remember, everyone who is currently doing what you want to do has started off exactly where you're at right now - with no experience. No one was born knowing how to do anything. Everyone has had to learn it. You're no different. 

Find a way to get some hands on experience. Once you have one project you can now say that you do that thing and it will only be easier to get more projects. 

Network and build professional relationships with the right people - and don't just sit on the sidelines. Be visible and inject yourself in the conversations; ask questions and keep an open mind.

If you really want to make a career change, it will happen. It's just not going to happen overnight so stop comparing yourself to other people in the roles you want to pivot into who have been doing it for a long time. You'll be where they are eventually. Be patient.


Are you looking for a job and feel like you need some guidance? I offer new way of coaching using asynchronous voice messaging. If you'd like to tap into my experience of being a former recruiter along with my deep understanding of marketing careers, consider my 6- week coaching program